PI Original Ellyn Fortino Monday September 21st, 2015, 6:41pm

Dyett Protesters Begin 'Celebration' Of Hunger Strike, Renew Push For An Elected School Board

Dyett protesters, who ended their hunger strike over the weekend after 34 days, detailed their next steps in the fight for "educational justice" in the city of Chicago Monday afternoon.

After ending their hunger strike over Dyett High School this weekend, Chicago parents and education activists celebrated certain outcomes of their 34-day protest Monday afternoon and vowed to keep fighting for "educational justice" in the city.

"Today, we want to begin our celebration of the Dyett hunger strike, and the end to corporate school interventions in the city of Chicago," Jitu Brown, a leader of the hunger strike, said at the Rainbow/PUSH national headquarters, 930 E. 50th St. 

Brown was one of about a dozen activists who went without solid food for over a month in an effort to advance their plan to convert Dyett into a district-operated neighborhood high school focused on global leadership and green technology. The South Side school closed in June after being slated for phaseout in 2012.

During the hunger strike, which began on August 17, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials announced that Dyett will be reopened as a district-operated neighborhood high school with an arts focus and an "innovation technology lab."

Though the protesters did not win the Dyett global leadership and green technology academy they were seeking, hunger striker Monique Redeaux-Smith said they did score some significant achievements. 

"While we cannot yet claim complete victory, we do understand that our efforts so far have been victorious in a number of ways," she said. "Last year, Dyett was closed. But through community resistance, it was slated to be reopened in 2016 and '17. And even though there was a request for proposals, we know that the plan was for that space to become another privatized school within Bronzeville. But again, through community resistance and this hunger strike, we pushed CPS and the mayor to commit to reopening Dyett as a public, open-enrollment neighborhood school. So that is an accomplishment."

Redeaux-Smith said the hunger strikers also "elevated the fight for educational justice" and "have shown that we will not sit back and allow outsiders to come into our communities only to profit off of our children."

Going forward, the Dyett protesters say they will continue to advocate for adding green technology to Dyett's new curriculum. They also plan to ramp up the campaign for an elected Chicago school board, which is a "necessary ingredient to having educational justice in this city," Brown said.

A downtown rally is scheduled for September 29 in support of the Dyett hunger strike and an elected school board in Chicago, the protesters said.

The Chicago Board of Education is the only non-elected school board in Illinois, and the state legislature -- which approved the 1995 law that gave Chicago's mayor full authority over the school district and board appointments -- must ultimately change the rules. State legislation that would allow for an elected Chicago school board is pending in Springfield.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. was among those standing in support of the Dyett hunger strikers at today's news conference. 

"It is a victory we celebrate because Dyett will open," he said. "It was scheduled to be closed ... Dyett becomes an example for the rest of this city. It makes clear why you need an elected school board."

Meanwhile, CPS announced earlier on Monday that it had formed two advisory committees that will provide recommendations on the arts programming and technology center slated for Dyett. The committees do not include individuals recommended to CPS by the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School, whose members developed the global leadership and green technology plan and spearheaded the hunger strike.

"That's not a surprise, because that's business as usual," Brown said. "We will continue to work and have conversations with Chicago Public Schools as we fight for an elected, representative school board."

CPS did not immediately return a request for comment on this story. 

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