Going to School in Black and White

together.jpgTHE BOOK: Going to School in Black and White: A dual memoir of desegregation


THE AUTHORS: Cindy Waszak Geary and LaHoma Smith Romocki

THE EDITOR: Linda Brinson did line editing; Elizabeth Turnbull was the editor with our publisher

THE PUBLISHER: TorchFlame Books, an imprint of Light Messages

SUMMARY: The school careers of two teenage girls who lived across town from each other – one black, one white – were altered by a court-ordered desegregation plan for Durham, NC in 1970. This plan thrust each of them involuntarily out of their comfort zones and into new racial landscapes. LaHoma and Cindy eventually both found themselves at the same high school from different sides of a court-ordered racial “balancing act.” Each moved from safe, familiar, insulated, and segregated communities to a wider, unknown, and potentially unsafe world with dissimilar Òothers.Ó Their experiences, recounted in alternating first person narratives, were the literal embodiment of desegregation policies, situated in a particular time and place. Their intertwining coming of age stories are part of a bigger story about America, education and race — and about how the personal relates to the political.

This dual memoir covers their life trajectories from early school days to future careers working in global public health, challenging gender biases, racial inequities, and health disparities. LaHoma and Cindy tell their stories aware of the country’s return to de facto school segregation, achieved through the long-term dismantling of policies that initially informed their school assignments. As adults, they consider the influence of school desegregation on their current lives and the value of bringing all of us into conversation about what is lost or gained when children go to school in black and white.

THE BACK STORY: LaHoma and Cindy were in a writing group together when they found out that they had overlapped at Hillside High School when LaHoma was a sophomore and Cindy was a senior. Though they had known each other as colleagues for a number of years and then continued to be in touch through a common network of friends, they had not known they had both gone to Hillside together. They recognized the importance of this unknown tie because of the historic importance — at least to them — of having been part of the court-ordered desegregation policy in Durham in 1970. After much discussion and realizing they had different thoughts about their experiences they thought their story would be of interest to others. They also wanted to use them time to better understand how being part of this desegregation order had influence the rest of their lives, especially after they learned how re-segregated many public schools now were.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: We live in a time of heightened concerns about racism in our country. The conversation about race is now focused on the terms “white privilege,” “white supremacist culture” and “unconscious racial bias,” terms never heard while we were in school (and do not use in the book), but terms that raise the level of urgency for effecting racial justice. This book will appeal to people of all races who are concerned with making things right, people participating in anti- racism workshops, people in their 50s and 60s who were in school at this time and whose school assignments were determined by US courts slowly following up on Brown vs. the Board of Education. But this book is also for younger people who are interested in what went on before. We believe there is a market for this as a textbook for college courses and workshops focused on race. We offer our alternating narratives as a dialogue of sorts that we hope will serve as a model for Americans of different races to engage in effective conversations about how our schools can achieve the best for everyone.


“Cindy Waszak Geary and Lahoma Smith Ramocki have ushered forth a lovely story rich in conversation. Their shared personal memories and exhaustive reporting chronicle how desegregation truly moved what might have looked like immoveable barricades for two young teens coming of age in the 1970’s in Durham North Carolina.”

“Their story of friendship and trust building is part historical narrative and part rich landscape for promoting dialogue and reconciliation among diverse and polarized racial, ethnic, and religious groups.ÊThe challenges of identity, assimilation, achievement, and politics that were faced by Lahoma and Cindy are the same challenges our youth are facing today.

“Going to School in Black and White offers unique opportunities for deepening our understanding about implicit biases and stereotypes by relating personal experiences to shared systemic concerns.

“Immense gratitude to Cindy Waszak Geary and Lahoma Smith Ramocki for strengthening their own dialogues and agency around productively writing about choices, hardships, stereotypes, expectations, and the beauty of soulful communion.” — – Jaki Shelton Green, poet and NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee

“This book offers a unique first-hand perspective which provides critical insight into the desegregation of public schools and those who were pioneers in doing so.”  NC State Senator Floyd McKissick Jr.


Cindy Waszak Geary graduated from Hillside High School in 1973. She completed undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Northern Arizona University. She worked more than 30 years as a social scientist focused on global health, based in Chapel Hill, N.C., and traveling often to Africa and Asia as part of her job. She now lives in Baltimore, Md. with her husband Ron, where she consults for public health organizations, wrote much of this book, thinks a lot about racial justice, and enjoys more time for yoga. She is the mother of two grown children and has one granddaughter. Cindy still considers North Carolina her home and returns frequently to visit her mother and friends.Ê

LaHoma Smith Romocki graduated from Hillside High School in 1975. ÊShe completed her undergraduate studies at Duke University and received both her masters and doctoral degrees in public health and mass communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.ÊIn the Õ80s, she was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Central African Republic and recently completed a tour as Peace Corps Country Director in Cameroon, Central West Africa. ÊLaHoma is currently an associate professor of Public Health Education at North Carolina Central University and has an appointment as an adjunct associate professor at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-CH. She lives in Granville County, N.C., with Tim, her husband of 30 years. They have two adult children and her parents live close by, along with a large network of beloved family members.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: See Amazon page.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Letters Bookshop; McIntyres Books, or can be ordered from any indie bookstore in the area

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks

PRICE: $14.99





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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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