Brooklyn mourns death of prominent educator

Derrick Griffith.
Photo courtesy of Medgar Evers College

Caribbean American legislators have joined the Brooklyn community in mourning the death of a Caribbean American educator who died in Tuesday’s derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pa.

Derrick Griffith, 43, the acting dean of Student Affairs at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College, City University of New York, whose roots are from Barbados, was among seven people killed and over 200 injured in the derailment, as the train headed to New York from Washington, D.C.

“Derrick Griffith was a leader in this community, a trailblazer in the profession of education, and a man who dedicated himself to the many students for whom he was a teacher, an administrator, and a mentor, as the founder of the CUNY (City University of New York) Preparatory Transitional High School and as the executive director of Groundwork, Inc., an organization created to support young women and young men living in communities with high rates of poverty,” U.S. Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke told Caribbean Life on Thursday.

“Dean Griffith believed in his students and in their ability to develop their talents if provided with the necessary support,” added Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

“He was committed to providing that very support to a generation of high school and college students,” she added. “His example of public service will continue to inspire all those people who knew him and will remember his passion for social justice and the future generation of leaders,” she continued.

“Let us pray for the family of Dean Derrick Griffith and for the community at Medgar Evers College,” Clarke urged.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said his borough “mourns the passing of one of its own.

“Our hearts go out to his family and to the entire community at Medgar Evers College,” he said. “He will be remembered for his commitment to education and his work on behalf of the less fortunate. I encourage all of us, in the spirit of One Brooklyn, to take on the mission he set out on to inspire and assist our young people to achieve their full academic potential.”

Medgar Ever College on Thursday held a candle light vigil at its Bedford Avenue Campus in remembrance of Derrick.

The college described Griffith as “a pillar in the community,” stating that he served the students and the greater community with “passion” and that he will be “sorely missed.

“He was a champion for the downtrodden and he encouraged students to pursue education with vigor,” said Medgar Evers College in a statement.

During the course of his more than 10 years working in the field of education, the college said Griffith “wore a number of hats as he worked to help others look toward a better life.”

He served as a school principal for a number of years and in 2003, he founded the CUNY Preparatory Transitional High School.

In 2011, Griffith was the executive director of Groundwork, Inc., an organization formed to support young people living in high poverty urban communities.

He joined Medgar Evers College that same year as assistant provost in what was to become the first of a number of roles he would fill at the college.

“Even as he was encouraging young people to reach for greater heights for themselves, he was working to attain his own educational goals,” said Medgar Evers College, disclosing that just one month ago, Griffith was granted a Doctorate of Philosophy in Urban Education by the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan.

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