The parent hunger strike at Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago grew nationwide and stretched into its second week Tuesday. Across the country, hundreds of people reportedly consumed nothing but liquids in solidarity with the 11 parents and community members striking in Illinois. The activists were demanding the Chicago Board of Education approve their proposal to turn Dyett into a leadership and green technology academy, Chicago's WBBM-TV reported. They also criticized Mayor Rahm Emanuel, accusing him of ignoring them and mistreating the city's black residents.
"The true reason is the color of our skin. We are not valued in the city of Chicago. Low-income and working families are not valued here," former Dyett mother Jeanette Taylor-Ramann told the Huffington Post.
Chicago Public Schools announced in 2012 that it would phase out Dyett due to low performance and declining enrollment. After news of the closing plans broke, the community reacted negatively, even filing a civil rights complaint alleging the planned shutdown was racially motivated.
In response, the board decided to accept proposals with the intent of reopening Dyett as a public or contract school for the 2016-17 school year. The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett put forth the idea of focusing the school's curriculum on the environment, economy, green technology and community, while the Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy advocated for an arts and culture institute. [Dyett is named for a longtime music educator who died in 1969.]
The third and final proposal would turn Dyett into the Washington Park Athletic Career Academy, centered around letting students explore sports-related jobs, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Dyett closed in June after its final class of 13 students graduated, and the meeting to choose a plan was set for mid-September. The group of strikers stopped eating Aug. 17, arguing that the Dyett situation exemplified Emanuel's indifference toward Chicago's black population.
"We have to starve ourselves to have our voices heard," protester Jitu Brown told DNAinfo. "We'll be here until we get this school."
The hunger strike has caught the attention of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who briefly joined last week, and the advocacy group Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which encouraged residents across the U.S. to join in solidarity Tuesday. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers labor union, also announced plans to speak before a group of Dyett demonstrators Wednesday.
See a few messages from people supporting the effort to save Dyett:
— Karen Zaccor (@Kjzaccor) August 25, 2015
— Jitu Brown (@brothajitu) August 25, 2015
— Fair Trade Ervin (@fairtrade_ervin) August 25, 2015
— natalie solidarity (@constantnatalie) August 25, 2015
— Francine Reizen (@freebird1257) August 25, 2015