“School Colors” is an eight-part documentary podcast series about education in Central Brooklyn. It explores what schools in this neighborhood looked like in years and generations past — and why.

“When you go back literally 150 years or go back 50 years, it sounds like you’re talking about 2019,” said Mark Winston Griffith, a local community organizer who was surprised by how many issues bubbling up today have roots in debates and battles of yore.

Griffith, who runs the black-led organizing group Brooklyn Movement Center, co-hosts the podcast alongside journalist and educator Max Freedman. Both men have longstanding connections to Central Brooklyn: Griffith, 56, is the grandson of Jamaican-born immigrants who settled in Crown Heights, and Freedman, 31,  is the grandson of a Ukranian Jewish immigrant who made his way to Brownsville. 

Chalkbeat will be bringing you new episodes of the podcast here each Friday. “School Colors” is a production of Brooklyn Deep, a local journalism project of the Brooklyn Movement Center. More information can be found here

Episode 1: Old School

Source: Weeksville Historical Society

The first episode takes listeners inside two very different District 16 elementary schools along Marcus Garvey Boulevard in Bedford-Stuyvesant and dives deep into the schools that preceded them and the forces that led to this moment. As Freedman explains in the first episode, “District 16 is at a tipping point. And what’s at stake is a lot more than lines on a map. It’s the power to control not only how and what children learn, but what kind of city we’re going to live in and who that city is going to serve.” 

Listen to Episode 1: Old School

Episode 2: Power to the People

Source: Brooklyn Deep<span style="font-size: 16px;">In the late 1960s, the Central Brooklyn neighborhood of Ocean Hill-Brownsville was at the center of a bold experiment in community control of public schools. But as Black and Puerto Rican parents there tried to exercise power over their schools, they collided headfirst with the teachers’ union — leading to the longest teachers’ strike in American history, 51 years ago this fall. That parent activism would go on to define political life in Central Brooklyn for generations. The second episode of “School Colors” explores this pivotal chapter in Brooklyn history.</span>

Listen to Episode 2: Power to the People

Episode 3: Third Strike

Source: Brooklyn Deep
In the fall of 1968, New York City teachers went on strike three times, in reaction to an experiment in community control of schools in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn. The third strike was the longest — and the ugliest. The confrontation at Ocean Hill-Brownsville fractured the connection between teachers and families, between the labor movement and the civil rights movement, and between Black and Jewish New Yorkers. As the third episode explores, some of those wounds have never quite healed.

Listen to Episode 3: Third Strike

Episode 4: Agitate! Educate! Organize!

Source: Lumumba Bandele

In the wake of the 1968 teachers’ strikes, black residents of Central Brooklyn continued to fight for community control of local schools. The fourth episode of “School Colors”  looks at two experiments in self-governance — one within the school system and one in the form of an independent school called Uhuru Sasa Shule — and the legacies of those efforts.

Listen to Episode 4: Agitate! Educate! Organize!