Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Walking West Pullman
Walking West Pullman from Tim Furman on Vimeo.
A few weeks ago I was able to walk around West Pullman with Wendy Katten and a couple of parent activists from the neighborhood. West Pullman Elementary was one of the fifty schools closed by Rahm Emanuel, and the students there will be sent to Alex Haley Elementary, which is across one of Chicago's most notorious, violent gang lines.
The school put up a fight, like others before it.
I wish I had been able to finish this footage earlier, but I guess it wouldn't have made any difference to the Board because it seems they head their orders. Still, I wanted to finish it just to honor the people living in this community and to put on the record that this particular closure is a terrible, terrible idea. I just dont see how the newly enlarged/overcrowded school, Haley, is going to be able to handle what it's about to encounter next year.
It's been pointed out that it may very well be Barbara Byrd Bennett's plan to end gang violence in the city of Chicago before she leaves. The mechanism appears to be the throwing together of children whose entire families are at war, without any meaningful support.
Children in the suburbs get support. Children growing up in American urban war zones get maybe another social worker.
I'm not going to lie; I was completely rattled by this particular walk. The neighborhood bristling with tension, and I could feel the anxiety. The mom from Haley who stopped to talk to us couldn't get away from the playground fast enough--- the playground is where you're likely to get shot at. The neighborhood I live in has its gangs, but it's nothing like the shooting war that's going on across 115th street.
There was a lot more to the day than what made it into this video, but technical weirdness and a lack of time forced me to make some decisions. I didn't do it justice. I feel like we're in a city that's slouching toward totally avoidable tragedy, and that some of the kids inside the houses on these streets will be the victims.
For my own part, I hardly recognize America anymore. Whatever sort of game is being played with the children who need the most but get the least, it isn't sustainable, it isn't smart, and it isn't just.
Please, spare me the lecture about how closing these schools down will allow the district to resource the remaining schools with the things they deserve. What people want are stable, resourced schools their kids can walk to, but you can't have these things when you bleed the schools dry year after year with an incomprehensible TIF system, which will keep happening long into the future, and none of these new sardine schools will look anything like suburban schools that have the staffing numbers, class sizes, and physical plant to meet their needs.
And finally, this. I need to say it to jinx it. This whole thing with the iPads--- I mean, I really hope there's a plan for those, because if those things are actually going to materialize, and they travel with the kids like they do in the suburbs, then I hope someone has at least thought through what that means in a neighborhood where you scramble to get home before the shooting starts.
Update: Yes, I do have the date of the Board wrong in the video; I'll fix it tonight after work. Also, I believe I may be wrong about the names of the schools not being read aloud. I feel like I saw the great Erica Clark being dragged out by security after attempting to read the names of the schools aloud, so I bet that the names of some of these schools were heard before she was out of the room.