This week is the National Week of Action against School Pushout and my organization has been actively involved.
We co-organized, along with our comrades at the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and the Chicago Freedom School, a wonderful event that took place on Monday evening. The event “Stand Up/Speak Out About School Pushout: A Youth Panel & Town Hall” drew an intergenerational packed house.
photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (9/30/13)
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Regular readers know that I’ve begun to explore the meanings of the term “Chiraq” on this blog. I promised to return to this topic but have been sidetracked. In the meantime, Dr. Nancy Heitzeg wrote an excellent post considering how the term “Chiraq” is linked to militarization and war on terror tactics in our cities.
Last night, I read an extraordinary report by journalist Natalie Moore about Senator Mark Kirk and Congressman Bobby Rush’s visit to Englewood. Back in May, Kirk made headlines for proposing to seek millions of dollars in federal funds to arrest 18,000 members of the Gangster Disciples. Bobby Rush immediately criticized Kirk suggesting that the mass gang arrest plan was an “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about.”
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I woke up early yesterday. I had even less than my regular four hours of sleep. I was determined to attend the Chicago Board of Education meeting and then to participate in two rallies for education justice and police accountability.
It turns out that I missed the rallies. We waited nearly two & a half hours for the public comment section of the Board meeting to begin. It is excruciating to quietly sit in uncomfortable chairs while blatant falsehoods are offered without challenge.
I thought about leaving early without making my statement but I am accountable to a group of people who have been working on the issue of school discipline data transparency for almost two years now. So I gritted my teeth and stayed put.
Meanwhile outside of the Board meeting, students, parents, educators, and community members were protesting CPS’s closing of schools and the proposed deep budget cuts for the remaining ones. Protesters then marched to City Hall to demand an elected school board. Make no mistake about it, young people were at the forefront of the protests. Students had called on their peers to boycott school and dozens of young people responded by taking to the streets.
photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (8/28/13)
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Emmet Elementary School by Jessica Rodrigue
The haunting photograph above by Jessica Rodrigue captures and embodies disinvestment and institutional violence. Emmet Elementary school is located on the Westside of Chicago. Today, as students return to school across the city, Emmet stands padlocked and empty. It is one of the 49 schools that were closed by CPS.
I am anxious and unsettled. I’m worried about this school year. Already, I am hearing from teacher friends that they have class rosters with 35 and 38 students. The mother of Asean Johnson, a 9 year old who came to national attention this Spring during protests against school closings, appeared on television this weekend to say that while her son’s school was saved from closing, he’ll have over 35 peers in his 4th grade classroom. This is in no way conducive to a quality education. Anyone who has spent ten minutes in a classroom can tell you this. Frankly, anyone who has been around two children for any length of time can attest to the difficulty of keeping them engaged and on task for an hour, let alone seven…
I fear that CPS is consigning a significant number of our young people to the trash bin; treating them as disposable.
Bontemps Elementary by Bill Healy (WBEZ)
So I am anxious and unsettled.
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I have watched for years now as Chicago bleeds black people and displaces the poor. This trend predates the current mayor Rahm Emanuel’s tenure. What the election of Emanuel has done is to super-charge a process of gentrification and urban removal that has been happening for years.
La Casita in 2011 (photo by Brett Jelinek)
The latest betrayal of the brown and the poor came on Friday evening when parents and children were interrupted during an Atzec dance class by police officers and demolition trucks.
photo by Vivi Arrieta (8/16/13)
La Casita, a library and community center adjacent to Whittier elementary school, has been a contested site for years. In 2010, parents and community members staged a 43-day sit-in to save it from demolition. This protest predates the Occupy movement. Chicago Public School (CPS) officials wanted to replace La Casita with a soccer field that would serve Cristo Rey, a nearby private school.
The parents won their fight. CPS promised to keep the center open and leased the building to the parents for $1 a year. Alderman Danny Solis committed to securing funds to renovate the space. You can learn more about the 2010 struggle to save La Casita here.
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It’s a privilege to publish the following words written by a young man who is currently incarcerated. One of the founders of the Circles and Ciphers program shared the story. If you have any thoughts that you want to send to the young man, please feel free to leave a comment or to email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Circles and Ciphers program participant (wished to remain anonymous)
(incarcerated at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center)
The Inside and Out Project
Once my friend and I were walking down the street. We were at Wood Street and 45th, and we had just come outside (it was 9am).
