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Bridging the gap between white and black

By Jane Stoever

Debora Demeter

Debora Demeter, now a PeaceWorks member, had a bright idea recently: a reunion among herself and some others who helped integrate KC MO Catholic schools after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Nick Haines of KCPT took Demeter up on her suggestion. Two white students who were part of the experiment and Alvin Brooks, who supported the student exchange, participated in the reunion. The result: the story “An Exchange of a Lifetime.

Not only did the students help integrate the schools; the experience also revolutionized their own views. “We are examples of white people and black people coming together,” says Demeter in the story. Her memories are not all kind—she tells, for example, of the time she and a new white friend took a walk in Demeter’s black neighborhood and some neighborhood children threw cans at them.

The exchange occurred in the 1968-69 school year at the all-black Annunciation School at Linwood and Benton Boulevards and at the all-white St. Francis Xavier School at 52nd and Troost. The writer of the story, Debbie Coleman-Topi, says, “That was long enough to positively influence careers and marriages that came along later—and to leave indelible memories of the racism the students saw and of the interracial friendships they developed.”

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