It was a shameful day as the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 schools (the single largest mass closing of schools in the nation’s history)…
There’s a young man named Brian Stirgus who has spent countless hours organizing to keep CPS schools open over the past few months. He’s 17 and a high school senior graduating in just a few short weeks. Brian is a leader with Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS) which is a youth-led group established to fight against the school closures. You can listen to him eloquently explain the damage that closings will cause for students and to their communities here.
After the Board voted, several members of CSOSOS and their allies gathered for a candelight vigil and press conference outside of CPS Headquarters. As someone who graduated from one of the elementary schools set to close, when Brian spoke, it was with tears streaming down his face:
“They have failed us again. What’s next?” he asked. He added: “It’s like they want to wipe my race out of existence.”
This photograph of Brian, taken by my friend Sarah Jane Rhee, is seared in my mind and so are his words. Young people have had their eyes opened to the corrupt politics in this city. I don’t know Brian personally though I know dozens of other incredible young people just like him in this city. Some of those young people have also been involved in fighting for education justice. It is for this reason that I am not despairing tonight despite the Chicago Board of Education’s shameful vote. There were tears today but there was also a resolve to continue to fight.
I believe in the creativity and the resilience of the young people in this city. I do. We are not making their path into adulthood any easier. Yet in spite of our detrimental policymaking, Chicago’s youth are by and large making their way through the obstacle course. Some are falling down and we are duty bound to reach out our hand to them. But I am consistently amazed that so many of our youth remain optimistic about the future. So tonight, I’ll take my cue from them and will keep moving forward in the struggle for education and social justice.
For those who are looking for ways to keep fighting, I suggest that you get involved in advocating for an elected school board. We also need to start organizing now to ensure that Rahm Emanuel is a one-term Mayor. Tomorrow, the Chicago Teacher’s Union is organizing an informational event for those who want to learn how to register voters. We have work to do.
As Brian finished his comments, he was embraced by his peers and allies in a group hug.
This image too is permanently imprinted in my mind. La lucha continua!