We are grateful to the following scholars, activists and politicians who shared their thoughts and research with us for BEYOND THE BRICKS.

(In Alphabetical Order)

Cory Booker, elected mayor of Newark, New Jersey, in 2006, came by his civil-rights activism at an early age. His parents, Cary and Carolyn Booker, were among the first black executives at IBM. Booker was born in Washington, DC, but grew up in Harrington Park, a mostly white suburban town in northern New Jersey. He studied at California's Stanford University, earning a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in sociology. He was a star football player and was elected to the student government council. He won a Rhodes Scholarship to Queens College, Oxford, England, obtaining an honors degree in modern history in 1994. After returning to the U.S., Booker attended Yale University Law School, graduating in 1997. He then started several free legal clinics for low-income residents of the neighboring city of New Haven, CT. Returning to his home state of New Jersey, he was hired as a staff attorney for New York City's Urban Justice Center and then became Program Coordinator of the Newark (NJ) Youth Project. Although professionally and financially successful, in 1998 Booker moved into a Newark housing project called the Brick Towers, which was notorious for its run-down condition and festering crime problems. He led the project's tenants in their fight for improvements in housing, maintenance and security. That same year he won election to the Newark City Council in an upset victory over a four-term incumbent. The next year, as a council member, he went on a ten-day hunger strike to protest rampant and blatant drug dealing in one of Newark's worst housing projects.

These and other tactics did not win him many friends in local government, and the many ordinances, city code revisions and laws he proposed were almost always voted down by his fellow council members. Frustrated at the resistance he met on the council; in 2002 he decided not to try for re-election but to run for the position of Mayor.

In 2003 he started Newark Now, a nonprofit civic improvement group, became a partner in a West Orange (NJ) law firm and a senior fellow at Rutgers University's Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. In 2006 he again ran for mayor of Newark. Booker took more than 72% of the vote in the largest landslide victory in Newark's history. In addition, Newark voters swept out the entire City Council, replacing them with the slate of candidates endorsed by Booker, giving him solid control over the city government.

Dr. John H. Jackson is President and CEO of The Schott Foundation for Public Education, which seeks to ensure quality education for all students regardless of race or gender. Prior to joining the Schott Foundation, he served in various leadership positions such as National Director and Education and Chief Policy Officer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He has served as Adjunct Professor of Race, Gender, and Public Policy at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute and served as Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Civil Rights for President Clinton. He possesses a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Xavier University in Louisiana; a Master of Education in Education Policy from the University of Illinois’s College of Education and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Illinois' College of Law. In addition, Dr. Jackson received a Master of Education and Doctorate of Education in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Clifford B. Janey was appointed as the fourteenth superintendent of New Jersey’s largest school district in July, 2008. Previously, he served as the Superintendent of Schools and the Chief State Officer in the District of Columbia from 2004 - 2007. He brought to the position a strong and proven record of leadership in urban education and the improvement of student achievement. During his tenure in Washington, DC he successfully pioneered national reforms for the 78,000 students enrolled in public education, including charter schools. In short measure, the District of Columbia Public Schools reversed the negative trend line of student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and Advanced Placement Tests.

Given his diverse experiences involving a variety of leadership and management positions in the public and private sector, Dr. Janey has a unique understanding of organizing systems and preparing people to perform at high levels. His own preparation includes a Bachelor’s degree in sociology, a Master’s degree in Education with a double major – Reading and Elementary Education and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and Policy with a minor in Health Policy and Administration from the school of management. Prior to serving as numerous national, state and local boards including most recently the Commission that produced “Tough Times Touch Choices”, Dr. Janey earned a certificate in labor relations from Cornell University. His landmark reforms with unions, the business/high education community as well as social service and health provide context for the numerous presentations and publications. He contends that no jurisdiction should feel comfortable with current student performance data given the context of education in a global economy that is defined by knowledge and powered by innovation.

Dr. Janey, a native of Boston, grew up in the Orchard Park Housing Project in the Grove Hall sections of Roxbury while attending the historic Boston Latin School. He is married and a father of five children.

