Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, which ended legal segregation in public schools.
The court ruled that racial segregation of children in public schools violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, an 1896 decision that held that segregated public facilities were constitutional as long as black and white facilities were equal.
Across the USA, cities are observing the occasion with discussions and debates about the historic decision's impact.
MORE: Civil Rights in America
Sacramento, Calif., mayor Kevin Johnson recently wrote an opinion piece for The Root on why we shouldn't celebrate the ruling, arguing that it's a civil rights issue and we still have a long way to go to reach equal access to quality education for all.
I don't necessarily disagree about the celebration part, but I think it's important to stop and commemorate the moment because of the sacrifices our grandparents and great grandparents made decades ago.
I'm a Brown, you're a Brown. Growing up, I heard that my family was distantly related to the Brown family that brought the case. It always made me stick out my chest with pride. Recently, my mother explained that the family link to the Brown family is through my late uncle William Woodson, although I couldn't find any living relatives who could confirm that. Cheryl Brown Henderson, who leads the Brown Foundation and is the daughter of the Rev. Oliver Brown, one of many plaintiffs behind the suit, couldn't confirm it, either. But she said it was possible. As my dad says, in his hometown of Topeka, everybody is a Brown. I would wager that globally we're all Browns, willing to make a stand for what's right.
It's a reminder. Until there is true equality, the struggle continues. Statistics on the disparity in U.S. education are alarming. According to a report released Thursday by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, black and Latino students are more likely to attend schools with mostly poor students, while white and Asian students are more likely to attend middle-class schools. A 2010 report by the Teachers College Record shows that racial segregation in schools, as well as poverty, still denies students of color a sound education.
It's a chance to remember. Although Brown v. Board of Education is arguably one of the greatest Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century, it is still one of those things that don't seem significant until you hear the stories and it hits home. My dad remembers when he went to a Kansas movie theater with his grade-school class, and had to sit far away in the balcony and watch the comedy Some Like it Hot through his tears.
Henderson says the importance of her family's role didn't hit her until the history department at her college wanted to announce that she was a student there.
Looking back, she recalls how dozens of everyday people, community activists and young parents, wanting the best for the families, helped change history. She talks passionately about them as well as the passing of the mantle as she helps develop school curricula and involves her son in upholding the family legacy.
"I may be only a distant relative (if that), but I, too, plan to take up the charge to be a 'good steward' and uphold this great legacy as well. Like my father says, 'That's the kind of stock that we come from.'"
Brown is a thrill-seeking scaredy cat, vegetarian and Reader Advocacy Editor for USA TODAY.