BRONZEVILLE — The Dyett High School hunger strikers took their protests into a second week Monday by asking the Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy to withdraw its competing proposal for the school.
"We're united. We're strong. You know, we're feeling the effects of it," said Jitu Brown, who has led the protests demanding the Board of Education accept a community proposal to turn Dyett into a Global Leadership and Green Technology High School, the one plan of the three on the table they think will ensure the new school most closely resembles Dyett.
"I'm tired," said fellow hunger striker Jeanette Ramann. "It's eight days."
The dozen Dyett hunger strikers, who began their fast last Monday, took their protests to the Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, 1060 E. 47th St., on Monday to call on the agency to withdraw its competing proposal to replace Dyett.
Brown said only 5 percent of Little Black Pearl students met or exceeded state standards last school year. "In what sane society do they actually get a school?" Brown said.
Chicago Public Schools announced earlier this month that it would put off a decision on which of three proposals to accept until September, prompting the Dyett hunger strike. In addition to the Little Black Pearl arts academy proposal and the protesters' Global Leadership and Green Technology proposal, there is also an 11th-hour proposal from Dyett Principal Charles Campbell to convert the school into a sports-oriented academic high school.
"We have no plans to withdraw that proposal," said Monica Haslip, founder and director of Little Black Pearl. "We have every right to apply.
"If we're selected, we're going to bring forth everything we can to provide a great opportunity to children in that school, and if we're not selected we're going to support whoever is selected," Haslip added. "We have no intention to give in to this public battle with another community-based organization, because I don't believe that's productive for any of us."
The community-oriented Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School has been pushing for two years for CPS to endorse its plan for a Global Leadership and Green Technology High School, created in conjunction with education experts at the University of Illinois at Chicago. They felt first they were ignored by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Will Burns (5th), then by CPS when it put out a request for proposals for Dyett earlier this year.
The coalition submitted its plan as part of the RFP process, but feels the other proposals were latecomers and ultimately inferior.
Dyett was slated to be phased out after graduating its last class of 13 students this year, but CPS now plans to reopen it next year under a format yet to be determined.
"Either we're gonna have it or we're not. And we're gonna have it," Brown said Monday.
"Little Black Pearl, Rahm Emanuel and Will Burns need to do what's morally right," Ramann said, calling for them to "give this community this school."
Ramann blamed racism for the resistance to the leadership proposal, adding, "While my stomach is empty, my heart is full," from the support, both local and national, that the hunger strikers have received.
"We have to starve ourselves to have our voices heard," Brown said.
Jawanza Malone, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, reported that the hunger strikers were "fatigued," but determined to prevail.
"We're undeterred," Brown said. "We'll be here until we get this school."
Civil-rights leader Jesse Jackson and Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey joined the hunger strike last week, but were not at the Little Black Pearl protest.
Brown is calling for supporters to join a one-day "solidarity" hunger strike Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, where they're expected to continue their protests.
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