Nikole Hannah-Jones at the Halloran Centre 

In 2017, New York Times Magazine investigative journalist and MacArthur fellow Nikole Hannah-Jones made a strong case that "Most white Americans were willing to ignore stark segregation and racial disparity as long as it came wrapped in so-called colorblind policy." Her award-winning report, "The Resegregation of Jefferson County," chronicled efforts by predominantly white towns in Alabama, to secede from their school districts and create new ones. It's a story that may sound familiar to Memphians who remember the struggle for consolidation and fight for suburban independence. Teach for America's Diversity and Cultural Competence Director and #TakeEmDown901 activist Tami Sawyer thinks Jones could just as easily have titled her story "The Resegregation of Shelby County."

click to enlarge Nikole Hannah-Jones - KARSTEN MORAN
  • Karsten Moran
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones

"I feel like 'The Resegregation of Jefferson County' should be required reading for anybody who teaches in the South," Sawyer says. "Because we talk so much about educational equity, and people still don't realize that segregation isn't just about where you choose to live. It's about a redistribution of resources that takes us back to separate but not equal." That's one of the reasons why Sawyer's excited about moderating the Center for Southern Literary Arts' conversation between Hannah-Jones and Wendi Thomas, founder of MLK50, at the Halloran Centre.

"I just want to ask a million questions about educational equity in the South," she says.

Sawyer is also excited to be part of one of the most female-centric events sporting an MLK50 hashtag. Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells center for investigative journalism, named for the pioneering journalist who was driven out of Memphis for her public response to the lynching of friends. "Wells doesn't get as much love in Memphis as she should," Sawyer says. "While we're reflecting on 50 years past King, how about reflecting a little on almost a hundred years past Ida?"

The Center for Southern Literary Arts and MLK50 present An Evening with Nikole Hannah-Jones at the Halloran Centre, Tuesday, March 20th $15 southernliteraryarts.org

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