Hunger Strike: The #FightForDyett High School in Chicago

[September 21st update]

From Progress Illinois: Dyett Hunger Strike Ends After 34 Days; CPS Forms Dyett Advisory Committees

The hunger strike over Dyett High School on Chicago’s South Side ended on Saturday. 

Activists who participated in the 34-day hunger strike plan to detail their “next phase in the fight for Dyett High School” during a Monday afternoon press conference.

About a dozen activists went without solid food for over a month in an effort to advance their plan to convert Dyett, which closed in June after being slated for phaseout in 2012, into a district-operated neighborhood high school focused on global leadership and green technology. 

During the hunger strike, which began on August 17, the school district announced that Dyett, located in Washington Park, will be reopened as a district-operated neighborhood high school with an arts focus and an “innovation technology lab.”

The hunger strikers opposed the district’s plan, however, and continued their protest.

Last week, two of Dyett hunger strikers had to end their participation in the action due to health concerns.

In a Facebook post Saturday announcing the official end of the hunger strike, one of the Dyett protesters said the activists did achieve “several key victories.”

“Last year we made CPS [the Chicago Public Schools] commit to reopening Dyett,” Jitu Brown with the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett wrote. “This hunger strike stopped it from being privatized.”…

[September 14th Update // Day 29]
From Progress Illinois:

“The 15-member Dyett hunger strike lost two members on Tuesday due to health concerns, reports DNAinfo Chicago.

Cathy Dale and Jeanette Taylor-Ramann — two of the original 12 activists who launched the hunger strike over the future of Dyett High School back on August 17 — announced they will start eating solid foods again.
The two activists cited heart palpitations and high blood pressure as the health issues causing them to end their participation in the hunger strike, now aimed at forcing school officials to the negotiating table over the district’s plan for Dyett.”…

[September 4th Update // Day 19 ]

“You are not better than us. You are not smarter than us. And you do not love these children more than we do.” – Jitu Brown

“The day after Mayor Emanuel called a press conference at CPS headquarters to announce that Dyett HS would be re-opened as an arts based school with a technology hub, the #FightForDyett hunger strikers (#Dyett12) called their own press conference outside the high school. In this video, Jitu Brown, one of the hunger strikers who has been organizing tirelessly for years to save Dyett, calls out Mayor Emanuel and CPS for disrespecting the wishes of the Bronzeville community, thousands of whom signed a petition expressing their desire for Dyett HS to become Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology HS. Jitu also shared the list of demands for the mayor and CPS, and called on the city to enter into good faith negotiations and dialogue with the hunger strikers and those fighting for Dyett to become the Global Leadership and Green Technology school that the community has expressed that they want.” 

Brown closes the statement with a quote by Alice Walker:

“No one is your friend, who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.”  

Thanks Fred Klonsky for posting/sharing video.

For more updates: 
Democracy Now: Chicago Hunger Strikers Enter Day 19 Challenging Rahm Emanuel’s Push to Privatize Public Schools

Protesters Continue Hunger Strike Even After Chicago Agrees to ReOpen Disputed School
“This is their way of pushing us out of our own community” (By Sophia Tareen, Associated Press) 

Latest Updates at ReClaimOurSchools page:

To sign petition for support of Hunger Strikers, click here

[Original post August 22nd by Michelle Gunderson (on Living in Dialogue)]

Screenshot 2015-08-22 17.17.12

“Twelve people sit in a circle under the trees outside Dyett High School in Chicago on a hunger strike. They share stories of their experience with Chicago schools – teachers they have loved, principals they have battled, the times they have been arrested fighting for equity in our schools. Those of us who support this courageous act sit to the outside of the circle offering our support through our presence and willingness to listen.

The twelve people have committed to withholding food – parents, grandparents, teachers, a minister, and community members – forming a hunger strike to keep the only open enrollment high school in the Bronzeville community of Chicago.

The demand is simple – the hunger strikers want a public high school designed by the community to re-open at Dyett, not a contract school from a failed supplier or a charter operation. The proposal for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology School comes from extensive outreach in focus groups and town hall meetings with the community. Over a four year period a coalition of community members and education experts built the plan. It is a vision for a high school that would build a center of learning and justice for our city’s children.

This is the point where we need to stop and ask ourselves – how far would we be willing to go to ensure we had an open enrollment high school in our own communities? Why would community members be driven to such a drastic action as to risk their health and well-being?”

Slow and Intentional Destruction of a School

There has been a long history of ignoring community needs and input in the Bronzeville neighborhood. In 2012 Chicago’s appointed school board voted to “phase out” Dyett High School, but the path of intentional destruction was over a decade in the making.

Rhoda Rae Gutierrez and Pauline Lipman consider Dyett High School a victim of the 3Ds of education reform – destabilization, disinvestment, and disenfranchisement. Dyett experienced destabilizing upheaval in its student population when the Chicago Public Schools decided to “turn around”, convert to charter, or create selective enrollment in the 20 area schools near Dyett. Students were sent from school to school with very little cohesion to community, teachers, or curriculum. There was also considerable disinvestment in Dyett. The school was initially a middle school. When Dyett converted to a high school, no resources were set aside to convert the school – there were no science labs and the school library only had seven books. The Dyett community also experienced disenfranchisement. Decisions about the school were made by a school board appointed by the mayor with no consideration for the outpouring of commitment from the community to keep an open enrollment high school in the neighborhood.

For those of us who have witnessed the privatization of our school systems, we know all too well what is at stake if Dyett High School no longer is in the hands of the community. Once we have one neighborhood without an open enrollment high school it will be all too easy for subsequent parts of our city to fall like dominoes, creating a system of privatized schools.”…

Continue reading original post by Michelle Gunderson on Living in Dialogue blog:
Hunger Strike: The Fight for Dyett High School in Chicago


Chicago Organizers Lead Hunger Strike to Save Dyett High School // Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools

Dyett High School and the 3 “D”s of Chicago School Reform: Destabilization, Disinvestment, Disenfranchisement

Explaining a Hunger Strike to My 3-Year Old: Dyett High School Hunger Strikes // Dave Stieber 

To share on social media, please use the hashtags #SaveDyett#WeAreDyett and #FightForDyett

…and for more background:
The School Closure Playbook (Video)

Charter Schools & Choice: A Closer Look