Black professionals share expertise with middle school students
Madison Middle School Principal Uwego Frazier (far right) with panel of Black professionals.
By Derek Joy
Students at Norland and Madison Middle Schools benefited greatly from a noble effort organized by Miami Dade Assistant State Attorney Melba V. Pearson.
Motivated by the tragedies resulting from George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and Michael Dunn’s conviction for shooting and killing a Black teenager in Jacksonville, Pearson seized the opportunity to give back to the community.
Pearson enlisted the participation and support of some prominent Black professionals who acted as panelists at the two middle schools.
“We want to advise kids on alternatives to confrontations,” said Pearson, who is the assistant chief of the Miami Dade State Attorney’s career criminal/robbery unit and the southeast regional director of the National Black Prosecutors Association (NBPA).
“I’m tired of seeing all these Blacks getting killed, being vilified. I want to use my knowledge to help these kids avoid that.”
Panelists at Norland Middle School were: retired Miami Dade Police Major Lonnie Lawrence, who also worked as Director of Miami Dade Corrections Dept; Assistant Miami Dade State Attorney; Assistant Miami Dade Public Defender Tony Perkins; Assistant Miami Dade State Attorney Jessica Sinkfield; North Miami Police Chief Lenny Burgess; and North Miami Police Commander Tim Belcher.
Madison Middle School panelists were: Miami Dade Circuit Judge Daryl Trawick; Assistant Miami Dade Public Defender Ian Ward and Marty McNeil; Assistant Miami Dade State Attorney Ronald Dowdy and Hilton Napoleon; Hialeah Police Major Raleigh Flowers and Detective Marlon Lockhart.
“This is good for my kids,” said Norland Middle School Principal Ronald Redmon, when asked about the forum. “I’m looking for positive role models because we’re losing too many kids to drugs, prison and funerals.”
Redmon’s immediate super-visor, Miami Dade District Schools North Region Director Andy J. Pierre-Louis, told one group of kids, “I’m really excited to be here because this activity today will impact you the rest of your lives.”
Each panelist shared a wealth of knowledge of life and the criminal justice system, a-long with the value of education, the responsibility for making choices.
“Like Commander Belcher said, ‘We’re here to help you. Don’t think that what you do now won’t affect you later’,” Lawrence told one group of students.
Students at Madison Middle School were the beneficiaries of that same kind of caring advice. Principal Uwego Frazier welcomed the opportunity for his students’ network with positive role models. “I’m looking for a huge change here. We’re a double F school and I intend to change that. The most important thing right now is that Madison has a stigma attached to it.
“I want to change that immediately. Our students can benefit when we bring in outside people to make a positive impact. Things like that help motivate kids to excel.”
As attorneys from the Miami Dade State Attorney and Miami Dade Public Defender explained their roles, they also cited existing laws that define and regulate criminal conduct. Law enforcement officers also explained their roles as well as alternative ways to deal with conflict and confrontations.
“As a judge I’m like a referee making decisions on who’s right and who’s wrong. We’re very busy in the work we do,” said Trawick.
Redmon added an expanded perspective.
“Others look away from these kids. I don’t. Somebody helped me. So I’m doing the same. It’s like each one helps one. That’s always been my passion. Things like this, you can’t put a price tag on,” Redmon concluded.