#SaveOurLibrary-Chicago students stage read-in

Reading is fundamental, or so the saying goes. Except maybe the significance of that statement hasn’t reached the rationalized logic of Chicago Public School officials who have cut budgets for its school libraries which in turn has closed libraries in all  but two of its schools with predominantly Black students.

The findings are common knowledge these days: school librarians are connected to improved student performance, reading expands the connection and understanding of the larger world, school libraries are safe havens and playgrounds to foster imagination, reading is primary factor in closing the achievement gap.

Still, the nuance of all the related statistics wasn’t what prompted young students at three affected schools in Chicago to stage a unified read-in  demonstrating their dissatisfaction with the impending library closing.

What lead the students housed in the historic DuSable high school building to sit en masse in the halls  with books from their library was learning their beloved librarian would be terminated at the start of their Holiday break. For students, the devastation is personal.

A few were quoted in local newspapers expressing how they were losing their refuge and one peaceful place to study.

While I myself am all-too familiar with how life-saving school libraries can be, even more I am proud of the agency these young people have harnessed to address a system that has consistently left them disenfranchised.

The read-in was just another facet of the movement that has been steered by the audaciousness of young people…a movement that says we will no longer be devalued and locked out.

Veronica “Precious” Bohanon, a social supports professional, arts therapist, and counselor to students, qualified the acuteness symbolized by student’s joining the voices of resistance to status quo.

“It’s bigger than a librarian. It’s about youth knowing they deserve resources and using their voice to demand it,” Veronica offered. “This intersects with every struggle happening in the city. Students are honing their voice and learning to follow their gut.”

Also on the line is the moral and financial ties of those professionals who answer the calling to be librarians. Korvetta Spencer answered the call and paid a hefty $$ price to earn her 2nd Masters in 2nd Master’s degree in Library Science. She did so after feeling restricted by classroom teaching measures, and longed for the autonomy to teach what she sees as  important and the most beneficial to her students.

After cuts at two different schools, she finds herself right back in the classroom, unable to use her Masters degree, yet carving out opportunities to transport the minds of her students.

“It’s a constant battle, however, we become librarians so that we can share the world with the students, to enlighten their minds, feed their curiosity, and expose them to what’s beyond their neighborhoods,” Korvetta affirms. “That’s why I taught my students about the Little Rock Nine; we read, discussed, and wrote about the Willie Lynch Letter; Bill Cosby’s speech, Can’t Blame White People;  Emmett Till and the present-day impact. I educated them about the Harlem Renaissance, Kwanzaa, Black scientists and inventors, how society views them, and the best ways to combat those stereotypes. For many students, the only books they have access to, are the ones in the school library because no one at home buys books, and no one has the time to take them to the public library. So, without a well funded, functional library program; staffed with a trained, certified librarian who truly understands who they are, where they come from, and what they need, our kids will continue to be lost, mis-educated, and ignorant to the possibilities of who they can truly be.”

The librarians get it. The students get it. How come CPS doesn’t?

How can you help? Glad you asked?

  • You can support the efforts to keep libraries open in Chicago Public Schools by signing this petition.
  • Parent/community groups can raise funds for a librarian
  • Philanthropist can donate and/or endow a library fund for a specific school of their choice
  • Volunteer as the librarian at a disenfranchised school

UPDATE as of 12/16/2015- it was announced school librarian was reinstated for all three schools housed within DuSable campus.

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Shutting Down Rape Culture and Chief Keef at CPS Proms

Delivering 522 signatures  to CPS to ban rape culture from proms and school functions

Delivering 522 signatures to CPS to ban rape culture from proms and school functions

Girls deserve to BE and FEEL safe. That’s it. That’s all. Especially in spaces that are sanctioned by adults. Especially in institutions whose primary purpose is to advance their development and well being.

So moving the needle forward, my initial utter disgust and shock at the heinous lyrics of yet another Chief Keef song prompted a petition to ban his music from Chicago Public School proms and other school events. We were very successful in exceeding our target of 500 signatures. Not only did we get those signatures, but local and national media helped facilitate the discussion. The petition had amazing support from Moms Rising, a vanguard in issues that pertain to mother’s rights and issues as well as policy.

In the midst of the momentum of growing support for this particular petition, CPS made an unprecedented move  to become the first district in the nation to mass-close 50 schools, a move that will surely affect safety, academic pursuit, and socialization of Black and Brown students. This politically charged turmoil almost daunted our focus. But with wisdom and encouragement from Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka (a Mom’s Rising Fellow) we pressed forward and delivered the signatures; trusting that for this cause, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett along with other CPS officials will take heed to public opinion and yield to moral obligation to ensure girls are safe; safe from verbal assault, safe fro the threat of rape and sexual violence, safe among male students.

Our timing could not be better, because it appears Chief Keef is hell bent on publicly threatening any woman/girl he comes in contact with sexual violence and battery…His latest was a violent rant against pop celebrity, Katy Perry. Clearly he is a socio-path. Yet while it may be a slow battle to get his songs removed from radio airwaves, we are taking the small steps to disempower he bravado, and mic check his dangerous platform. Not only are we demanding all of our children not be exposed to music that promotes rape culture, we are also emphasizing the need to implement cultural programming in schools that allow students to become media literate…to provide a critical lens by which our young people perceive media messages.

While our students have to navigate treacherous streets on their way to school, we affirm it only right they be kept safe inside the building and spaces occupied for CPS functions.

  1. We want media literacy programs in schools such as programs facilitated by Girls Like Me Project, Inc.
  2. DJ/Audio entertainers hired by school administrators must adhere to policy developed for & in collaboration with students which outlines SPECIFICALLY what rape culture encompasses
  3. CPS must adequately support music/arts programs which foster positive outlet of creativity for its students
  4. Parents and adults must take an active role in understanding how to manage their child’s media intake
  5. Schools should host forums to discuss social implications behind music that promotes rape culture
  6. Join national campaigns against rape culture in media, like Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now Mail (FAAN Mail) Talk Back movement 

We know CPS can shut down anything it puts its mind to…it is time they shut down Chief Keef and all music that promotes sexual violence against our girls… for all of our babies.