By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Teachers, parents and faith leaders are weighing in on the two grand jury presentments this past week that cleared white police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.READ MORE: Philadelphia Commerce Director Michael Rashid Resigns After He Reportedly Made Anti-Semitic Remarks, Verbally Abused His Staff
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan says they will bring into the classroom the lessons of what happened in suburban St. Louis and New York.
“As educators, it is up to us to help our students voice their feelings, fears and frustrations,” Jordan says. “It is up to us to give them the space to speak out on these issues.”
Jordan says the PFT will share lesson plans and other resources to help teachers help students sift the chokehold and shooting deaths of unarmed black men by white police officers.
Among the five local clergy leaders who spent time on the ground in Ferguson for the better part of a week, Bishop Dwayne Royster of United Church of Christ on Loretto Avenue in Oxford Circle was “in the thick of it.”
“The first night I got there, a flash grenade went off ten feet from where I was standing,” Royster says.READ MORE: A Century In The Making: Philadelphia Resident Rose DiLemmo Celebrates 100th Birthday
He says throughout the country’s history, decisions by governments, or in this instance, a grand jury “doesn’t make it right.”
“Slavery wasn’t right,” Royster says. “There have been plenty of decisions by this government that were not right.”
Reverend Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church at 6th and Lombard Streets, who also spent time in Ferguson, was involved in peaceful protests and vigils on the streets of Philadelphia.
“Sadly, we’re here because this is part of a long American narrative on race,” Tyler says. “It is unfortunate that the events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, Dayton, Los Angeles, Sanford, Florida, the list goes on, are not isolated incidents. They’re connected to a larger American narrative on race. We have unfinished business in our country.”
Jordan says “the decision not to indict either officer has had a negative impact on the young people of this city.” He says a lot of changes need to happen, and “as educators, we want to be a part of that change.”
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