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Clergy demand justice and mercy for Dyett hunger strikers...

With Dyett High School supporters going into their third week of a hunger strike, Christian and Jewish clergy called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel, at a press conference on August 31, 2015 at City Hall, to act justly and mercifully and heed the parents who are risking their lives for an open enrollment, high quality public school in Bronzeville.

Rev. Liz Muoz calls on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to listen to the Dyett hungers strikers who are risking their lives to obtain an open-enrollment, public high school in Bronzeville. Audrey May (left), Chicago Teachers Union staffer and faith coordinator for PEACE (Parents Educators and Clergy for Education), opened and closed the press conference. Other speakers included Rev. Robert Jones (right), pastor of Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church and one of the hunger strikers, and Rabbi Brant Rosen (not pictured). Some of the other hunger strikers standing behind Muoz: April Stogner, Aisha Wade-Bey, Anna Jones and Marc Kaplan. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt Since August 17, a dozen people have refused solid food in their demand that Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board follow the community's wishes and use the now shuttered Dyett High School Building at 555 E. 51st St. for an open-enrollment high school that would focus on "global leadership" and "green technology."

"We need an upper echelon public school for our students," said hunger striker Dr. Aisha Wade-Bey, a parent, teacher and Bronzeville resident. "We want our children to be trained as leaders."

Bey told Substance that going into the third week of her hunger strike that her "spirit and soul are strong in solidarity" with all the supporters, but that she is feeling very weak and "can't do much" other than be present in the action. As part of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School, Bey had worked hundreds of hours with others to complete the Dyett RFP (request for proposal), which she said was a "rational and top proposal."

Hunger strikers Rev. Robert Jones, April Stogner and Jitu Brown after the August 31 press conference at City Hall. Brown told Substance that they need support through calls and letters to the mayor and other elected officials, social media use with #FightForDyett and by turning up and turning out for events (see the Dyett Global Leadership & Green Technology HS Facebook page and www.teachersforjustice.org for event listings). Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt. Opening the press conference, Audrey May, the coordinator of the group PEACE (Parents Educators and Clergy for Education) and a Chicago Teachers Union staffer, said Mayor Emanuel should put as much effort in running Chicago as he did his race the previous day and lead "like a mayor, not Ramses." May said Emanuel should have compassion and put himself in the place of the community members who are starving themselves.

The next speaker, Rabbi Brant Rosen echoed May, and referred to the Egyptian pharaoh who turned his back on God's people: "Those who read the the Bible, the Torah, know what happens to leaders who harden their hearts to freedom," he said.

"It's a shameful reality that families would starve themselves for a decent, open-enrollment school," Rosen said, calling the hunger strikers moral role models. He said the hunger strikers are "putting their bodies on the line, risking permanent damage" for the love of their community.

"At the least, listen," Rosen said. "Be fair." He said the hunger strikers had many supporters throughout the city, state and nation.

Hunger striker Irene Robinson sat throughout the event. After 15 days without food, the hunger strikers are suffering physically and emotionally. Rev. Jones said that some days are extremely difficult. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt. The next speaker, Rev. Liz Muoz, also pleaded for mercy and justice. "Do not abandon the children of God," she said.

Muoz, who had taught in the Los Angeles public schools before coming to Chicago, told Substance that her Episcopalian congregation Nuestra Seora de las Americas in Logan Square supports the hunger strikers. "We may not be directly affected, but we are affected" by CPS' school decisions throughout the city.

The final clergy member to speak at the press conference, Rev. Robert Jones, pastor of the Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist church, quoted the book of Micah: "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Jones asked for continued prayers.

May closed the press conference by reminding Emanuel that he says he "loves this city." then leading the group in singing. The hunger strikers, supporters and clergy sang:

Ain't gonna let nobody turn me round,

Turn me round, turn me round.

Ain't gonna let nobody, turn me round.

I'm gonna keep on a-walkin';, keep on a-talkin',

Walkin' into freedom land.

Poster created by Ellen Goodman with photos by Phil Cantor. For individual pictures and biographies of the hunger strikers, see Phillip Cantor's Facebook page #WeAreDyett: https://www.facebook.com/phillip.cantor/media_set?set=a.10207598412941101.1073741837.1314021915&type=1&l=8532f2f083

Despite attempts by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his latest (and fourth) "Chief Executive Officer" to claim that they need more time before making a decision about Dyett, the work of the coalition trying to restore Dyett has been going on since the very beginning of the Emanuel administration in May 2011. After observing the closing off of the schools in the Bronzeville community to the general population from the community, the members of the coalition, led by the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) took up the Board's challenge and developed a comprehensive plan to continue the public's use of the beautiful (and relatively new) Dyett building as a general high school. By 2011, that plan, which is the current plan, was in place and had been presented to the Board of Education.

