On the Verdict in Minneapolis: A Letter from Chuck Jackson

April 23, 2021

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Dear Creative Minds Community:

On Tuesday evening, in a Minneapolis courtroom, the police officer who extinguished the life of George Floyd Jr. was convicted of murder. For a moment I felt profoundly relieved, as if I could exhale and breathe again; the irony of that feeling is not lost on me.

The murder conviction is a single and, I hope, significant step in the journey toward social justice. But I know I’m not alone in recognizing that because systemic racism fights hard against its own dismantling, there are many more steps to take. This week I have felt both joy and sadness.

In the spate of recent mass shootings, we’re reminded that violence is disturbingly prevalent in our country and that far too often Black and brown people are its victims; sadly, at times the state is the perpetrator. Only minutes before the verdict was announced in Minneapolis, police in Columbus, Ohio, shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black teenager just 16 years old. I found the juxtaposition—between a killer held accountable and another Black life ripped away—deeply jarring and troubling.

My relief at Tuesday’s verdict is tempered by knowing that George Floyd cannot be resurrected; a life snuffed out too soon joins the shadows of a dark history.

But I believe that we have two hopeful tasks ahead of us. One is to pause, take a breath, reflect on the accountability handed down this week, and take time to process and accept our feelings. Let’s allow ourselves the space and grace to think and feel, or even just to breathe, as we contemplate the differences that define, challenge, and enhance our diverse community. Then we can choose to honor George Floyd by shining a light on injustice and by being agents of change and allies to one another. This is what we are promoting in our students every day.

The object of education is not to provide answers but to cultivate the skills for a life-long journey of discovery and salutary action. At Creative Minds we’re committed to creating a safe space for developing these skills as we build an environment based in respect and empathy.

In our professional-development sessions this week, we shared resources that teachers can use to explore current events and issues—and to emphasize positive self-image, while acknowledging societal bias and violence—should students want to discuss them. This article, a guide to talking with children about the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, applies equally well to discussing many challenging topics.

Creative Minds is committed to the work that makes the world a more just and equitable place. We begin this work with ourselves and our students, and in doing so, I feel a great sense of hope. Together we will make the best kind of change happen.

Renewing and reinforcing the faith,

Chuck Jackson
Executive Director