You might have missed what Chicago offered the nation this weekend. Our city shared some spectacularly talented and powerful kids with the March For Our Lives in DC on Saturday.
Wait. Let me be specific. Spectacular Chicago Public Schools kids.
It's my job to point out the problems in CPS, but I always repeat that the students are not part of those problems, generally speaking. They are magnificent, especially our high schoolers. I knew this already because I have long observed how they are learning so much more than I ever did in high school, and take so many opportunities to practice and demonstrate leadership that it's truly stunning. Next time someone is droning on about how terrible CPS students are, I want you to remember these young people, who spoke at the Washington, DC March For Our Lives on Saturday.
Mya Middleton of North Grand High School.
Trevon Bosley of Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep.
And Alex King and D'Angelo McDade of North Lawndale Urban Prep.
These are kids who see clearly, can analyze critically, have historical perspective, understand democracy, and are full of civic-minded passion for their city. These are kids who have been well served by their schools. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
But there's something else too, another reason why their voices are so loud and clear. It flies in the face of assumptions commonly held by comfortable middle-class white onlookers like me, that people in "urban" neighborhoods don't deal with "their own violence."
All of these teens are involved in extracurriculars that are directly violence-prevention related, or help kids deal with violence-related trauma. Mya went to DC with a group from After School Matters, where she has found creative writing to be helpful after the experience of having a gun pointed at her face in a corner store robbery. Trevon is a part of a ministry based in St. Sabina Church, B.R.A.V.E. Youth Leaders, just one of several of anti-violence programs there that have been in place for years. St. Sabina sent 6 busloads of kids from Chicago to DC. And Alex and D'Angelo are part of a newer initiative, GoodKidsMadCity, a collaboration with teens from Baltimore to understand and combat violence in disinvested regions of their cities. Just starting out, GKMC is raising money toward its goals of "wraparound services, trauma-informed schools, mental health care within schools, and challenging the narrative around school safety looking like a prison," according to Kofi Ademola, GKMC facilitator.
These three leadership development and violence prevention groups are just a fraction of the activist groups working in the areas of Chicago that city leaders have given up on. It's an uphill effort in the face of schools that are crafted to feel like prisons--or closed altogether, neighborhoods that have lost health care facilities, mental health services, and jobs, and haven't had banks or grocery stores in decades.
Be aware that these kids are just four points of light in a sky of shining stars. Listen to them, heed them, and support them in any way you can. You see, right now it is their turn to talk, and our turn to let our idiotic ignorant stereotypes turn to dust.
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