Community: Little Village Hunger Strike At 10

For years, the Little Village hunger strike was thought of as a proud moment, a high point. More recently -- on this blog at least -- not so much. The 10-year anniversary of the strike is being celebrated on Thursday (details below). The shenanigans at MAS appear to continue right up to the moment. What's your take on the legacy of that event? Pro, con, or somewhere in between? Are the kids of Little Village better off, over all, than they were before?  And what, for God's sakes, can be done to make things a little better at MAS in particular? 

From a reader:

I wanted to keep you abreast of the troubles plaguing
the administration at the Multicultural Arts High School (just in case
you haven't heard...). 

It seems teachers are
continuing to be abruptly laid off (mid-school year) in violation of
fair labor practices and at the peril of student learning. Students have
been reaching out to me, inspired by other local student protests,
wanting to know what they can do to voice their concern in a way that
will be taken seriously. Many of my former students have contacted me to
express how sad and caught off guard they felt when they showed up to
school last year with most of their teachers gone. (Not to mention
confused and deceived when they were told by the administration that
many of us had left for "better jobs or higher pay" elsewhere.) They are
hoping to get ahead of the action this time around.
situation at this school seems to continue to deteriorate for students
as well as those of us who have dedicated our lives to working with
underserved youth in Chicago. Which seems especially poignant this week
as the community celebrates the founding of what was supposed to be an
excellent school that honored multiculturalism, critical thinking,
action and the arts.
Is there anything you can do to help rectify this situation? 
attached a recent message from the CORE list serve about recent
mid-year layoffs and MAS and a flyer from the Teachers for Social
Justice promoting a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the hunger
strike (planned for this Wed from 4-7). I am planning on being there, as
are a few other laid off MAS teachers and some fellow union members. 
know you all are concerned about the shenanigans of CPS and MAS so
wanted to keep you up on what I know and invite you to do your thing,
whatever it might be, to stand against what's happening at MAS.
Thanks so much.

Subject: [core] Help Needed for Teacher's Receiving Do Not Come to Work Notices
To: "core riseup" <>
Date: Friday, May 20, 2011, 3:52 PM

Hello, CORE family,
am trying to get some quick answers to a question involving 4 teachers
at the Mulitcultural Arts school on our campus.  They were all notified
that they will not be given a job next year, but just today got a letter
from their principal telling them not to report to work on Monday, but
to report to an administrative office at the board.  I have sobbing
teachers in my room and am trying to help them.  Called a bunch of you
at the union and everyone is at trainings or out -- can someone shoot me
a quick email to give these people some direction.

From: "Eric (Rico) Gutstein" <>
Date: May 22, 2011 2:08:45 PM CDT
To: tsj friends <>
Subject: Born Out of Struggle: Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Little Village Hunger Strike!

On May 25, the Little Village/Lawndale community will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the historic Little Village Hunger Strike of
May-June, 2001. This is one of the most important and militant
education activist fights in Chicago history and has real lessons for
our struggles today.
Brief History: In the 1990s, residents of the Little Village
(one of the largest Mexican immigrant communities in the US) demanded a
new HS, as their local school, Farragut HS, was overcrowded. In 1998,
the CPS Board allocated funds for a new school, along w/ funds for
Walter Payton and Northside College Prep HSs, two new,
selective-enrollment schools (now two of the "jewels" of Chicago's
public schools). Both Payton and NS were to be (and are) in whiter and
wealthier communities than Little Village.
But the Board "ran out" of money, and only built 2 of the 3 schools-not the one in LV.
and community organizations were furious and stepped up their protests
and organizing. Eventually, in May 2001, 14 residents (parents,
grandparents, and youth, male and female) at "Camp César Chávez"
embarked on what turned out to be an historic 19-day hunger strike,
during which they occupied the proposed school site and slept over,
while the media blared, "Mexican Mothers Hunger Strike for School!" The
activists, supported by people from around the city, called the strike
off after 19 days for health reasons, and shortly afterwards (with
continuing pressure), the Board "found" the money and agreed to build
the school.
A beautiful new school was built, and the Little Village-Lawndale HS Campus ( opened in Fall 2005 with four small HSs inside, each based on a theme expressed by the community: MAS (Multicultural Arts School), Infinity (Math, Science, and Technology Academy), World Languages, and Sojo (the Greater Lawndale/Little Village School for Social Justice). Students from both Little Village (Latina/o) and North Lawndale (African American) attend the schools.

These four are neighborhood CPS schools. Any student
in the attendance area can attend. And despite CPS' fabrication on its
website, they are not Renaissance 2010 schools, but were created under
the Chicago HS Redesign Initiative. In fact, in December 2004, at a
press conference, the Hunger Strikers made that clear:

just want everyone to remember that our schools were the result of a
community struggle that did not have anything to do with Renaissance
2010." said Linda Sarate, parent and hunger-striker.
Celebration: The
celebration will take place at the campus on Wednesday, May 25, from
4-7 PM. Address is 3120 S. Kostner (4400 West), just over the bridge
from Cicero on Chicago's Southwest side, in Little Village.
All are welcome (see attached). There will be a "Hunger Strike
exhibit," student and parent performances, entertainment, and of course,
the Hunger Strikers will speak.
  • Significance: As we go forward into a new Mayor and CPS Board/Administration, the lessons of the Hunger Strike teach us several things.
  • Like
    the occupation at Whittier School ("La Casita") this past year,
    determined and organized people can win victories through struggle,
    sacrifice, developing broad support, and sharp strategy and tactics.
  • The presumption of "uninvolved" parents and community members is a blatant lie.
  • Grassroots, community-based participation is an essential condition of education democracy.
  • There CAN BE excellent, NEIGHBORHOOD Chicago public schools. We do NOT need privatized, charter, contract, or turnaround schools.
have learned through bitter experience that no victory is ever assured.
We must be constantly vigilant, especially in the current
privatization-madness climate in which we live.

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