Chicago's shame plays out dramatically

The Emanuel administration's reactions to Lincoln Park parents is the opposite of its reaction to Dyett protestors


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By Amara Enyia


Earlier this month, a scenario played out that perfectly describes the glaring inequity in in the City of Chicago. In Lincoln Park, parents and students gathered at a hastily called and secretly planned press conference to celebrate the opening of a new $17 million annex to help ease overcrowding at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School. The decision to build the annex took some years and was not without controversy. Parents of Lincoln elementary children had vocalized their desire to stay in their neighborhood and had wanted their children to attend the neighborhood school. Mayor Emanuel's remarks at the announcement of the proposal to build a new annex are the height of irony:

"For all of you who have been waiting for this day, praying for this day, going to meetings on days that rain, snow and sleet, this is your day. This is your future, and congratulations to the children of the City of Chicago."

The irony of his remarks are heartbreaking when one considers that, just a few miles south in Washington Park, a group of parents have gone without food for weeks while their neighborhood high school Dyett, sits empty — a cavernous reminder of the back-burner status it's received despite years of prayers, waiting and meetings to pull together a plan to convert the school to a Global Leadership and Green Technology Academy.  

At the Lincoln Annex press conference, CPS CEO Forest Claypool said to the attendees, "I can see from this room that people are invested." Yet he and the administration could not see from the years of planning, working with institutions of higher education on curriculum development, meetings, petition-gatherings, town halls, and more, that those parents in the neighborhoods surrounding Dyett High School were also invested?

Because the countless hours of planning was not a show of investment. The protests, sit-ins and other actions to garner some basic level of attention from the administration was not investment. Because foregoing food for a month so far, is not investment. Apparently, it's not investment, because these parents do not have the luxury of living in a neighborhood on the side of town that the administration actually cares about.

Many of these parents are low-income and are therefore seen as low-value. And because of their lowly status, they lack the political clout to have even their very own local elected representatives stand up for them. Instead, those local representatives have ignored them and even locked them out of the very press conference to announce the fate of their years of work.

Parents in Lincoln Park got what they felt they needed to stay in their neighborhood, and in Chicago generally. They have every right to get what they need and to have their local representatives advocate on their behalf to those who can actualize their plan. Unfortunately, parents in too many other neighborhoods don't have this option. Instead, their neighborhoods are seen as afterthoughts and the massive disinvestment that leads to diminished populations is treated as collateral damage.

I hope that those parents in Lincoln Park who had their press conference interrupted can understand that the protestors' anger is not directed toward them. Parents all seek to do and have what is best for their children. They have that in common and I hope that those Lincoln Park parents can understand the Dyett parents' ire is rightfully directed to an administration that has failed them time and again.

The deeper tragedy is that an administration's inability to treat neighborhoods equitably has now led to frustrations that have boiled over. An organization is a reflection of its leadership. A city reflects the values of its leadership. It's clear from the scenario that has played out that in Chicago that all neighborhoods and all parents are created equal — but some are apparently more equal than others. This is Chicago's shame.


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Tony from Yorktown  

Posted: September 23rd, 2015 5:22 PM

Why do black folks continually vote AGAINST their best interest? I'm a black male, Independent, and have voted Republican and Democrat. I vote for the person NOT the party! But guess who everyone will vote for when the next elections come around? smh. How about have someone from the community run who you know has your best interest in mind and not these fake politicians who don't. This situation happens all over the country. We are the Walking Dead right now!

A Alie from Chicago  

Posted: September 19th, 2015 9:21 PM

I am so disgusted with the reality of all this. The continuous efforts of the Dyett protestors whose mini revolution is literally invisible; and they are so awesome for not remaining silent on an issue that is affecting far too many miniority-based neighborhoods. I'm even more heartbroken because whenever I drive on madison and central, and I see that unoccupied, decrepit, and decaying empty school where, for 15 years I saw innocent children play in the school's playground. Sad, sad reality.

De Louise  

Posted: September 19th, 2015 4:44 PM

Please, do not lump all Lincoln Elementary parents in one group. A minority of parents from Lincoln Elementary School aggressively sought this Annex. These parents, calling themselves WALES, were politically, financially and strategically well-honed to achieve their selfish goal. The WALES received support from Lincoln's principal early on who asked parents to support the annex. Once that letter was received, it was very difficult for most parents to disagree publicly with him. The intimidation of going against the principal as well as the vicious verbal email attacks from the WALES was far too much for the ordinary parent. So most stayed quiet while NOT supporting the build. Why? Remember, Lincoln was ranked by CPS as 50th most overcrowded school. 50th! Yet, they became first in receiving almost $20 million to build this unnecessary annex. And there were several no-cost solution to Lincoln's MILD overcrowding issue, like having a number of schools in walking distance absorb enough students to remedy the situation. We tried to STOP the Annex for 3 years by protesting at every LSC meeting and every Chicago BOE meeting; by meeting with our state legislator and organizing community awareness campaigns; and attending every city meeting that cleared the way for the Annex. And we went to the media. One brave parent challenged our state senator at a public meeting. We tried to meet with our alderman who turned down all meetings with our group as well as the Mayor. Our plea was simple: why are the voices in our wealthy community more audible than those voices in less wealthy communities throughout the City? This hearing-sensitivity is a testament to the choke-hold that Mayor Emanuel has on our City and it's Board of Education. Speaking for a large group of Lincoln Elementary parents, we support our sister community and stand in awe of Dyett's noble campaign for education of their neighborhood kids.

Windy Matil Pearson from Chicago   

Posted: September 18th, 2015 5:12 AM

Unfortunately this administration could care less about the neighborhoods where they have closed schools. Take a look at the building and the unkempt grounds. The for show meetings that have proven to be a waste of time along with the board meetings that lead to votes that don't benefit our kids, schools or communities. This has been going on for 20 plus years we are vested yet we have been ignored not just in Chicago but in Washington DC and in Springfield. It is beyond time for change.

meg from Evanston  

Posted: September 17th, 2015 9:11 PM

Hope the reverends who endorsed him are now hanging their heads in shame. But they aren't. Thinking of themselves, hoping for some $ or power pay off. Meeks.

Lois B. Bedt from Chicago, IL 60615   

Posted: September 17th, 2015 8:21 PM

Grest information. I had students in both areas of city. Kids loose.

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