Michel Martin

What if you had to start your school system over almost from scratch? What if most of the buildings were unusable, and most of the teachers had left or been fired? Is that a nightmare, or your dream come true?

In New Orleans, that was the reality after the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. That set off a chain reaction that transformed the city's schools forever, first by a state takeover and then by the most extensive charter school system in the country.

What if you had to start your school system over almost from scratch? What if most of the buildings were unusable, and most of the teachers had left or been fired? Is that a nightmare, or your dream come true?

In New Orleans, that was the reality after the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. That set off a chain reaction that transformed the city's schools forever, first by a state takeover and then by the most extensive charter school system in the country.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, much has been rebuilt in New Orleans — including the public schools. But the current education system is radically different from the one that people who grew up in New Orleans remember. Virtually all students in the city now attend charter schools. Many of their teachers are both new to New Orleans and new to teaching.

It's an open secret among African-American men and boys that people are often afraid of them. This week, we've brought that conversation to the airways and social media.

We spoke with Paul Butler, a Georgetown University law professor, and Doyin Richard, a blogger at a parenting blog, Daddydoinwork.com, to talk about how these experiences have affected them.


Interview Highlights

On being racially profiled

NPR's Michel Martin speaks with professors Phillip Atiba Goff of UCLA and Harry Holzer of Georgetown University about how fears of African-American men are manifested in the criminal justice system and the labor market, and what that means for the broader African-American community.

Immigration is a subject of intense political debate but it is also the subject of great art. For centuries, American writers and performers of all backgrounds have grappled with what it means to cross land and water — sometimes by choice, sometimes not — to take up life in a new world.

On Feb. 24, I will be joined in Miami by some of the country's most exciting young writers and performers who have also made such journeys and who have taken up the vital task of telling us what it means.

On Capitol Hill, the immigration debate is a political story. But for millions of people across the country, it is something deeper. "This is not a political issue; it is a human issue," says Diane Guerrero. "Me and my parents were a family, and now we're not. We're separated."

As the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots prepare to face off at the Super Bowl on Sunday, a scandal about under-inflated footballs is still dominating headlines.

While that subject has been a trending topic on Twitter, it is just the latest in a series of controversies this season. So many recent stories about the nation's most popular sport have focused on domestic abuse and sexual assault allegations, as well as the dangerous effects of concussions and other long-term health consequences for players.

We've been privileged in these last few months to share the stories of many Americans, some of them famous, but most of them not. We came together through some avenues we know well — books, music and theater. Sometimes, we found each other through pathways that have only recently become a big part of our lives, such as the #BeyondFerguson hashtag that brought so many young people to an August community meeting in that city. Our New Year's Resolution is to keep these honest and vital conversations going. We are going there.

African-American clergy, academics and activists will hold a march on Washington this week, protesting the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City and call on the federal government to intervene in the prosecutions of police officers accused of unjustified use of force.

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