Then the cops came – deep, three cop cars. Because my phone had a weed plant on the screen they wanted my PIN number to unlock my phone. But I said, “I’m not going to give you my PIN.” So one of the white cops punched me in my stomach and put me inside the cop car. He told me, “You are going to give me the PIN number.” I said, “No.”
Then they let my friend go to his house and took me to my house and told my mom to unlock the phone. My mom said she didn’t know the code. So the white cop left me with my mom and gave my mom the phone. He left.
I went back to the block and saw my friend I had been with earlier and some other guys and told them what happened. I was so mad and my other friend told me to relax. He and I jumped in the car to pick up his baby girl at school. I was telling him the details of what happened, but then the same white cop that took me to my mom’s house stopped us and told me to step out of the car. He put me in his cop car and drove me into the territory of another rival gang, called La Raza. He dropped me off there. On my way trying to get home I got jumped and almost killed for being in La Raza territory. I ran fast as I could back to my house.
I called my friend that I had been in the car with and asked him, “What did the cops do to you?” He said they had let him go. Then I had to get off the phone because my baby brother needed my help, so I helped him with his homework. Later, when I was finished helping him with his homework, my friends came to my house and we smoked some weed.
I’m a member of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Educational Equity Project Advisory Committee. The organization does important work in Chicago.
The Chicago Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights Under Law and the Education Law and Policy Institute at Loyola Law School are seeking volunteers for the Independent School Monitoring Project.
Pending the outcome of both federal and state litigation, Chicago will be closing as many as forty-nine schools and sending students to designated welcoming schools. The Independent School Monitoring Project is intended to assist in the orderly transition of children to new schools and ensure that their right to a high quality education is preserved during that process. Volunteers will work brief shifts in front of welcoming schools on the first days of the school year, talking directly with parents and students about their experiences at the new school. Volunteers will not provide legal advice, but will be given know your rights materials to hand out and will be able to provide legal referrals as needed.
Volunteering with the Independent School Monitoring Project will be a minimum three-hour commitment: one hour of training and two hours of monitoring time. Trainings will take place on Thursday, August 22nd from 5-6 p.m. and Friday, August 23rd from 9-10 a.m. (volunteers need only attend one of the trainings). We are exploring webcast options for those unable to attend an in-person training session. Monitoring sessions will be on the first two days of the school year for CPS students: Monday, August 26th and Tuesday, August 27th, with additional days of monitoring to be scheduled on an as-needed basis.
If you are interested in signing up, registration is available HERE. Please feel free to direct any questions to Eve Rips at email@example.com. Thank you so much for your interest.
Youth activists from Fearless Leading by the Youth (F.L.Y.) and their supporters held a rally and press conference this morning to demand that funds be re-directed from incarceration to restorative justice efforts and other positive youth interventions. The rally took place at the Cook County Offices downtown to coincide with the monthly board meeting. The rally marked the 6th year anniversary of FLY and the Audy Home Campaign.
Some of the youth dressed as prisoners to make the point that the $40 million spent by Cook County to jail youth at a cost of over $500 a day would be better & more effectively spent at the community level providing needed resources.
by Sarah Jane Rhee (7/31/13)
“Cook County Board members are failing our youth, incarcerating youth isn’t working, and it is wasting money,” said youth activist and former detainee of the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center Auntraney Carter. “We are outraged that that as our friends die the county’s only response is to increase spending on juvenile detention.” (Source)
by Sarah Jane Rhee (7/31/13)
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This post explains why we need to protest. Also, I spoke on Vocolo about these issues back in June.
by Bianca Diaz
I’ve written a few times about the youth-led Audy Home Campaign on this blog. The Campaign is organizing a rally on July 31st.
Below is the annoucement:
Youth violence continues because of the lack of positive investments in our youth.
JOIN US TO RALLY TO STOP THE VIOLENCE &
DEMAND YOUTH INVESTMENT
Wed. July 31
10am at 118 N. Clark Street
Catch the Bus at 9:00am at 602 E 61st ST
The Detention Center Spends over $40M each year locking up youth, we are holding a rally to demand that money be reinvested in restorative justice programs in the neighborhoods where youth are getting locked up.
We need your voice! Join us!
This rally will take place on FLY and the Audy Home Campaign’s 6th Year Anniversary.
Some of the campaign’s past efforts are documented here and here.