One way to exact structural change in America is through schools and their curricula, The Root's editor-in-chief, professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., said recently about creating a national dialogue about race that could help prevent tragedies like that shooting death of the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Professor Gates was discussing his PBS series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, which explores 500 years of Black history and premieres Oct. 22. He said one of his goals is to include the series in school curricula in order to tell an integrated story.

But America's schools are in crisis. Big-city school systems, including Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., are struggling under looming deficits, the result of years of neglect under an unforgiving economic downturn. Amid vociferous protests by teachers unions, parents, administrators, students and other activists, most systems are cutting costs by shuttering schools, slashing budgets and laying off teachers and staff by the hundreds.

Kimberly Bowsky, a rank-and-file member of the Chicago Teachers Union and a 21-year veteran of the school system, who is African American, said it's important for protesters to make their voices heard because schools in poor and urban communities are being decimated. "They are striking about public education all over this world," she told The Root. "World leaders have ruined the economy. In America, it's hitting poor and urban areas, which are populated by people who need services, including a good public education. That is why we have to organize to fight and help one another."