Black Parents, Grandparents, Clergy and Activists Enter Hunger Strike to Save High School
National civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson joins strike – Learn more here!
CHICAGO, AUGUST 20, 2015 – More than 12 parents, educators and other activists in the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood are entering day four of a dangerous hunger strike as they call on Mayor Rahm Emanuel end his plan to destroy the historic Dyett High School. Demonstrators, labor leaders and educators will conduct a sit-in today at 10:00 a.m. (cst) at the Board of Education, 42 West Madison.
This week, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey and others have expressed solidarity with the strikers who sleep overnight in a “tent city” near the school. The movement appears to be growing.
“Why do Black parents have to engage in direct action because we want a quality neighborhood high school,” asked, Irene Robinson, a parent participating in the hunger strike. “The city has sabotaged our community, which we know is undergoing gentrification. Why would they close the only neighborhood high school left for our children?
“We are willing to starve ourselves to bring justice to our children and our community,” added another parent Janette Taylor-Raman. “When white parents make requests to the mayor and Board of Ed (BOE), they respect them and honor their wishes. We have to protest, get arrested and refuse food to have our issues heard–and they still are not responding. Must we die too?”
Despite steady significant academic gains among students, the mayoral handpicked school board members voted to phase-out the high school, named for a famous African American composer, in 2012– the same year it closed 50 public schools, the most single closings in the nation’s history.
The hunger strikers demand an emergency hearing for the BOE members to vet the proposals on the merit of the academic quality contained wherein – not based on political ideology or cronyism; and determine the academic focus for the new Dyett High School at the next scheduled BOE meeting on August 26, 2015.
Incensed by CPS’ disingenuous responses by the city through the media, the hunger strikers want to set the record straight. After years of meetings with different school district chief officers and Board of Ed chairs, the community has been consistently ignored. The marginalization of hundreds of petition signatures, postcards and town hall participants that pre-date the development of a RFP process is an attempt to quiet the voice of the community that has a vested interest in their neighborhood school; which has demanded an academically-rigorous focus for its last open enrollment traditional neighborhood high school.
“Why is this fight still ongoing? These parents have been legitimately asking for equal, high-quality public education in their neighborhood. We want to know from the mayor, the school board, why that has been blocked,” Rev. Jackson told reporters and community members earlier this week. “They’re continuously building private schools in our neighborhoods and charter schools are closing public schools, so that mothers whose children should walk to school at Dyett have to go 16 miles one way to school…”