Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What a night! Belafonte at Northwestern and protest at CPS hearings in Uptown

"Without radical thought, our society cannot move forward."  -- Harry Belafonte (M. Klonsky pic)
I drove up to Evanston last night to hear the great Harry Belafonte deliver a keynote to a packed house at Northwesteern's Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration 2013. Belafonte was a close friend and supporter of Dr. King. He minced no words last night while talking about our nation's history of racism and oppression of people of color and the great freedom struggle of which he and Dr. King were a part. That racist oppression, said Belafonte, today includes the world's largest prison population of more than 2 million people-- mostly people of color, (more than 7 million if you count all adults who were under correctional supervision, probation, parole, jail, or prison).

See Michelle Alexander's great book, The New Jim Crow, for more on this.

Belefonte at 85, is  focused now on the issue of gun control. He's is a critical supporter of President Obama's efforts, calling them "tepid."

Last night a Truman College (DNAInfo Pic)
What I missed though, was another inspiring event taking place a little ways down the road in Uptown at Truman College where the Board was holding hearings on its plan to close more than 100 Chicago public school, mainly in the city's black and Latino communities. You can only imagine what HB would have said about that. Hundreds of parents, teachers and community activists packed the meeting and raised a little hell over the proposed closings.

According to DNAInfo.com:
Attendees filled the bleachers and stood against the wall at Truman College for the opening meeting in the second phase of community hearings being held around the city on the district's plan to close underutilized schools. But district officials had a tough time even making a prepared presentation as crowds shouted and chanted. As one official tried to outline the district's vision, someone shouted, "Do you believe him?" "No!" the crowd answered.
Craig Benes, who oversees schools in the North Side's Ravenswood-Ridge region, was even heckled as he at one point said he wanted "to just step away from the agenda for a moment and speak from my heart. ... I understand that teachers and parents are concerned" — but he asked for the audience's ear.
He did not get it. The crowd started chanting, "Save our schools! Save our schools!"
The schedule for the rest of the meetings across the city this week is as follows:

• Tuesday: Midway Network at Daley College, 7-9 p.m.
• Tuesday: O’Hare Network at Wright College, 7-9 p.m.
• Wednesday: Lake Calumet Network at Olive Harvey College, 7-9 p.m.
• Thursday: Austin-North Lawndale Network at Friendship MB Church, 7-9 p.m.
•  Saturday: Englewood-Gresham Network at Kennedy King College, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

(Becky Vevea/WBEZ)
In the mean time, a busload of Chicago activists organized by KOCO is heading to D.C. to  meet up with people from 18 different cities to speak out against school closings.

According the WBEZ: 
People from some of the cities, including Chicago, have filed civil rights complaints with the U.S. Department of Education, charging that closing schools disproportionately impacts minority students. 
“Everywhere, it’s the same stories that can be told over and over again,” Griffin said. “So it’s not just in Chicago. It’s not just in Witchita. It’s in New Orleans. It’s in L.A. It’s in New York. It’s in Newark. It’s everywhere.” The coalition will bring its complaints to a hearing with national education officials on Tuesday.
Also, don't miss Ben Joravsky's latest Reader piece on CPS school closings.

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