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By Kristie Statuto
Ionian Staff Writer
In honor of Constitution Day on Sept. 17, a film screening of "Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story," was presented in LaPenta's Endzone.Chairs filled fast as students and faculty filed in to learn about the U.S v. Yonkers. legal case." We were honored to host the screening of 'Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story' on campus for Constitution Day this year," Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department Jeanne Zaino said." We were even more honored to have such distinguished guests, both of whom were directly involved in the U.S. v. Yonkers case, visit the College and speak to the students: the film's Director/Producer, William Kavanagh and Federal Mediator, Dr. Joseph Pastore." Dean of the School of Arts and Science Brian Nickerson introduced the screening with the idea that many people view the Constitution as infallible." The Constitution is viewed with high regard," he said. It is hard for many people to believe that simple rights are not being accommodated to all due to segregation. In the city of Yonkers in the 1980s, segregation was occurring, although it seemed to be occurring unintentionally. Scattered across Yonkers were a few black neighborhoods, however, they were kept completely separate from white neighborhoods. It was an extreme case of racial isolation. Low-income housing built in southern Yonkers was purchased by mostly minorities.Naturally, the children living here were sent to the surrounding schools. Because of the cost of housing, low income families had no where to go but downtown, creating what they called 'the hole.' Yonkers soon had a lawsuit filed against them for intentionally creating a pattern of segregation that most were not aware of; they thought it was only because of what people could afford. Various civil rights groups backed the case because they wanted more low-income housing to be built to increase affordability. Half of Yonkers wanted more housing units to be built outside of downtown, while the other half did not.Yonkers was fined for standing in the way of progress. They eventually caved on the desegregation plan. In 1992, two units for low-income housing were built, which created hope for the rest of Yonkers. However, this was not the end. They had more plans for building more housing units in the following years. "Brick by Brick" was an appropriate documentary for Constitution Day. It raised awareness to an issue that many overlook. By looking at the events of Yonkers, Kavanagh hoped that viewers could relate it to their own cities and towns. This video raises awareness that segregation occurs all over and needs to come to an end. Zaino also commented on the timeliness of the screening and discussion." First, as we have all been following in the news, Westchester County is struggling with this very issue today; consequently, even though the film focuses on the Yonkers case that had its roots in the 1970s and 1980s, concern about segregation in housing is very much alive in our community today," said Zaino." Second, on the national level there has been a good deal of talk of late about the role racism plays in people's attitudes towards the president and his policies, as well as continuing discussion regarding whether the election of Barack Obama ushered in a post-racial era. With both the film and discussion on Constitution Day, we hope to get students talking and thinking about these very difficult issues in a way that is constructive and informed." The event ignited a good discussion among students, faculty and staff. The screening was used as a doorway to a discussion about social change and how it is implemented in society, as well as the role of the court system in the United States, all ideas which stem from the larger idea of political science.
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