Saturday, June 15, 2013

Chicago Schools Fight Back: An Interview with Angelique Roberts

This is the transcript of a recent interview I did with Angelique Roberts concerning the recent school closings in Chicago and how people have fought back against it. Ms. Roberts states that she is a "17 year old public high school student from the South Side of Chicago" and that she has "been vegan for 3 years" and does her "best to live in a way that extends compassion to all earthlings." She hopes that her activism "will inspire others to be the change they wish to see in the world." She is on Twitter at Zinc323.

Devon DB: Tell us about yourself and how you became involved in activism.

At the age of 12 I fell in love with (political) punk music. Bands like Subhumans, Anti-Flag, Rise Against,  and Propagandhi they  helped shape my world view and caused me to see myself less as a person who is aimlessly walking through the world but a person with a duty to change it. Through music I found out about veganism, anarchism, and a host of other issues. The syndicated podcast, Citizen Radio gave me the final push I needed to go out into the streets! The first movement I participated in was US uncut whi h led to my involvement in Occupy Chicago and now I'm the confounder of Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS )

Devon DB: Why exactly are so many public schools being closed down and what are the criteria for closing those schools?

Angelique Roberts: The mayor and members of the unelected school board have wrongly labeled schools as being, "underutilized." This poorly defined  term is what has been used to justify over 40,000 students, 90% of whom are black to have to switch schools as a result of these closures.

Devon DB: How has the general public reacted to the closing of these schools and how has the activist community played a role?

Angelique Roberts: One of the most inspiring aspects of the fight for a more equitable education system is that it's not just a movement that consists of union members and run of the mill activist it also includes students, teachers, parents, and a deafening outcry from the larger community.

Devon DB: What are the racial aspects at play in regards to the school shut downs?

Angelique Roberts: The 50 schools that are set to be closed are in low income areas on the South and West Sides  of Chicago. 90% of those effected by the closings are African American. Chicago is one of the most segregated and violent cities in the country. The distance elementary kids will have to travel to get to school will increase and cause many of them to cross gang lines. A major fear of the community is that this will cause an increase in violence.

Devon DB: Have there been any successes in fighting against the school closings?

Angelique Roberts: Even though the closing of 50 schools is devastating I still consider this to be a win. The initial list that the mayor released had 120+ schools slated for closure. Without such a large push from the community it is very likely that the board would have closed many more schools. The fight for educational justice is far from over!

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