The good people of NextCity.org were kind enough to give me 800 words on civic engagement. As any regular reader1 knows, brevity is my quiet nemesis. There was a bunch that missed the cut: My students engaging with Marxists2, weird positive energy with the University City Crowd3, and Mama Gail.
There’s one story, however, that trumps the rest. At the very first meeting of the FMP, students from various High Schools exhorted Hite to consider the certainty of gang violence as a result of mashing schools together. It was intense, especially as one student followed another with the same logic: Kids will fight, kids will die. Cameras were rolling the crowd was getting riled up.
Then Chief Dorsey, head of School Police, demanded to speak. Forcefully and honestly, she told the student that the city is bigger than their neighborhood and more important than their personal beef. She has been through this and she knew: There was no law of the Universe demanding West kids had to fight Uni kids. And if they couldn’t walk down the block without brawling, our community had problems far beyond what a school could fix
She could have dropped the mic and walked off stage. The crowd, hostile and restless, was impressed.
Months later, Dorsey pulled some of my students aside after they testified to the SRC4. She listened to their tribulations and fears. She spoke about her own experience being bullied, and solemnly promised to help my students if Paul Robeson was closed.
She didn’t like me. That didn’t stop her from visiting my school, meeting with student government, and giving a surprising number of hugs. Compare that to Dr. Hite, the rest of the FMP team, the SRC, and, being fair, the PFT – none of whom visited my school or sat with my students. In short, Chief Dorsey was a model public servant. She had experience in the community; she could communicate with kids and adults; she was, in our brief time together, tough but fair; she cared deep
In September, we discovered Chief Dorsey was replaced. No reason has been provided.