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"One Nation Indivisible"

March/April 2012 issue of Poverty & Race

In November 2011, PRRAC, in collaboration with the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, launched the documentation and mobilization project called One Nation Indivisible (ONI).

The brainchild of its co-directors, Susan Eaton and Gina Chirichigno, One Nation Indivisible has two equally important goals. Through written and multimedia narratives, the organization tells and spreads stories about people trying to achieve, sustain and improve racially, culturally, economically and linguistically diverse schools, communities and social institutions. ONI also convenes conferences and strategy sessions, so the people who populate these stories can share strategies, inform state and national policy agendas, grow their networks, and connect with national experts. One Nation Indivisible works closely with the National Coalition on School Diversity (www.school-diversity.org). It helps coordinate NCSD’s activities and strengthen NCSD members’ connections to community-based, pro-integration practitioners whose voices are too often missing from the national stage.

ONI has produced, or is in the process of producing, stories from several communities across the country. This includes Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where educators recently implemented a school desegregation plan and a series of equity-based reforms in response to changing demographics. ONI also documented efforts of a Mississippi-based multi-racial political coalition that has successfully prevented passage of anti-immigrant legislation for two years. ONI made visits to a “dual-immersion” school in Framingham, Massachusetts, where native English-speaking students and native Spanish speakers come together to learn in both languages. In April 2012, ONI will travel to Omaha, Nebraska, where deepening segregation led officials to create schools that bring together students from urban and suburban communities. In the coming months, ONI will release stories and media exploring ongoing integration efforts in Dalton (Georgia), Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston and Raleigh. Narratives will soon be available on the ONI website, onenation indivisible.org, and disseminated as hard copies at conferences and convenings. ONI also incorporates the collected stories into presentations its co-directors make at a variety of venues across the country.

ONI recognizes the varied meanings attached to the word “integration,” by embracing a broad definition of the term, which can be applied to every facet of life. Integration in this case refers not merely and not necessarily to physical segregation’s opposite, but to a fuller acceptance, a richer coming together and a willful expansion of community circles. “Desegregation,” Martin Luther King wrote, could be accomplished by laws, but “integration” required acknowledgement of a web of mutuality, a shared fate. Similarly, “immigrant integration,” as opposed to “assimilation,” refers to a two-way process between foreign-born people and native-born people and their shared community.

“We choose to tell stories about integration in process not because we think it safe to ignore the very real threat of xenophobia and racism, but because conflict-driven stories get so much ink elsewhere and get told over and over without satisfying resolution,” said ONI co-director Susan Eaton. “Instead, by highlighting the constructive ways people respond to diversity and to racial and cultural change, we believe a fuller, more balanced, more hopeful picture of our nation can emerge.”
One Nation Indivisible is made possible through grants from The Norflet Progress Fund to PRRAC and from the WK Kellogg Foundation to the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute.
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