Chicago may sit more than 2,000 miles away from San Juan and over 1,500 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, but the connections between Chicago, Puerto Rico, and Mexico run far deeper than geography would suggest. The city is bound to these regions by the heritage of over one million of its residents—there are over 900,000 people of Mexican descent and over 100,000 people of Puerto Rican descent living in Cook County—and by neighborhoods such as Pilsen, Little Village, and Humboldt Park that form Chicago’s ethnic and cultural mosaic.
One wouldn’t have needed to be in Wrigleyville on the early morning of November 3, 2016—when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, igniting a citywide celebration more than a century in the making—to know that Chicago loves baseball. That championship team was notable not only for its Series victory but also for the four African-American players who played major roles throughout the 2016 regular season and playoff run. In an era of a well-documented dearth of Black players in Major League Baseball (MLB) compared to previous decades, center fielder and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler (now with the rival St. Louis Cardinals), right fielder Jason Heyward, shortstop Addison Russell, and relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. represented a noteworthy exception to a sport-wide trend. In many ways, it’s fitting that a roster with four Black players—tied with the Boston Red Sox for the most in the MLB—took part in bringing a championship back to Chicago, a city that has played such a major role in the history of baseball in the African-American community, and that is spearheading the MLB’s efforts to revive baseball participation in inner cities nationwide.
On Friday, February 3, Paula Wyatt should have been at her school on Chicago’s Northwest Side, where she works as a librarian for 1100 students. This particular Friday was scheduled as a coveted (and contractually required) staff professional development day. Wyatt should have attended a discussion of LGBT issues in schools with staff from Lurie Children’s Hospital and a presentation by a bilingual specialist. She should have attended a curriculum-planning meeting, a grant-writing seminar in order to apply for library refurbishment funds, and a meeting with Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) mentors regarding the implementation of new Next Generation Science Standards. Her colleagues should have been engaging in other training and development opportunities or using the day for grading and meetings. But instead, on February 3, Wyatt’s school remained closed, like all the 516 other schools operated by Chicago Public Schools (CPS). This district-wide closure left over 31,000 CPS employees without pay and over 320,000 students unable to reap the benefits of those teacher-training programs.