Demonstrators took to the relatively quiet streets of the 4200 block of North Hermitage in Lake View, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel resides, with drums, singing, and chanting in order to protest CPS plans of closing five schools on the South Side.
According to one of the demonstration’s organizers, 2009 Hope High School graduate Rachel Williams, an estimated 250 marchers heeded their call to action on Monday, even though the protest was not publicized on social media; they gathered at Lake View High School before starting the march.
“It was a great turnout considering the weather,” Williams said. Organizers were delegated to each school to help provide school buses or other means of transportation for students who participated in the march, she said.
Englewood’s Hope, Harper, and TEAM Englewood high schools are slated to close in three years after its current students have graduated, while Robeson High School is to be demolished after this school year to make way for a $85 million replacement set to open in the fall of 2019.
The fate of the National Teachers Academy Elementary School (NTA) is still in the air, with CPS proposing its closure and the CPS Board of Education to vote on the decision in the coming weeks. One of the demonstrators, Priya Shah, a CPS teacher at Skinner North Elementary School, marched with her son Ayan Ahmed. If NTA were to close, she said, it would be unprecedented.
“Closing a Level 1+ school has never happened before. It’s a school that should serve as a model to other schools in this city because of its exceptionality,” she said.
Police presence guided the demonstrators to the front yard of the mayor’s home. There, community members and students addressed Emanuel, who, unlike his neighbors, didn’t come to the front door.
One student, Miracle Boyd, a sophomore from John Hope, addressed the crowd with a letter she had written to the mayor. Boyd later passed on the letter to 19th District police commander Marc Buslik, who accepted it on Emanuel’s behalf.
In calling for action from the mayor, Boyd also called him a “racist.”
“We don’t have failing schools, Mr. Mayor. We have been failed,” she said.
“You owe the Black community, Mr. Emanuel. You owe Englewood.”