Student Event Raises Awareness of Bigotry


For about 180 middle school students who casually eat lunch and share books with classmates of all colors, religions and backgrounds, Terrence Roberts’ experience at Central High School was hard to believe.

He was an A student who received Bs on his report card because he was the only black student in class, a white classmate nearly beat him with a baseball bat and National Guardsmen tried to block the skinny 15-year-old from entering his school.

Roberts, one of the Little Rock Nine who integrated Central High in 1957 in defiance of Arkansas’ segregationist governor, recalled his role in America’s modern civil rights movement Monday during a Prejudice Awareness Summit.


The University of Judaism and Jewish Women International hosted the fifth annual program for Los Angeles students. Young leaders from 14 schools around the city talked about bigotry, stereotypes and conflict resolution.

“There’s still segregation in Little Rock. There’s still segregation in Los Angeles. There’s segregation throughout the United States,” Roberts said.

Roberts finished high school in Los Angeles after Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus closed public schools rather than integrate them. Now, Roberts is a psychology professor in Los Angeles, and he returns each month to Little Rock as a consultant on desegregating the city’s schools.

“They haven’t yet figured it out, that it’s OK for people to be different from each other,” Roberts said.

That message--of tolerance and respect for differences--was impressed upon the students through exercises, discussions, skits and songs. Students’ reactions to the daylong program ranged from “OK” to “inspirational.”

San Fernando Valley middle schools that participated in the program were Sepulveda in North Hills, Byrd in Sun Valley, Frost in Granada Hills, Fulton and Mulholland in Van Nuys, Madison in North Hollywood, Millikan in Sherman Oaks, Olive Vista in Sylmar, Parkman in Woodland Hills, and Heschel Day School in Northridge.