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March 27th, 2013 march and rally to save schools from closings.
Chicago Citizens Marching against school closings.
As the city of Chicago continues to push for the closure of 54 schools and as the resistance from the community grows, it is imperative that the citizens of Chicago fight from the perspective from a share struggle and align the fight against school closures with the others issues that are plaguing the city as well.  

    Ever since the Chicago Teachers Union strike last fall, the momentum to protect public education has spread and morphed into something much bigger and beyond what many would have imagined. The strike highlighted the problems of underdeveloped schools which many lack even the most basic services for students and teachers as well as the increase privatization of education by pointing out the increase of charter schools and the discriminatory merit of schools based on test scores from tests designed by private and for-profit companies.

    The strike by Chicago Teachers did much more than build the fight to save public education though; it re-inspired the labor movement. When the talks of a strike began to surface, other labor unions such as SEIU and the National Nursed United joined in and played a huge role in the organization of the mass crowds that marched and rallied with the striking teachers.  When the strike ended though, the increased fight back from labor didn’t cease; instead, it morphed beyond the Chicago teachers. There is no doubt in my mind that the strike was an influence for the growth of OUR Wal-Mart and the creation of the Fight For 15 campaign.

    The Chicago Teachers Union has done a great job of highlighting the racism and classism of the school closings. Local neighborhoods, especially those on the North Side, have already started to link the closings of Chicago’s schools to the increase gentrification of Chicago’s neighborhoods by private real estate developers with the help of city officials.  

    Now that communities start to see there is more to the situation than school closings, gentrification and the attack on working-class people should be deemed as the struggle while the school closings should be seen as a fight within the shared struggle.

    When the Mayor and the Chicago Board of Education listed 129 possible schools to be closed, they expected each neighborhood to push back with their own egoistic interests, but instead the resistance began an altruistic movement with messages like “no school closings” and “every Chicago school is my school.” The Mayor and the Chicago Board of Education’s plan heavily relies on the strategy of divide and conquer especially between Chicago’s poorest and most affluent neighborhoods; but thanks to the forces and outreach of the Chicago Teachers Union, individual neighborhoods began to join as “one Chicago” hindering the mayor’s and board’s plan.

    Rallying behind the idea of “one Chicago” is the first step to painting the concept of a wider struggle; and until that concept is embedded into the movement itself, the citizens of Chicago will not win.

    As Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers Union have already pointed out, the closures target predominantly poor and black neighborhoods. But instead of looking at “poor” and “black” as two separate groups, the citizens must realize that those who are black are more-likely the ones who are poor, and the issue of racism extends beyond city official’s plan to close the schools, but the economic racism that forces so many blacks into poverty exists as well.

    Looking at the wider struggle from a historical and geographic perspective, the south and west side are usually the victims of austerity measures and are always pushed more into poverty. As city officials plan to push working-class people on the North Side either into the south side or out of Chicago, they are simply “moving” the problem of poverty and not fixing it.

    Poverty and austerity measures are a violent attack on working-class people, and the fight against it must be considered the struggle.

    Saving the schools is not going to solve the overall problem and is useless if the other issues are not solved as well. The community must use the momentum of the fight against school closings as the catalyst of the struggle.

    Fighting poverty begins with demanding good jobs that pay fair wages. Groups like Fight For 15 and Our Wal-Mart seem to be leading that fight, and the community should be just as involved with these campaigns as they are with the school closings so when fast food workers are marching for $15 per hour, the teachers union, other labor unions, and the community should be marching with them; that being said, the workers who are fighting for 15 should be just as involved in the fight against school closings.

    Poverty worsens with austerity and city officials continue to push the lie that the city is broke and needs to cut back. Last spring, the city claimed that it was broke and closed multiple mental-healthcare clinics while at the same time seem to have the money to improve certain aspects of the downtown area for the NATO summit.

    Right now, more mental health clinics face closings just like schools; labor groups like the National Nurses United and SEIU should be highlighting these issues as well. The reason given by city officials is the same as it was last spring and has even extended to become the reason why schools are facing closures, the city apparently has a deficit and needs to cut back.

    Even though communities have begun to understand that these issues are related and are part of the city’s goal to gentrify the neighborhoods, they haven’t morphed their strategy beyond the rallies to save the schools.

    Currently the Chicago Teachers Union and the community have pushed their rallies as a message to city hall which is only one of the perpetrators of this attack on working-class people; it’s time to advance the strategy and direct the anger towards the private industries that are committing these attacks also. The Occupy Movement is a great example of this concept.

    Going back to the issue of gentrification with housing, it is necessary to target the private real-estate developers that are pushing out the housing and already have interests in buying out the closed-school buildings whether that be by a simple picket or a boycott of their real estate.

