Mission: to Amplify Compassion by amplifying marginalized voices in our community, including those marginalized by their race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, or any others searching for equity. We will help challenge our congregation to amplify justice, mercy, and humility to create a more compassionate church.
Reflection – by Emily Tolsma
“I guess everybody wants to go to West Charlotte now” WC Alumnus class of ‘77
From 1971 – 2000 West Charlotte High School was a model of what integrated schools looked like. CMS was the most desegregated major school system in the country because of the implementation of cross-town busing. Busing wasn’t only from the Black neighborhoods to the white schools; it went the other way too. West Charlotte sits in the middle of the University Park neighborhood, close to historic Washington Heights, McCrorey Heights, and Lincoln Heights neighborhoods, and right behind the United House of Prayer for All. This school has been featured in national news stories, including HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I was privileged enough to attend West Charlotte (WC) during this time, graduating in 1992. During the years I was there, WC won state championships in Men’s Basketball, Football, and every year I was there went to the state level of competition in Theater and Debate. The marching band awed everyone when band members put down instruments and danced in the middle of parades. In 1992 the Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) club received President H.W. Bush’s Daily Point of Light award. The school was a beacon of light in the neighborhood, bringing music, sports, drama, and academics. It also had the wealth of the Eastover families and other mostly white neighborhoods who attended school there. I always felt so proud to go to a school whose motto is “Unity through Diversity,” it shaped who I am. After the courts ruled that Charlotte neighborhoods were integrated “enough” and didn’t need busing, West Charlotte has struggled as a school. By 2006, many feared the school would close due to low scores on standardized testing. WC has risen up and is now an IB school, still an underperforming school, but no longer fearing closure. The alumni support of this school from all of its generations has been incredible.
West Charlotte is getting a new building to replace some of the buildings from 1954. The new building is under construction, and recently the construction company brought a steel beam over for those who wanted to sign it. Alumni came from all over to pay respects and sign the beam. Typical of WC fashion, the students went all out. The first beam was completely filled in a day, the second in another day, and reluctantly they put a third beam out on Sunday morning. By the time I arrived less than 24 hours later, the beam was totally full again, and I had to cram my name into a tiny space. A man, class of ’88, was on the ground signing in a small space on the bottom of the beam, and I lent my Sharpie to another gentleman, class of ’77. We shared stories for a few minutes, and the 62-year-old alumnus made this comment on the event. “I guess everybody wants to go to West Charlotte now.” That is certainly how it felt when I went there so many years ago.
Having a child who is a couple of months away from high school graduation will sign the beam was especially meaningful to me and made me so sad that my son does not have the pride in his high school that I have in mine. It doesn’t help that he’s entered the building less than a handful of times in the past year and is in the first class ever not to have a Junior or Senior prom. I hope that he finds something to find pride in, but I know it will never be anything like my WC Lion Pride.
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School Segregation Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Warning: contains explicit language)
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