For Tomashi Jackson, engaging with history is an artistic endeavor.
The history of school desegregation became a focus of the artist’s gaze in 2014 (and of her recent campus show) as she watched activists fight to halt a plan to eliminate buses for Boston Public School seventh- and eighth-graders, replacing them with subway and bus passes. Parents who had concerns about their 12- and 13-year-olds’ safety on public transportation said it might limit their school choices to only those to which their children could walk.
“I just remember thinking this sounds like a pre-Brown v. the Board of Education era” debate about racial and economic barriers to opportunity, Jackson said during a recent phone interview.
As she began documenting the hearings with her camera, Jackson, who will be a visiting lecturer in Art, Film, and Visual Studies in spring, also began realizing how unfamiliar she was with the five “transformative” school desegregation cases collectively known as Brown v. Board of Education, and their impact on both history and her own life. Brown was launched by Oliver Brown, angered because his daughter was not allowed to attend a school near their home and was instead to be bused to a “separate but equal” one farther away.
Jackson said it never occurred to her that the daily bus trip she took as a girl to her high-quality magnet school on the University of Southern California campus was rooted in a fierce struggle for educational equity.