Dr. Pedro Noguera is a professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. He is also the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education and Co-Director of the Institute for the study of Globalization and Education in Metropolitan Settings (IGEMS). An urban sociologist, Noguera’s scholarship and research focus on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment. Noguera has served as an advisor and engaged in collaborative research with several large urban school districts throughout the United States. He has also done research on issues related to education and economic and social development in the Caribbean, Latin America and several other countries throughout the world. Between 2000 and 2003, Noguera served as the Judith K. Dimon Professor of Communities and Schools at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. From 1990 to 2000, he was a Professor in Social and Cultural Studies at the Graduate School of Education and the Director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of California, Berkeley.


Executive Director of Newark, New Jersey’s Renaissance Community Development Corporation Center, Inc. (RCDCC) whose mission is to provide a safe, healthy living environment, enhanced by supportive services that address the special needs of low income and homeless people. RCDCC provides neighborhood revitalization for the community through job training, substance abuse recovery, after care, summer youth programs and basic needs for families. Additionally, their goal is to return at-risk individuals and families to society with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes and values necessary to support a rewarding and productive lifestyle. Encouraging academic enrichment and employability training opportunities to at-risk individuals and families with children, add to the number of self-sufficient community members who are productive citizens.

Rev. Sharpton is the founder and President of the National Action Network (NAN), a not-for-profit, civil rights organization based in Harlem, New York with over 45 chapters nationwide, and is the co-founder of the Education Equality Project (EEP) with New York School Chancellor, Joel Klein, a non-partisan group of elected officials, civil rights leaders and education reformers that collaborate to help ensure America bring equity to an educational system that, 54 years since Brown v. Board of Education, continues to fail its highest-need students. Rev. Sharpton is also a nationally-syndicated radio host, T.V. personality and columnist, with three popular radio shows broadcasted throughout the country, a regular television show featured on TV One, and a column that appears in national newspapers and is facing syndication. Rev. Sharpton’s strong commitment to equality and progressive politics has had an irrefutable impact on national politics, evident by his noteworthy presidential run as a U.S. democratic candidate in 2004 and his compelling speech at the Democratic National Convention. Throughout his career, Rev. Al Sharpton has challenged the American political establishment to include all people in the dialogue regardless of race, gender, class or beliefs. In February 2007, Al Sharpton was called “the most prominent civil rights activist in the nation” by the New York Daily News. In fact, few political figures have been more visible in the last two decades than Rev. Sharpton.

Rev. Sharpton was educated in New York public schools and attended Brooklyn College. He has an honorary degree from A.P. Bible College. Rev. Sharpton says his religious convictions are the basis for his life and he preaches throughout the country most Sundays.

Dr. Ivory A. Toldson is a professor at Howard University, Senior Research Analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and was recently appointed the Editor-In-Chief of “The Journal of Negro Education”, the country’s oldest black continuous publication.

Dr. Toldson received national acclaim for his books that addressed issues facing African-American men. He won EboNetwork’s Changing Faces award for outstanding literary achievement for is novel, “Black Sheep: When the American Dream Becomes a Black Man’s Nightmare.” Dr. Toldson is also the author of “Breaking Barriers: Plotting the Path to Academic Success for School-age African-American Males,” which analyzes academic success indicators from national surveys that together give voice to nearly 5,800 black male pupils from schools across the country. After completing coursework for a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at Temple University, Dr. Toldson became a correctional and forensic psychology resident at the United States Penitentiary. There, he worked with 1960s era political prisoners and modern casualties of the War on Drugs, and completed his dissertation on Black Men in the Criminal Justice System. Upon completion, Dr. Toldson joined the faculty of Southern University and became the fourth recipient of the prestigious DuBois Fellowship from the US Department of Justice. He also served as the clinical director of the Manhood Training Village. He has held visiting research appointments at Emory, Drexel, and Morehouse School of Medicine.