Today is the 50th anniversary of what will forever be known as “Freedom Day.” Most of the schools’ black population did not go to school that day, because they had a bigger goal in mind.On October 22, 1963, several civil rights groups organized and participated in a mass boycott and demonstration in hopes of desegregating Chicago’s schools.
Roughly 200,000 black activists, community members, parents and residents showed up to demand better resources for their schools. Schools were overcrowded. Teachers were ordered to take double shifts as a solution to the issue. Students could not attend a full day of class as a result. The textbooks, desks, supplies and classrooms? Severely outdated.
Black students suffered, while white students enjoyed the best optimal resources that the city could buy.
Fast forward 50 years and not much has changed. Yes blacks no longer have to endure blatant segregation. They can attend any public school, no longer being restricted to the confines of under-performing schools in their neighborhoods, but how free are our students really? I attended public school in Chicago for the entire duration of my pre-collegiate career. We would take field trips to New Trier High School in Winnetka. FIELD TRIPS. To a high school. I remember going there, noticing how clean the school was. Yes clean. How each student seemed to have their own computer, top of the line textbooks, not outdated Chemistry books from 1989. It was amazing to say the least, but each and every one of us would come back to our school, noting the difference, and noticing the segregation.
While the barriers aren’t as blatant as before, they are there. Black and Latino students continue to perform at a lower capacity than their white counterparts. Fewer African Americans are entering college, due to inadequate resources and preparedness. Those that do make it, face obstacles of overwhelming student loan debt, and a longer stay (blacks obtain a bachelor’s degree on average in 5 years compared to 4 years for whites).
We’re segregated because we are still suffering. The teachers union is demanding better resources, the City of Chicago is demanding that their agenda be agreed to. We are at war on all fronts, with all parties claiming to have to interest of students at the forefront of their minds. Unfortunately, anyone can see that in the 50 years since the Freedom Day demonstration, very little has changed and that’s sad. Sad because unlike we did in 1963, we have even more power to generate change than before. We have the means, capacity and freedom to create the schools and education system for our young black youth to succeed. The question is will we do so? How many of us are willing to de-segregate our education system and ultimately our country? Because our entire existence, and our students are depending on us.