Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African New Wire, standing behind Rev. Charles Williams II outside the Pontiac Academy during a demonstration in support of Brooke Harris fired for teaching about the Trayvon Martin case. (Photo: Debbie Williams), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Educator Brooke Harris Marches With Students, Community
Pontiac demonstration at school demands re-hiring of teacher
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Mon., April 16, 2012
PONTIAC--Dozens of students and community people marched and rallied at the Pontiac Academy for Excellence in Education on Monday demanding that the school re-hire Brooke Harris, 26, who was terminated after her students participated in an educational project related to the struggle for justice in the case of Trayvon Martin.
Harris, who taught at the school and was very popular with the students and the administration, was disciplined and later fired after she supported students who wore hoodies and raised one dollar a piece in support of the nationwide campaign demanding the arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman, the only suspect in the killing of Trayvon Martin, 17, on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Florida.
At the demonstration outside the school, a picket line was set up and students emerged from school to particpate in the protest action. Parents of the students also were on hand to support their children as well as the just demand that Harris be re-hired.
Also the parents and grandparents of Harris were at the demonstration as well.
The Pontiac Academy is a charter school and therefore the instructional staff are not unionized. Even though the administration at the school supported Harris, the superintendent of the private school district terminated the teacher after she inquired about why she was being disciplined when the entire project related to Trayvon Martin was approved by the school administration.
The plight of Harris has drawn broad community support. At the demonstration on April 16, Rev. Charles William II, Pastor of the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit led the chants and addressed the students.
There were also representatives at the demonstration from the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI), the American Federation of Teachers and the Executive Director of the Michigan Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Dawud Walid.
Participants at the demonstration pledged to attend the school board meeting on April 17 to demand that Harris' termination be reversed.
The Trayvon Martin case has mobilized millions throughout the United States and internationally. These mobilization efforts led by the African American community are largely responsible for the April 11 arrest and indictment of Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges in Sanford, Florida.
Martin's killing is reflective of a wave of racist violence directed at African Americans and other oppressed groups in the United States. In Tulsa on April 6, three African American men were killed and two others were critically wounded by at least two men driving pick-up trucks.
These cases of racist violence has brought about considerable concern on the parts of many African American, civil rights and anti-racist organizations throughout the country.