Upper School students have taken a lead role in providing education, raising awareness, and urging critical reflection following the non-indictments of police in the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. On Dec. 11, the Upper School engaged in an Afternoon of Concern. A panel of six BFS community members and two others led a discussion and extended Q & A session with the student body.
Our students at Brooklyn Friends School have continued to process recent events in Ferguson, and the non-indictment of the police officers responsible for Mike Brown’s death and Eric Garner’s death. As part of our ongoing response, our students have taken a lead role in partnering to organize opportunities for additional education, awareness raising and reflection. On Wednesday, December 10th, a team of students and faculty presented additional context related to the history of policing and police brutality in the United States. On Thursday afternoon, the Upper School engaged in an Afternoon of Concern. Based on student input, a range of BFS community members involved in these issues were invited to participate in a panel discussion. The eight panelists who participated included BFS parents, a BFS grandparent, a BFS alumnus, and community members representing a range of perspectives.
- Kris Kelsang Lipman, NYU social work student, Undoing Racism Internship Project
- Manny Cuprill, BFS parent, veteran of New York Police Department and currently with the Port Authority Police Department
- Michael Greenberg, BFS parent, journalist, author
- Monifa Bandele, BFS parent, blogger, human rights activist, community engagement consultant, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Communities United for Police Reform
- Nancy Skubik, BFS parent, Detective, Delaware State Police
- Peter Eikenberry, BFS grandparent, Civil rights lawyer
- Piper Anderson, community arts practitioner, writer, educator
- Karim Camara, BFS alumnus, BFS parent, NY State Assemblyman, Reverend
Though the panel was scheduled for 90 minutes, due to the number of passionate students with questions, the discussion lasted for three hours.
Some students reflected on their experience:
“I honestly thought that was the best panel we’ve ever done at BFS. The diversity of opinions that were present was really eye opening. I liked how there were disagreements and tensions, because that’s what happens in real life. There were different ideas given for the long term solution as well, like whether the establishment of education or the demilitarization of the police would be more effective. I think we need both. I also really appreciated how they brought all of these protests into context.”
“I thought yesterday’s afternoon of concern was amazingly wonderful. The day was one of the most interesting, mind-blowing and inspiring days I’ve had at this school. The wide array of opinions, people, questions, and responses all served to illuminate and enlighten.”
“I am very happy that the school considered our feelings and decided to sacrifice half of a school day to consider students’ feelings towards the tragedies occurring recently… Personally, I felt empowered after the meeting, renewed with a new sense of hope and happiness I had lost lately. I believe that I am able to change the world as a student and no longer helpless. Although I may be anxious and a little bit afraid, I am ready to sacrifice for any cause I commit to. This meeting was able to test my tolerance for other’s ideas. Although the police officers said things I didn’t agree with I remained respectful and made it my best interest to understand their perspective.”
“I feel that with all that’s occurring right now in society and recent/current events, both the collection on Wednesday and the Afternoon of Concern on Thursday were completely necessary. For people of color (who these instances directly affect), and for other human being that breathe air and have blood pumping through them, AWARENESS is key to safety and progress. For me personally, these situations take a toll on my psychological, physical, and spiritual health, and it pains me to know that so many lives are endangered and that I can die any day.”
“Not all police are bad. I’m glad the BFS community realized this because of yesterday”
“I believe that we should never give up because even if the climb is taking forever, we can get to the top of the mountain one step at a time. We should not give up because we don’t see immediate change because, as in anything else, like (for example) a basketball player, improvement takes practice and time. We should never feel hopeless because one day, if we work hard enough, we will be able to look back and feel proud of our work.”
“The panel was very diverse and that was the most important part, to have different opinions is what we needed.”
“I am no longer as angry, but some things do have to change.”
“I thought yesterday’s collection was well planned, and I loved listening to the different opinions of the panel. I liked the diversity of the panel, and the different jobs that they had.”
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What an abstract concept to try to register whilst existing in a world that has such a disregard for human life. Its difficult to swim in an ocean of reality while those around you so blissfully allow themselves to sink into a pool of oblivion. The thin line between realism and racism is smudged in a similar manner to the blood that’s smeared onto the hands of so many cops and sprawled onto inner city streets. Who are you to say that all men are created equally when I can confidently spit statistics proving that black lives don’t matter? How are we here? How can you buoyantly defend the system that is dauntlessly slaying those closest to us? Who are you to tell me white supremacy is a delusion while you feel no pain nor strive to posses sympathy. A cold-hearted disconnect between the fallen “statistics and headlines” you see on your tv and the murdered sons and brothers still living in the hearts of their families. Paralyzing dehumanization and justification, the symptoms of a disease called privilege. America, a country raised on racism, simply incapable of ejecting the overbearing sin. A society taught that all problems are strictly black and white and in turn is terrified of color.”