The Board began a two pronged policy that might be called the two "Ss" -- Sabotage and Stall.

SABOTAGE: The Sabotage came by virtue of the Board's refusal to admit new students to Dyett High School after 2011. This kind of sabotage had been successful in furthering the Board's policy of massive privatization for more than a decade. As early as 2006, the Board stopped allowing Collins High School to take in new 9th grade students. A couple of years later, the same policy of choking off the supply of students was done to Austin High School. In both cases, it became clear that the sabotage of the existing general high school was part of a plan to turn the buildings over to private operators.

The Collins High School building -- despite its origins in the struggles of the West Side Black Community to create a "school in the park" -- was undermined by CPS policy. Ultimately, the Board then voted to divide the school into two parts. Part of Collins was given over to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), while the rest of the building was given to the controversial North Lawndale College Prep charter high school. Collins was destroyed as a general high school serving the community and turned over to two versions of the Board's privatization campaign.

Meanwhile, the Austin High School building was suffering the same fate. Then Board of Education President Michael Scott announced that in order to stop the gang violence at Austin the Board would freeze 9th grade. Each year, Scott (or his successors after he committed suicide following the failure of Chicago to get the 2016 Olympics) proclaimed that Austin needed to continue fighting gang violence and drug gang crimes by stopping student access to the school. Within four years, Austin had no students, and suddenly, the Board closed Austin as a general high school and began turning over pieces of the building to charter schools and other unusual configurations.

Meanwhile, the people who wanted to continue supporting Dyett developed their plan to keep the school open for the community as a general high school. They repeatedly brought the plan to the Board, with the support of both community leaders and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

THE STALL: And yet in 2015 the mayor and the latest CEO of CPS continued claiming that they needed "more time." The time they had taken had simply sabotaged the existing Dyett, to the point where in June 2015, the school graduated only 13 students. Reporters who ignore context and history noted that Dyett was supposedly a waste of CPS money during another time of austerity.



Comments:

September 2, 2015 at 1:27 AM

By: KATHLEEN POWERS

The city's tactics about closing public institutions

The fate of public schools' neglect parallels the fate of the city mental health clinics. First, the city neglects, then it sidesteps in rhetoric, then it closes its own creations claiming that private organizations can do it better! If that is true, then the city needs to hire competent staff to handle the responsibility of providing safety nets for public school children and persons with mental illness!

September 2, 2015 at 9:13 AM

By: Sharon Schmidt

Update from Jitu Brown

The following is a September 1 Facebook post shared by hunger striker Jitu Brown. He talks about the meeting he and others had with Mayor Emanuel and CPS CEO Forest Claypool after Monday, August 21 evening's budget hearing.

HUNGER STRIKE DAY 16

#fightfordyett

UPDATES

1. An interesting day yesterday. First, we had a successful press event with clergy and the Mayor's Deputy Chief of Staff Ken Bennett showed up to Dyett. We let him know we were not coming off the hunger strike until our community wins Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.

2. Chicago turned out the budget meeting at 6 p.m. at Malcolm X College with over 750 people in the audience, most of whom were in fierce support of Dyett! They rocked it so hard that the mayor and CPS CEO met with hunger strikers after the budget hearing and said they will have a resolution in a few days. We told them that is not good enough and we will be on this hunger strike until the community wins this school. Another hunger striker, Sister Anna Jones, passed out after the meeting and was briefly hospitalized. This morning, she was back on post. We will not be moved.

3. Great press conference with youth from Bronzeville demanding Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School!

4. Preparing for candlelight vigil and lighting ceremony at Tribune Tower tonight.

5. Mayor's rep said he will call me today with a resolution. Tick, tock, tick, tock!!

6. We are escalating. Two hunger strikers are going to meet Arne Duncan and White House staff tomorrow.

REFLECTIONS

Pamoja Tutashinda! Together we will win! That's all.

September 2, 2015 at 10:08 AM

By: Neal Resnikoff

For People's Control

Over 200 showed up last night (September 1) on Michigan Avenue along with the Dyett Hunger Strikers for a support vigil. Several of the strikers spoke, eloquently and militantly expressing the community's desire for an open enrollment high school for the Bronzeville area, for a quality school.

