Just 30 minutes before a new mural honoring her late husband was unveiled on Monday, Maureen Faulkner was dealt a new blow.
Faulkner, the widow of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, had learned that in California, the Oakland Unified School District will resurrect an optional curriculum for high school students that includes comparisons between Martin Luther King Jr. and Mumia Abu-Jamal – the man convicted of Daniel Faulkner’s 1981 murder.
“It just hit about 30 minutes ago, when I was coming here,” Faulkner said after the ceremony to unveil a new mural in honor of her late husband at 11th and Vine streets, on the wall of the 6th Police District headquarters. “The Oakland schools are going to allow Mumia Abu-Jamal’s curriculum to be in their schools, to teach children.”
First created in 2003 with federal grant funding, Oakland superintendent Antwan Wilson took down the “Urban Dreams” curriculum in April after Fox News located an old copy of the curriculum online, leading to an outcry from Maureen Faulkner and Philly’s Fraternal Order of Police.
The references to Abu-Jamal are within the “Urban Dreams” curriculum in a section devoted to King.
The San Francisco Chronicle quoted the curriculum as asking students to “critically examine a possible parallel between Martin Luther King Jr., and someone else many believe is currently targeted by the U.S. government, Mumia Abu-Jamal,” and “consider the claim by Abu-Jamal’s supporters that the government sees him as enough of a threat to want to kill him. Do students agree that this is a possibility?”
On Nov. 18, Wilson announced that after review, the curriculum would again be placed on the district’s website as an option for teachers.
“They’re going to be modeling him after Martin Luther King, which is such an atrocity, because Martin Luther King was such a kind, peaceful man, who wanted a positive outcome for people of all colors,” Faulkner said. “For them to even correlate him with a cold-blooded murderer is absolutely a tragedy.”
Oakland’s school district spokesman, Troy Flint, said the curriculum was found to be in line with California state standards, will “teach kids to be critical thinkers” and will not “coerce kids into either conclusion.”
“I have a lot of sympathy for Mrs. Faulkner and I understand her position, but from an academic perspective, the lesson is not one of equivalence between Martin Luther King and Mumia Abu-Jamal,” Flint said. “It’s simply looking at different elements of their lives, and there’s really a narrow slice of their narrative where there may be some intersection. That’s not the same as placing Mumia on a pedestal with Martin Luther King.”
For now, the new mural, which was unveiled at a service attended by more than 100 police officers, will honor Faulkner’s memory.
“I wanted it to look like a memorial a family member would set up for him in their house,” said artist Jon Laidacker, who painted the mural. “It was also a goal of mine not to touch the controversy surrounding him at all.”