When it comes to school closings, Asean Johnson, a 9-year-old third grader at Marcus Garvey Elementary isn't buying what Rahm Emanuel's selling.
The Chicago Board of Education gave the green light on Wednesday to closing 50 public schools, the largest mass school closing in United States history. The decision to close these Chicago schools means that nearly 46,000 predominantly black and low-income kids will be displaced from their neighborhood schools.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, along with the Board and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett—both of whom are appointed by Emanuel—have maintained that because enrollment is down, the Chicago school closings will enable the district to save millions. They also claim the displaced students will be sent to higher performing school sites. Even though fact checkers have found that these claims are not true, education officials and Emanuel still say they're acting in the best interests of children.
Well, if you listen to one of the protesters, 9-year-old Marcus Garvey Elementary third grader Asean Johnson, it sure doesn't sound like the kids are buying what they're being told. Indeed, in a fiery three-minute speech to a crowd of protesters, Johnson challenges Emanuel and his cadre of education cronies, saying they "should be investing in these schools, not closing them."
"We are not toys, we are not going down without a fight," Asean tells the crowd. Then he ends his speech by leading a chant: "Education is a right, that is why we have to fight." Interestingly enough, after his protest speech, Marcus Garvey Elementary was removed from the closures list.
But before you think that Asean was just coached by an adult, check out this interview with him where he doesn't shy away from identifying the racism at work in the closings situation and describes his current school, which had been on the initial to-be closed list:
It's heartbreaking to see his face light up as he talks about how wonderful Marcus Garvey is and then see the worry in his eyes—a worry shared by countless other Chicago students—when he talks about having to cross gang territory to attend the school he'd be displaced to. As for Asean's future, plenty of Chicago residents hope that one day he'll run for mayor.
Your local school board makes some pretty weighty decisions. Click here to add attending a one of their meeting to your GOOD "to-do" list.