Nearly 70 people showed up Monday night for a community forum hosted by Decatur’s NAACP chapter that was often intensely emotional.
It followed an angry parent’s complaints on the school district’s Facebook page about school officials and disparity between black and white students. The NAACP called for steps including monitoring school board meetings and students’ behavior.
Many at the forum live in Allen Wilson Terrace apartments and all wanted to hear from Okeeba Jubalo, the man whose words about residents there angered many last month.
Writing on City Schools Decatur’s Facebook page a few days after he said his daughter was attacked by five girls on Nov. 10, Jubalo said “those ghetto rats across the tracks. I wish they would just bulldoze (Wilson Terrace) and send them to DeKalb County or [Atlanta Public Schools].”
All seven girls in the Nov. 10 incident were black, and a 17- and 18-year-old were arrested.
Five minutes into Monday’s meeting former Mayor Elizabeth Wilson dived headlong into the boiling water.
She talked about moving into Wilson Terrace in 1949 when she was 18, and recalled when the Klan marched in protest on the city square before Decatur’s schools were integrated in 1965. Then she turned to Jubalo and said, “No one should ever be disrespected, insulted or called names you weren’t given at birth.”
Jubalo said, “If I hadn’t said what I said, we wouldn’t be here now.” He told the crowd, “Once I put it out in the media, that got the ball rolling. You’ve got to embarrass people sometimes to get them on board.”
He did strike a conciliatory note, saying, “For anybody’s who’s hurt by this, I say get to know me. I’m not going to give a group apology, but I will apologize one on one.”
Jubalo insists that gangs and bullying are symptoms of a much larger problem in the school district, the gap between white and black students in areas such as reading, writing, math, attendance and discipline.
NAACP Chapter President Mawuli Davis said he’s been speaking with Superintendent David Dude since last spring about the disparity. Dude told the AJC last week that he’s creating a “working group” on this issue.
Davis said that beginning next month the NAACP will send several members to every school board meeting “from now until forever” to monitor progress on issues important to the organization. He added the chapter will be an advocate for anyone bullied and will organize a parents group to monitor student behavior before and after school.
“Don’t expect elected officials to operate in our interests unless we require them to act in our interests,” Davis told the gathering. “We have to be organized, consistent and we cannot be divided. We can’t be divided between black folk who have the money to buy a crib in Decatur, and black folk who live in public housing.”
Lewis Jones, the only school board member attending, said, “I’m incredibly encouraged by tonight. We recognize that we don’t have a solution to these incredibly complex issues. But we are on the right track and you need to hold the board responsible. We are listening and you do have a partner.”
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