The night before, at the City Budget hearing at Malcolm X College, after a number of Dyett supporters challenged the Mayor from the floor as well as from the mikes, demanding the reopening of Dyett High School as an open enrollment high school, Mayor Emanuel agreed to meet with the hunger strikers after the hearing. Not that he agreed to anything of substance at that meeting. But it is clear that there is widescale support in City and throughout the U.S. and internationally.

Let City Hall know your view, if you haven't already, to help build up the people's demand that they should be the decision-makers.

One way to do this is at the rest of the Budget Hearings--There will be another open City budget hearing Wednesday night at the South Shore Cultural Center, and another on Thursday night at Wright College.

The vigil and action at the City Budget hearing follow on the heels of the large rallies and march downtown on Saturday for a community representative elected Police Board, for the people to run the police department in the interests of the people and against the racist, brutal and repressive system that exists with their review boards that systematically cover up police crimes.

And, we also know the large majority sentiment that has been expressed in non-binding referendums for a community representative elected School Board.

This is what we need, what democracy looks like. As one of the placards of Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice says: Fight for People's Control! We should decide!

September 2, 2015 at 2:56 PM

By: Mark Thompson

CPS Doesn't Care About Mentally Ill Children

James Ciesil, Linda Brown, Edward Wong, and former IG James Sullivan were all involved in the illegal manipulation and use of a 18-year old girl with mental health issues to fabricate a false rape complaint against a teacher in retaliation for him filing a federal lawsuit, a lawsuit in which the CPS lost. This girl is on tape making it very clear that she did not want to pursue any charges but the CPS processed it anyway against her rights as a mental health patient. Then Ciesil was involved with Wong in stealing the accused teacher's mail from DCFS and blocking DCFS from investigating, instead allowing the teacher to continue to teach students for over a year while they figure out how they can use the false rape claims to their advantage. Ciesil, Brown, and Wong are corrupt employees within CPS who need to be eradicated immediately.

September 3, 2015 at 9:39 PM

By: John Whitfield

Mayors, governors, the President(s) don't care about the mentally ill.

See 'American Psychosis', The Dismantling of the Mental Health Care System in the United States, by psychiatrist, Dr.Fuller Torrey. Nor does society in general care as the the biggest mental insitutution of all is the Cook County Jail. Even sheriff Thomas Dart admitted they are not equipped to serve the needs of the mentally ill in Cook County jail. This is something Dorothy Dix and other activists flought against over a century and a half ago. People with brain diseases being punished in jails and prisons.

September 4, 2015 at 6:42 AM

By: Sharon Schmidt

CPS compromise

Yesterday, CPS offered a compromise to open Dyett, but not as the school the hunger strikers are demanding. See the following Washington Post story (link at end).

Chicago will reopen high school, but hunger strikers still wont eat

By Lyndsey Layton September 3 at 5:34 PM

Chicago school officials said Thursday that they will reopen a shuttered South Side high school which had been slated for closure and was the inspiration for an ongoing 18-day hunger strike by protesters that has drawn national attention.

But the school will be arts-themed not the green technology and science school community activists have been seeking.

Our objective was to make the decision that best meets our childrens needs and this plan creates the opportunity for a unique, world-class high school on the South Side, Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Forrest Claypool said in a statement.

The school is expected to serve about 550 students and be ready to open in the 2016-2017 school year. In addition to an arts focus, the school will also host an innovation technology lab that will be open to students from other schools and the community, officials said.

The decision was a surprise; it was not among the three plans city officials received in response to a request for proposals earlier this year and have been reviewing for months.

The plans under consideration were the science, leadership and technology proposal from the community activists, a bid by a local nonprofit organization to run an arts-themed school for a fee, and a third proposal by a former principal who wanted to open a sports-themed school.

Protesters were taken aback by Thursdays announcement, and pledged to continue their hunger strike. They won a key objective the reopening of a neighborhood school for every student in the community. But instead of a green-themed science focus, the city is planning an arts school.

We of course are glad its going to be a neighborhood school, said Jitu Brown, one of the hunger strikers who has lost 32 pounds since Aug. 17. Were deeply concerned this is still the mayor playing the shell game. There was no overwhelming call from the community for an arts school. We want a green technology school. Were not coming off the strike. Yes, reopening the school is a victory. But the real victory would be listening to the neighborhoods voice.

He said protesters were arranging a meeting with city officials.

The decision came as the demonstrations over the fate of the high school in the Bronzeville neighborhood began to attract national attention, and the fight was resonating with activists and labor unions in other cities where school closings had been contentious.

The Chicago strife was also starting to disrupt Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuels daily schedule, as he was dogged by protesters. At a public meeting on the city budget Wednesday night, Emanuel had to be hustled from the venue by police, after protesters rushed the stage midway through the session. Hundreds of activists interrupted a similar budget meeting Monday.

