ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When Roderick Fludd was growing up in South Carolina, one of the African-American man’s good friends had a father in the KKK.
Fludd tried to understand all sides.
Decades later, as the newly hired diversity and inclusion director at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Pete, Fludd held a debate about free speech: some students had to defend the rights of the KKK.
Fludd tried to get his students to understand all sides.
“The worst thing that could happen is we can’t talk anymore,” says Fludd, who was previously a math teacher at a Connecticut school — with an extracurricular job leading a multicultural club that grew in popularity.
Students were taken aback at first by the KKK lesson, which quickly generated buzz in Shorecrest‘s halls. But they soon realized what Fludd was trying to achieve in having kids defend the group’s right to exist.
“At first I thought, ‘How could I ever agree with that being a black female?’” said Shorecrest junior Alexandra Hairston. “But I realized it’s important to take a step back and look at things from all angles.”
Today, Fludd will continue his teaching of Martin Luther King, not so much what the great man did as why he did it.
“His Dream was I want black kids and white to be able to hold hands and call each other brother and sister,” says Fludd. “We don’t want to put someone off. We want to let everyone in.”
Fludd’s presence is no doubt a sign of our divisive incendiary times — but he’s actually energized by that. “One student said, ‘Mr. Fludd, we’re still not sure who you voted for?’ And I said, ‘Awesome.’”