Dr. Penn, the co-founder of TAPS Academy, recently finished a tour at several Historically Black Colleges and Universities in East Texas and Louisiana. While on these campuses he visited with the students to hear their views about youth and police relations, Black Lives Matter and the criminal justice system. Overwhelmingly, the students believed the system is biased against them as African Americans. However, also a sizable number felt if you mind your own business and do the right thing, there is less chance for the police to bother you. Thus it appears students at HBCUs walk in a world where they believe they are being watched and if they do wrong, the penalty is far more severe.
It has been about a year now since we have had the shocking tragedies of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, but there certainly appears to be a tension felt by students that another example of "Blacks Lives DO NOT Matter" will come soon.
A few weeks ago TAPS Academy held a workshop titled Crisis Prevention: Improving the Relationship between Youth and Police at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The event was attended by 30 participants including students, faculty members, university administrators, police chiefs, and other university officials. With speakers from the United States Department of Justice, a retired Chief from the Houston Police Department, a fundraising expert and Civil Rights icon - the day provided an opportunity to listen, learn, debate and strategize. Feedback was outstanding! As participants are committed to telling others what they learned.
The workshop follows the underlying premise of TAPS Academy. By bringing people together and giving people a "voice", better understanding can prevail to reduce social distance and build bridges to improve our communities.
One take-away from the workshop is to implement a TAPS Academy course at the college level called Youth, Law and Society. The on-line course will be offered spring 2017 taught by Dr. Everette B. Penn. It will allow college students to learn about youth culture, policing and the interaction between the two. Additionally, it will have a service-learning pedagogy allowing students to go into their neighborhoods side-by-side with law enforcement to mentor at-risk youth, while using the TAPS Academy curriculum.
If your college or university is interested in offering this undergraduate course at your campus, please contact TAPS Academy.