Michael Brunson at Jesse Owens school: Why we march... 'This is our city, our schools and our voice... This is a movement!'

Before the march began on Saturday, April 18, 2013, Michael Brunson, who had just been re-elected recording secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union the day before (by a landslide vote) gave the following speech to the hundreds of people assembled to begin the long march for justice in Chicago. The following is the text he gave to Substance for publication.

WHY DO WE MARCH? What is all this about?

Marchers before the long march for justice began at Jesse Owens school on Chicago's South Side on May 18, 2013. Michael Brunson is standing to the right of the speaker wearing his red CTU tee shirt. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.We are marching for justice. This is a demand for justice: educational justice, social justice, economic justice, and human justice. This is a demand for justice!

Why do we march? We are marching because we have had enough.

For too long, there has been an assault on our public schools, public services, and public properties. This has gone too far. We will not let you take away our children’s schools. We will not let you deprive our youth of their future. We will not let you jeopardize our children’s’ lives.

This mayor, and this school board are about to attempt the largest school closing in the history of this nation … and we are here to tell them once again “ NO”. We told their ad hoc commission, we told CPS at their community hearings, we told the judges at their public hearings. Parents, students, community members, and education workers, told the mayor, told the Board, told the media, “do not close our schools”, support them and give them the resources they need. Well over 20,000 people told them that. Did they listen? No!

We have got to make them hear us. We have got to make them see us. We have got to make them respect us. And again we say: DON’T CLOSE OUR SCHOOLS!!!

They are trying to tell us if our schools are not filled to the brim and busting at the seams they are “underutilized”. Let’s ask the mayor, lets ask the Board of Education members, “How many students are there in your children’s classroom?” Let’s use that number as our “efficient utilization” number. Do that, and all 54 schools will come off that list!

We cannot allow this to happen. This is about the safety of our children. This is about having a real quality and equitably resourced public education system for our children.

We have had enough: enough of the depredation and destruction of our public school system, and enough of the lies. For years now powerful and elite moneymen and their spokesman have called the assault on our public education system a “reform” movement and

They have said over and over that it is the “civil rights issue of our generation”.

How can you call this reform? How can you dare to associate what you do with “civil rights” when you close schools, snatch up jobs, and endanger our children? How dare you call it “civil rights” when you destabilize our communities, disenfranchise those who live in them, and disinvest from the future of our youth? How dare you call it “civil rights” when you re- segregate our schools, eliminate diversity in the teaching force, and destroy our communities?

We are here to re-claim the meaning, and the significance, and the dignity of real civil rights. We are here because we can show you, and tell you, and teach you about real civil rights, about human rights, about democracy, and about human dignity! We are marching for our children, we are marching for our public schools, we are marching for FREE AND EQUITABLE PUBLICLY FUNDED PUBLIC EDUCATION. We are marching for justice.

And those that are pushing this school DEFORM movement: closing our neighborhood schools; depriving our children of what they need; and attacking veteran educators, we are here to let you know. You may have the money, you may have powerful positions, and you may constantly push your falsehoods and fictions and harmful policies in front of our faces and in front of the media.

But remember! WE OUTNUMBER YOU!

South side, west side, and north side too. This whole city is on the move. This is not just a march. THIS IS A MOVEMENT!

THIS IS OUR CITY, OUR SCHOOLS AND OUR VOICE and we are marching to make that known. Now you will hear us. Now you will see us. And now you will feel us. Let’s move!


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