    And when the city is pushing the fake austerity crisis while handing out public TIF funds to private companies downtown instead of using the funds to invest in and improve schools and other community services, the citizens must not only direct their anger at city officials, but to the private industries that are taking the TIF funds as well. A good example of this was done last summer when community members protested the Hyatt Hotel.

    It just as is important to direct anger to those who don’t just steal money from a city-wide level, but as a nation-wide level as well; so when Bank of America gets $1.3 trillion dollars from taxpayers that could have been used to fund healthcare clinics and education, they must be targeted as well.

    Whether one’s fight is with labor, the closings of schools, the closures of mental clinics, housing, or racism, homophobia and sexism, all these fights all related to the city that we want to build.  From a metaphysical perspective, we must not only acknowledge that people make cities, but that cities make people. If we allow the private industry to shape our cities and our priorities, we allow the private industry to shape us.

    What we do in Chicago is important to those who are looking at Chicago as their inspiration to fight the same crisis where they live. The issue of austerity and poverty is not only a city-wide problem nor is it state-wide or nation-wide, but is a global crisis. When teachers in places Detroit and Mexico are fighting the same fight, it is important that Chicago stands with them.

    Until we stand together as one and fight all these issues as one struggle, we will not win. Keeping all the issues separate allows them to use the strategy of divide and conquer.  If they cannot divide, they cannot conquer.

Originally posted to Alex Forgue on Sun Apr 28, 2013 at 07:38 PM PDT.

Also republished by Chicago Kossacks, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you so much for taking time to write this (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, Chi, Abelia, figbash, mystique mist

    and for informing us about this very important issue.

    Just so you know, I think this is the most important diary I've read here today...

  •  The right to the city (9+ / 0-)

    Mayor Emanuel and his LaSalle Street associates believe that only they have the "right to the city", the right to decide how the city should evolve and change. They clearly want a whiter more affluent population which why they are attacking the schools on the South and West Sides with such ferocity.

    But somewhat to my surprise, there has been more racial unity against the school closings than I would I have imagined in a city with such a history of brutal segregation.

    Next month the CTU and allied community organizations hope to hold mass marches from the South and West Sides on City Hall.

    We will have a chance to prove how much of a "One Chicago" we really are and reclaim our right to the city. Hopefully our vision of a multiracial Chicago where working class people enjoy a decent standard of living , are allowed to educate themselves to their fullest potential  and have the power to make positive change in urban policy will eventually prevail.

    "Don't believe everything you think."

    by BobboSphere on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 02:32:07 AM PDT

  •  Everything is connected (6+ / 0-)

    This was the point about the various liberation movements of the '60's and '70's: they got that they were all connected. When the various groups worked together, the life of the average citizen improved measurably. The Right was most successful with "divide and conquer" in the '80's and '90's, and, sure enough, the "little people's" boats were swamped. Now, the new generation of activists has "gotten it." It will be a struggle, but this is a step in the right direction.

    Thanks for the informative diary,


  •  "bout time we all get together and start (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, Hawksana, mystique mist

    fighting for ourselves and each other as well.  And if it starts to happen around the issue of education, well so much the better.  Is Chicago talking to Seattle and are you all talking to Philadelphia?  Time to connect!

    The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

    by helfenburg on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 03:54:23 AM PDT

  •  excellent and informative diary. Need to get (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bornadem, mystique mist

    Rahm out of there, too....

    If the plutocrats begin the program, we will end it. -- Eugene Debs.

    by livjack on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:40:08 AM PDT

  •  A lot of us are busily pondering (0+ / 0-)

    the distinction between "progressive activism" and "effective progressive activism."

    The difficult thing is, there is no consensus of what ingredients make "effective" activism--other than numbers, and the prominence of the event, which about everyone agrees on--or what even what constitutes "success."

    Thanks for the discussion.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 08:00:16 AM PDT

  •  Proud that this is mushrooming... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mystique mist


    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 06:59:43 PM PDT

  •  Poverty is a unifying theme... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    On average, poor students perform worse than their better off peers. Schools with large concentrations of poor students will have lower test scores, more social disruptions, etc. than schools in more affluent neighborhoods. The best way to raise the achievement levels of these poor children is to pay their parents a living wage that will help provide a stable home environment where they may more easily grow and flourish. Studies of Texas charter schools have shown that charter schools suffer the same fate as public schools when dealing with an impoverished student population.

    One Chicago is a good first step to building a broad based grass roots movement to take back the city. I'm not sure how long One Pittsburgh has been active in my hometown, but they have been a great help and resource in our efforts to bring the SEIU into the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Another strong ally has been the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, a multi-demonomational, multi-congregational organization that has the moral and ethical standing to bring current and future political leaders to openly declare their support for community needs, and the votes to hold them accountable for their actions. The key is to organize and put as many boots on the ground as you can. We are the 99%, after all :)

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