Friday, August 22, 2014

On Ferguson

by Jeremy Chiappetta

One of the key pillars of our program at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy is our commitment to socioeconomic and racial diversity.  Research bears out that an integrated school model can be a huge lever for improving achievement.  Fully leveraging our diversity, however, can be very difficult.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have watched from afar the events happening in and around Ferguson, Missouri.  I have been profoundly moved by the images, sounds, and words that have come across my television and computer screens.  I am deeply saddened that so many people in this country go through life treated so differently.  I am somehow ashamed that I and my own children will never have to experience the subtle and blatant evil that is racism.  I am thankful that my Uncle Paul left the police force several years ago without killing or being killed.  I am embarrassed to realize that I have family who care far more about the shooting of a deer out of season than the shooting death of Michael Brown - an 18 year old black man.  I desperately hope that we can come together and build a better society, because if we fail to do so I am afraid that a similar tragedy will someday occur for one of my scholars.

With these thoughts in mind, earlier this week I reached out to our BVP Team & Family asking people to consider sharing their views on this topic in live discussions and here on our blog.  

The first of several blog entries was posted last night.  Already, many in our community have responded to me and other leaders at BVP directly with appreciation.  Several have approached me to thank me for creating a space to learn more and reflect upon this difficult topic. 

Others have offered fair and thoughtful critiques.  Several have pointed out that Jonathon’s choice of the word “murder” may be inappropriate as it has yet to be proven.  While we know for certain that a young black man is dead from tragic circumstances, and we know that there there are many similar tragic events that have happened in recent years, whether this event meets a legal definition remains to be seen.

Other comments and messages remind me of the perils of social media and the huge range of views that encompass humanity.  Indeed, a colleague who shared the blog on Facebook received a message which attacked the post and threatened her.

Clearly, this is not an easy topic, but we at BVP are having open discussions about how issues of race and class impact our work.  Please stay tuned for more blog entries offering a diversity of views over the coming days.  As always, if you have feedback, I invite you to reach out to me or comment on our blog...and stay tuned for upcoming discussions on this and related topics in the coming year.

About Jeremy Chiappetta:

Jeremy has taught in Harlem and Washington Heights in New York City, worked in the Providence Public School Department, and in 2009 joined the founding team here at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy.  He is married to fellow Teach For America alum and educator, Christie, and together they are the proud parents of three amazing yet terrifying children.

Note: For those social media savants, BVP has and will continue to “hide” comments on our public Facebook page.  (We even hid comments from Ms. Emet’s mom congratulating her on winning the Milken award!).  We will also continue to approve comments on our blog, largely to ensure ad hominem attacks and threats are not posted.  

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