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Fruitvale Station screening, discussion on race and class

Chelsea Jones | 2/24/2014, 5:58 a.m.
The injustices that affect children residing in low-income neighborhoods was the topic of discussion during a free public screening of ...
From left, Michael James, Michael B. Jordan, Trestin George, Thomas Wright, Kevin Durand and Alejandra Nolasco in a scene from Fruitvale Station. Ron Koeberer of The Weinstein Company

The Dallas Examiner

The injustices that affect children residing in low-income neighborhoods was the topic of discussion during a free public screening of the film Fruitvale Station, on Feb. 3 at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff. Presented by Teach for America – Dallas/Forth Worth, the event was held to encourage community members to create a safe city for children to live and learn.

“Children in Dallas County are up against challenges of educational discrimination, prejudice and inequalities of race and class. As an education non-profit that wants one day for 100 percent of kids to have high-quality education, this is a conversation that we need to be having,” said Alexandra Hales, executive director of TFA-DFW.

She further indicated that the main causes of educational inequity stem from issues of race and class. Expressing the importance of providing students access to quality education, she stated that TFA believes a good education will equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

Founded in 1990, TFA has the mission of working with communities to expand educational opportunities for children living in poverty. It recruits and trains individuals from all academic disciplines to spend two years teaching in high-need schools.

Today, 11,000 members teach in 48 urban and rural regions across the nation. TFA-DFW has 450 teachers teaching in roughly 90 schools, spanning across Dallas ISD, Forth Worth ISD, KIPP, Uplift Education and other charter schools.

Many TFA alumni choose to continue their careers in education. Hales mentioned TFA works to alleviate the effects of race and class on educational inequity by training its teachers to be culturally aware.

“Part of our teacher training is to ensure that our teachers are trained in cultural competency in the classroom. We believe that our teachers need to understand the communities they’re working in. [We encourage] them to get to know their students’, their students’ families, and to be active in their communities, [because] only through those relationships, can you really empower kids,” Hales said.

The film

Hales said that TFA-DFW chose to screen Fruitvale Station, which released in theaters last summer, due to its focus on racial and class tensions that exist in the nation. Directed by newcomer Ryan Coogler, a recent graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, and starring Michael B. Jordan, Melanie Diaz and Octavia Spencer, the movie depicts the true story of the unjust and untimely death of Oscar Grant III.

Grant, a 22-year-old African American male living in the Bay Area, was on his way to becoming a better person when he was fatally shot by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer, Johannes Mehserle, at Fruitvale Station in the early morning hours on New Year’s Day 2009. Grant and his friends had been celebrating New Year’s Eve when they were detained by police officers following reports of a fight on a crowded train.

Grant, who was unarmed, was shot in the back while lying face down as Mehserle and Tony Pirone, another BART police officer, tried to restrain him. Several witnesses, appalled by the overly aggressive tactics used by the officers, recorded the incident with their video cameras and cellphones. The footage sparked community outrage and a series of protests and riots in the Bay Area ensued.