CPS reverses decision to close Dyett High School

CPS officials made the surprise announcement Friday that they want proposals for a new, open enrollment neighborhood high school to be located at Dyett High, the Washington Park school that is in the last year of being phased out. Jitu Brown of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, who has been leading community activists, parents and students in an intense fight to keep Dyett open, declared it a victory. But with many questions still outstanding about the school’s program–and in particular, whether a private operator will be chosen to run the school–Brown said it’s not a complete victory and emphasized that the win didn’t come easily. “None of this would have happened without the diligence of the community,” he says. “This is not an example of a responsive elected official or government.”
Over the past four years, numerous rallies and sit-ins were held and several people were arrested as they battled to keep Dyett a neighborhood school and to save it from the chopping block as dozens of other schools in black communities were closed.

Englewood peace mural brings community together

The peace mural was designed with pieces of materials broken and placed into colorful mosaics. But the focus of the three dozen people attending a recent dedication of the newly installed mural in Englewood was not on fragments but on a neighborhood coming together. “We are bringing two communities together today,” Catonya Withers told the group gathered at a viaduct at 63rd Street and Wallace Avenue on Saturday,” so why not come out and celebrate?”

TCR Talks: Organizing women for peace

As a youth pastor about 20 years ago, Rev. Dr. Marcenia Richards was used to helping young people in the safe space of the Pentecostal church. But when she decided one day to confront a group of kids shouting at one another and on the verge of fighting outside her home, she knew she was no longer in that safe space. Still, when she found out that some of the kids had dropped out of school, she promised them that if they went back, she would take them to Disney World. They took her up on it, and she fulfilled her promise by taking them on the trip. “It was at that time I knew that there was more that was needed,” she said.

Chicago groups take child refugee issue to inter-American human rights commission

Two Chicago-based organizations are asking an international human rights commission to examine the U.S. government’s treatment of thousands of unaccompanied minors who’ve entered this country from Mexico and Central America.Last week, a petition was filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the National Immigrant Justice Center and the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities. The commission is under the auspices of the Organization of American States, a regional group of which the U.S. and all the countries in the Americas are members. The Chicago groups are asking the commission to urge the U.S. to take precautions in how it treats the children and their families in this country. They also request that the commission order the U.S. to stop deporting the children and their families without due consideration of their rights to protection and asylum, said Susan Gzesh, the executive director of the Pozen Family Center of Human Rights at the University of Chicago and one of the lawyers who helped write the petition. Since October 2013, close to 60,000 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico have been apprehended by U.S. authorities at or near the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the Pew Research Center.The children are fleeing kidnapping, mutilation, rape and murder in their countries.

Protecting pregnant workers and their families

Pregnancy discrimination. It’s a topic so important that the president recently called on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., a case involving an employee who says the shipping company discriminated against her because she was pregnant. And just last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, clarified its guidelines—albeit for the first time in more than 30 years.But residents of Illinois won’t be waiting for either Congress or the Supreme Court to act. The so-called pregnancy fairness bill was recently passed by the Illinois General Assembly and is set to go into effect in January. It’s currently awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.Under the new law, it is considered a civil rights violation if an employer refuses to grant a pregnant woman a reasonable request for any temporary adjustments—such as water breaks, more bathroom breaks or a stool to sit on—to continue to do her job and have a healthy pregnancy.This measure of protection is crucial because many families depend on the support of women to survive.  In fact, according to the U.S. Census, women are half of the workforce.

Inequity in park access lingers

We don’t typically associate parks with social issues like race and class. But race and class matter when it comes to parks and recreation. Longtime Chicagoans will remember the campaign in the early 1960s to integrate Rainbow Beach in the then white neighborhood of South Shore—one of many examples of the color lines around Chicago’s public spaces. Parks are where we relax, grill, exercise, walk the dog and watch our kids play sports. What can be more universal than that?