EDITOR'S NOTE: MPR reporter Brandt Williams was one of the thousands of students in the mid-1970s who participated in the Hale/Field pairing in an attempt to make schools more racially diverse.
Until I started working on this story, I had no idea I was part of some controversial racial parity plan. Although by the time I started riding the bus to Hale School in 1976, the Hale/Field pairing was not nearly as newsworthy.
I was bused to Hale in second and third grades, and then I walked to nearby Field in fourth through sixth grades.
As a second grader, I had no concept of race or ethnicity; I made friends with whoever I hit it off with. One of my new friends at Hale was a kid named Steve Hanson. So it was particularly serendipitous that the first person I talked to at the gathering at Marge Goldberg's house was Steve's father, Jay Hanson.
Busing in Minneapolis
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I met other parents of former classmates too. Alberta Johnson's son Kirkland was a former classmate of mine and Harriet Solomon's son Chucky was a former teammate of mine. We used to play football together at McRae Park.
And it turns out I went to school with former Minneapolis Tribune reporter Gregor Pinney's daughter Andrea.
Minneapolis is really a small town.
Due to some time constraints, I was not able to go back to visit Hale School before I completed the story. But it was interesting to see Field School again. When I was a student there, the school was divided up into units. The units were large, open spaces with multiple classes. I was in the Red Unit. But principal Steve Norlin-Weaver told me they stopped using the unit system a long time ago. Now the open spaces are closed up into smaller classrooms.
What most attracted me to this story was a chance to find out more about the people and processes that helped shape my life, albeit perhaps in a relatively minor way. Like some of the black parents who gathered at Marge Goldberg's house said, they were already used to being around white people. Busing was not a big deal to them.
But some of the white parents who spoke to me, particularly Jay Hanson, said it was important for them to for their kids not to grow up only around people who looked like them. Over the years, the Hansons and the Johnsons, who are black, became close friends. Hanson said the two families used to go on camping trips together.
And one last thing: Organizers say technically this is the 41st anniversary of the pairing, which began in the fall of 1971. But it took them a little longer than planned to organize the 40th. The schools are officially calling this the 40th anniversary. The celebration will be held this Sunday, May 6, at Pearl Park Community Center from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.