Learning about the systems of educational discrimination – AAERO Founder, Dr. Paula Quick Hall describes the experiences that led her to decide AAERO was needed.
Dr. Hall recalls, “As I worked on my dissertation, I learned that many of the decisions I sought to understand were not documented—as one administrator told me, ‘There is no paper trail.’ I settled on replicating a study of resegregation in public schools, predicted by demographic characteristics of the district, political factors, and leadership of the schools. We know that ‘the squeaky wheel gets oiled’ and is often isolated from the others who may be less aware. One challenge I saw was that children whose parents did not become effective advocates would be left behind, unless there is a collective effort. With involvement of parents, retired teachers, and other community members, AAERO could do that job. We could work for change on behalf of African American students.
Founded August 11, 1999, AAERO conducted several projects including the following:
Memorial Awards for students attending Bennett College – As the granddaughter, daughter, and niece of Bennett College graduates, I saw an opportunity to honor and share stories of my ancestors, while giving recognition and financial contributions to outstanding Bennett College students. I was chair of the Bennett College Political Science Department, and able to create and administer AAERO Memorial Awards beginning in 1999.
“Recognition for Outstanding Teaching” was a project conducted at Teresa Berrien Elementary School in Fayetteville, NC. This school, which was predominantly Black, had a large proportion of students living in poverty. Test scores were typically low. We wanted to demonstrate that there were excellent teachers at this school, despite the circumstances and lack of evidence in test scores. Three teachers were recognized (among 13 nominees) after interviews, classroom observations and consideration of “best practices,” as presented in education research.
“Somebody Had to Do It” was initiated by Dr. Millicent Brown who was the plaintiff in a legal case that desegregated Charleston, South Carolina public schools. Dr. Brown was a history professor at Bennett College. Her idea was to record the recollections of African Americans who, as children, were the first Black students to attend an all-white school. Many of the people identified had never told of their experiences. We recorded and published their narratives, which eventually became part of the archive at the College of Charleston, Avery Research Institute. This was the first of AAERO’s oral history projects.
“Conversations with Treasures of Our Heritage” was conceived as a way to bridge generation gaps. Elderly residents of Fayetteville were interviewed and presented in public programs at which they responded to questions about their lives. African Americans 80 years of age and older were chosen, and featured in “Conversations” held at St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, First Baptist Church, Seabrook Recreation Center (in conjunction with the annual Umoja Festival), and at Melchor-Quick Meeting House.
We began to focus on Historically Black Universities in Fayetteville and Durham, NC, providing opportunities for service learning and community service. A Fayetteville State University English class conducted a Service Learning project with AAERO, volunteering and learning about nonprofit organization management. Students at North Carolina Central University earned credit for community service or course credit for participating in AAERO research projects.