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Teachers view “Fruitvale Station,” talk about safety

UTD president assembles panel for engaging Q&A session after the movie

D. Kevin McNeir | 8/14/2013, 11:39 a.m.
Recently-elected United Teachers of Dade President Federick Ingram continues to show that he’s willing to think outside of the box ...
UTD President Federick Ingram talks with Tanaka Charles prior to the viewing of “Fruitvale Station.” Charles’s teenaged son was shot to death several years ago. She and her family are still awaiting justice. Photo by D. Kevin McNeir

Recently-elected United Teachers of Dade President Federick Ingram continues to show that he’s willing to think outside of the box in order to lead and inspire over 21,000 teachers and 8,000 educational support professionals [clerical, security and paraprofessionals] that are members of UTD. And with an estimated 340,000 children gearing up to return to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools next week, there will certainly be instances where teachers and other staff members will need a boost of motivation to get through a difficult day or circumstance.

Ingram says that’s why he decided to sponsor a day at the movies and invite members of the union to a private viewing of “Fruitvale Station” last weekend. The movie is the true story about the fatal and senseless shooting of an Oakland, California young Black man, Oscar Grant, by a transit police officer. It’s a striking debut for writer-director Ryan Coogler, who released the film as an independent on a low budget and is just 27. Coogler shows us the flaws of Grant, including a bad temper, prison time and job struggles, as well as his more positive characteristics: devoted father, witty and intelligent, wonderful sense of humor and kind-hearted man. He, like many Black youth, had a future with endless possibilities that was needlessly cut short.

“There has never been a more perfect time to show a film like this because it is graphic, educational and gets the message across to a worldwide audience,” Ingram said. “Of course the Trayvon Martin issue is still very close to us here in South Florida but no matter what their color, our youth are going through a particularly difficult time. These are trying times for them as they often find themselves facing life or death decisions. But with this riveting film as the backdrop, my hope is that we can begin to identify some steps that our union can take to deter this current plague of violence that our students are facing.”

Panelists respond to questions from the audience

Ingram fielded questions from the audience of about 100 people at the conclusion of the film. Here are a few candid remarks from that panel.

Queen Brown: Parents need to really listen to their children when they come complaining about how they’re being treated by their teachers or classmates. My son was being unfairly disciplined and was overwhelmed by the testing process but I believed what his teachers told me — that he was a disruption in class. The teachers were wrong — he was telling how he felt.”

Commander Edwin Lopez, Miami-Dade Schools Police Department: Officers certainly need more sensitivity training. For the FDLE, the requirement is 40 hours in four years. That’s the minimum and it’s not enough. We have to deal with a lot of different issues: sexual harassment, bullying, cyber-bullying, various forms of violence, etc. It’s important to have officers that want to be there because they care about and want to protect children. It’s not something for those who are simply looking for a job because in our role we sometimes have to be mentor, counselor, teacher — even parent for some of the kids.”

Ruban Roberts: Sometimes I’m asked how we can better arm our children, especially Black boys, when they leave home and go to school or to school-related activities. There are three things I advise: 1) Always be aware of your surroundings; 2) Make sure you know the people who are around you; 3) Teach kids to be willing to assume the one-step down position. That means be willing to yield when confrontation comes your way. It often allows you to live another day.”

Other panelists included: Antoine White, teacher; Trish Ramsey, education director; Colleen Adams, Lawtana Bess, Alex Velasquez; and D. Kevin McNeir, Miami Times senior editor.