The Chicago Public School System has been in a state of turmoil over the past few years for numerous reasons. Teachers are fighting for their pensions and basic tools needed to educate students. Parents around the city have been thrust into situations where they need to adjust their lives just to find a school for their child to attend. Mayor Rahm Emanuel led an initiative to close 50 public schools in the Chicago area. Most of these schools were on the South Side of Chicago. Parents, teachers and students are feeling the pain of these closings. One group is fighting back.
Led by Jitu Brown, the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School is comprised of the Chicago Teachers Union, Quest Center, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, the Chicago Botanic Gardens, Blacks in Green, the Plant, University of Illinois College of Education, Metropolitan Tourism Council and the Dusable Museum of African American History. The coalition is currently in the ninth day of an organized hunger strike set ti save Walter Dyett High School located in the Bronzeville community of Chicago.
We spoke with Brown and asked a few questions regarding the strike, the coalition’s motivation, and what they are looking to accomplish.
What prompted this hunger strike?
For five years, the African American community has been presenting CPS with a detailed plan for creating a K-thru-12 system of education in the neighborhood with the same type of security and education that parents have in the neighborhoods of Lincoln Park or Hyde Park. Chicago Public Schools has lied, used misdirection, and done everything they could not to work with the community. We have held six town hall meetings, we have well over 2,000 petition signatures, over 500 people of this community have mailed letters to Mayor Emanuel saying to support the community’s plan for Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. It would be a district run school that would be the hub of what we call a sustainable community school village, with all of the feeder schools connected to the high school. Then we know from K-thru-12 the quality of education our children will receive. That’s a human right, and we don’t have that right now. Now that Dyett is closed, there is no open enrollment neighborhood high school in this area. We didn’t do that; it’s not bad parents’ it’s not bad ghetto kids’ that is not bad black teachers; it is Chicago Public Schools disinvesting in the lives of working-to-low income African American families in this community.
We also spoke with Anna Jones, one of the parents taking part in the hunger strike. She has a daughter who recently graduated junior high. She was forced to travel outside of her immediate community to enter her daughter into an open enrollment high school.
Why is it so important for you to be involved with this hunger strike?
It’s important for me to be involved in this hunger strike because when Rham closed 50 schools in Chicago, the largest amount of school closings in the history of our district, it affected so many families. It put a great hardship on my family; my children have been suffering traumatically from the aftermath of the school closings. It’s important for me to fight for Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School, because I have sat down with parents, teachers, students and organizers who care about equal educational opportunities for our children. My daughter just graduated from the eighth grade from a school where she didn’t have a reading teacher. They sent security guards to their classrooms to basically baby-sit the students and kill time with them as they lack instruction. We can’t get that time back. We are fighting for Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School so she can get back the education she lost.
What would you like to say to our readers?
As education reform states, “All children deserve a world class education.” We are not getting that globally and more specifically we are not getting that in Bronzeville. Our children deserve equal education just like any other child in the world.
The city of Chicago will be meeting soon to determine the fate of Dyett High School. Let’s hope the importance of education will prevail and the children on the South Side of Chicago are not neglected, yet again.
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