Earlier Wednesday, two of the hunger strikers traveled to Washington to ask U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to intervene and deliver justice to students in Chicago.

Chicago Public Schools, facing an estimated $1 billion budget gap, closed Walter H. Dyett High School in June, after years of poor performance and dwindling enrollment. Dyett was the only open-enrollment high school in its catchment area; nearby options include a selective high school, a contract school run by a private operator and a school outside Dyetts attendance zone.

After community pushback about the closing, city officials said they would consider proposals from private organizations to operate the school for a fee.

Community activists argued that they wanted a publicly managed, traditional school and submitted their plan after consulting with Chicago Botanic Gardens, DuSable Museum and other organizations. They said the schools location next to a major park offered an opportunity to emphasis science, the environment and green technology.

Dyett is in Bronzeville, a once-vibrant African-American community that was home to a glittery roster of cultural leaders, including musician Louis Armstrong and author Richard Wright. It began to decay after the Great Depression and became notorious for the crime- and drug-ridden Ida B. Wells high-rise public housing complex, which the federal government razed in 2011. Pockets of the neighborhood have begun to gentrify, although stretches remain blighted.

Chicago Public Schools closed nearly 50 schools in 2013, affecting more than 12,000 students. One of the largest mass school closings in the country, it revealed deep racial fissures.

Activists filed complaints of civil rights violations with the U.S. Department of Education, charging that closings of public schools in Chicago, Newark and New Orleans occur in disproportionately large numbers in poor, minority neighborhoods and have a destabilizing effect on communities.

Department officials are still investigating those complaints.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/chicago-will-reopen-high-school-but-hunger-strikers-still-wont-eat/2015/09/03/aba487e4-5269-11e5-8c19-0b6825aa4a3a_story.htm

September 4, 2015 at 3:11 PM

By: Kim Scipes

Dyett as an arts school

CPS had an arts school--Chicago High School for the Arts or ChiArts--in Bronzeville for, I believe, four years (maybe five). They were in at least three different locations, the last being in the Doolittle Elementary complex on E. 35th (at Rhodes) for three years.CPS never gave them adequate support, and in 2014, they moved Chi Arts to the former Lafayette Elementary which they had closed, which is on Augusta (1000 North), just east of California in Humbolt Park. ChiArts has succeeded to the extent it has because of strong support from the Chicago arts community, not because of CPS. (Chi Arts is a contract school and teachers are not union--teacher turnover is a HUGE problem.)

September 4, 2015 at 11:04 PM

By: Sharon Schmidt

Update by Jitu Brown

HUNGER STRIKE DAY 19

?#?fightfordyett?

UPDATES

1. While we are clear that Dyett is open as a neighborhood school due to the hard work and dedication of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett, CPS' decision to turn Dyett into an arts school with a technology hub is NOT a victory for Bronzeville's children. We would not allow a school that we have struggled suffered sweated and strive to save the instruments of patronage for preachers and social service agencies who didn't lift a finger to defend diets children as the school was being destabilized. We will not allow elected officials who has been useless in protecting and improving public education in Brownsville to now posture as if they saved a diet high school.

2. Today we held a press conference at 2:30 p.m. well attended by local media to announce that the hunger strike is still on. We have identified a list of demands and I working with the Reverend Jesse Jackson who won the gotiate on our behalf. Those demands are:

1. We want green technology in the name of the school with our green technology curriculum fully implemented.

2. We want global leadership as a part of the students curriculum.

3. We want an immediate, fully empowered local school council.

4. We want our sustainable community school village. Dyett should work closely with the feeder schools identified in our proposal.

5. The community should select the first principal. We want Duane Turner as the first principal of Walter Dyett High School.

6. The name of the school must remain Walter Dyett high school.

7. We want full representation of no fewer than six people from the coalition to revitalize dyett on the design / planning team.

REFLECTIONS

Our hunger strike continues until those demands are met. Thank you for all the love and support! #fightfordyett!

September 6, 2015 at 2:58 PM

By: Jean Schwab

Dyett High

Americans have an abundance of power, resources and wealth. It is a shame we can't share with each other. Dyett High could become an example for other schools because it is a Globel Technology school.

Global Technology and green technology will be very important in forming our future world. It's too bad the mayor and school board couldn't agree to the proposal for Dyett. I think by working together a new chapter could have been written for Chicago Public Schools. I was also disheartened when I read about BBB's salary in Detroit-a city with serious money problems- Outrageous!

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