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#3630: FWD - Conflicts between black students prompt summit (fwd)
Published Tuesday, May 9, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Conflicts between black students prompt summit
BY NEIL REISNER
Long-simmering tension between Haitian and African American students and at
least one near-fight in recent months have prompted community members and
administrators at Sunrise Middle School to convene a ``cultural summit''
How serious the issues are is a matter of dispute.
``It isn't just a Sunrise issue; it's been going on in the community for a
while between the two cultures,'' said Marie K. Compas, one of the meeting's
organizers. ``It all comes down to one group not knowing, understanding the
other. . .It's minor now, and we don't want it to get bigger; it's
escalating, but it's not explosive.''
The meeting, which will bring together students and parents, will feature a
panel of educators, community leaders, police and students.
It will take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the school, 1750 NE 14th St. in
``People tell me things that are happening,'' said Marvin Dejean, a spokesman
for the Haitian Community Center of Broward County, who will be on the
``That's why I think we have to move in right now, while things are not
Sunrise Middle had 1,398 students at the beginning of the school year; the
black population of the school was 809.
Although the district doesn't count Haitian students separately, the school
is about a third Haitian, said Principal Rebecca Dahl.
Tension between American blacks and Haitians has arisen periodically since
the 1970s, when large numbers of Haitians fled poverty and politics to settle
in South Florida.
Conflicts simmered at places like Miami Edison High School where, between
1973 and 1984, the Haitian student population swelled from 17 to 650, a third
of the student body.
Four years ago, fears that tension among Haitian, Jamaican and
African-American students at Sunrise Middle, Fort Lauderdale High and
elsewhere prompted a community meeting much like tonight's.
Although school officials, Haitian and African-American activists and police
would not pinpoint any serious incidents in recent months, most agreed that
tension is on the rise . . . if it ever languished.
Recently, Dahl said, it came out in conversations with youngsters ``that
there have been some escalating problems in the community itself.''
``If kids are telling us, `Hey, we need to talk, . . . we're going to
listen,'' she said.
Participating in the discussion and question-answer session tonight will be
Compas, multicultural chair and teacher of English as a second language at
Sunrise; Antoine Jadott, Sunrise guidance counselor; Desmond Blackburn, an
assistant principal; and school resource Officer Ernest Pagan; as well as
activists from the African American and Haitian communities.