Long before I was ever a Black Girl in Maine, I was just another Black Girl in Chicago. Chicago is my hometown. I was born and raised there and I spent almost the first 30 years of my life in Chicago. I was born to a young, newly married couple who didn’t have two nickels to rub together. In fact by the time my parents finally had a few nickels to rub together, I was long gone.
If you are new to this space, you may not know that my roots are solidly working class though thanks to education, I now reside on the middle class floor, at least at the moment. Growing up, most years we were working class but in hard times, we were poor. Government cheese and butter type of poor, if you have no idea what that means, I will just say you lucked out.
Yet as a child of the 70s and 80s, the one thing that I had access to was decent schools. To this day, I have no idea how my parents managed but I ended up in solidly good public schools. Schools where my love of learning was fostered and I had access to experiences that my parents could never in a million years have afforded. For a kid like me as well as my friends who were also children of the working class, those experiences were the ticket out of the working class. Almost every kid who I went to elementary school with has moved beyond the class station of our birth. I suspect that access to safe and quality schools were the key.
However the current Chicago Public School system is in shambles. Today their school board voted to close 50 schools, schools where there are not enough kids enrolled according to the powers to be. On first glance this may seem like a sound business practice except that Chicago has a gang problem, it always has had a gang problem. Moving kids around like boxes on an Excel spreadsheet in a city with epidemic violence isn’t just a bad idea, it is a truly horrendous idea. Kids will have to cross gang lines and chaos will ensue. This is not hyperbole designed for good reading; this is the reality of life in the third largest city in the US. Never mind that these cuts are disproportionately affecting communities of color, the same communities that have already lost access to community mental health centers as well as other services. The same communities where access to a full service grocery store is damn near impossible and free services like the libraries are a joke and have been for the past twenty years. Nine out of ten kids affected by these school closing is Black…think about that.
Yet our President and First Lady who both call Chicago their hometown just this past weekend made speeches encouraging African American college graduates to do better, dream for more than being a rapper, etc. Too bad we have a new generation coming up whose chances of living to adulthood probably just got slimmer. Creating situations where children will have to face even greater danger just to save a few bucks and run a more efficient school system is not doing all that we can to help youth, it is basically telling them that they don’t matter.
P.S: Excuse any and all typos, it has been a long day here in BGIM land.