Hunger strikers reflect, talk about next steps

Advocates of the #Fight for Dyett campaign have been quiet since the 34-day hunger strike this summer, but the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett has been reflecting on the experience and planning its next steps.

During a panel discussion, Thursday, at the University of Chicago building in Harper Court, 5235 S. Harper Ct., titled “Dyett and Disinvestment”, key players in the hunger strike came together once again to discuss their thoughts on the strike and what still needs to be done.

The University of Chicago’s (U. of C.) Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, (IRRPP) hosted the panel that was moderated by Bill Ayers, an activist and former U. of C. Department of Education professor. Hunger strikers Jitu Brown, Irene Robinson and Monique Redeaux were on the panel along with Rico Gutstein, a member of the Teacher’s for Social Justice and a part of the coalition.

Brown announced the future for the coalition’s plans to continue the push for a global leadership and green technology curriculum. The coalition is currently in partnerships with three area churches to take on and teach the curriculum that was developed.

“Our vision was to put the curriculum in a high school, but what was most important was the vision,” Brown said.

The three churches that have partnered already are Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, 4622 S. King Dr.; Mount Carmel Bible Church, 740 E. 42nd St., and Grant Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, 4017 S. Drexel Blvd.

The panelists remain confident and determined in the proposal they submitted during the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) request for proposal (RFP) process in April.

“CPS has never attempted to come out against how solid our proposal was,” said Redeaux. “We know it was the best proposal, and they do too. They couldn’t even poke holes in it.”

On the 18th day of the hunger strike, Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., was announced to reopen next school year as an open enrollment, arts-focused school. For Brown and his fellow hunger strikers, there were-and still are-mixed feelings about the decision.

“We did win the reopening of the neighborhood school; we understand that, that is a great accomplishment,” Brown said. “I’m in favor of a highly competitive arts and sports program, but in conjunction with a focus on green technology.”

The hunger strikers originally went on the strike due to the unfair RFP process that was taking place behind closed doors at CPS. However, they now see the hunger strike as part of a larger education justice movement that is taking place around the city of Chicago, and the nation.

“We think about the hunger strike as a moment in the long-term struggle,” said Gutstein.

For the hunger strikers and supporters of the coalition, the fight for Dyett has been a long time coming for the community that has been boiling up even before the school’s closing in 2013.

“I was ready to do a hunger strike two and a half years ago,” Brown said. “I learned as an organizer that we have to let people build up their own rage.”

Gutstein said, “This was not about winning Dyett, not about one community, this is a long process in a bigger struggle.”


[Via: Hyde Park Herald]

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