Chicago parents and community members are in a desperate fight to bar the city from permanently closing the doors of one of its predominately Black high schools.
Eleven parents and one clergyman are 23 days into a hunger strike demanding that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel revamp Walter H. Dyett High School—which serves Chicago’s South Side and was closed in June—as the Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. Parents say that by shutting the school’s doors, city officials are forcing students to travel farther distances and compete to enroll in selective high schools and charter schools.
Earlier this week, the city announced that it would be reopening Dyett High School as an arts institution, but parents and activists were not appeased. They argue that city officials—many of whom have been hesitant to meet with protestors—simply ignored their requests and made the decision without their input. The group is planning to continue their fight alongside civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson.
“When people say, ‘It’s a win; you all won something. You should be happy,’ there was no negotiation with the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett,” protestor Jitu Brown said to the Chicago Sun-Times. “There was no negotiation.”
Though Mayor Emanuel, who has shuttered nearly 50 schools since 2013, says that the school closures are beneficial to students and allow them to attend better high schools, many parents feel that the reforms target Black residents.
“The schools Mayor Emanuel have pointed to as options for their children are outside the neighborhood and existing attendance boundaries, across gang lines, militarized, selective enrollment, and/or operated by a private contractor,” protestor J. Brian Malone said in a statement. “The parents and community leaders have been explicitly clear in their intention to have a high school in their community that reflects their vision.”
Walter H. Dyett High School is located in the historic Bronzeville section in the city’s South Side.
Since the hunger strike began on Aug. 17, three strikers have been hospitalized and since released. The 12 demonstrators are only drinking water and juice.