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Dyett High School Protesters Announce End to 34-Day Hunger Strike

By Alex Nitkin | September 20, 2015 10:51am | Updated on September 21, 2015 8:16am
 After 34 days, Jitu Brown and 11 other activists announced an end to their hunger strike Saturday.
After 34 days, Jitu Brown and 11 other activists announced an end to their hunger strike Saturday.
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Facebook / Bob Simpson

KENWOOD — After 34 days, education activists announced Saturday that their hunger strike has ended.

At the weekly meeting of the Rainbow PUSH coalition, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) activist and lead hunger striker Jitu Brown announced that he and 11 others would begin eating solid food for the first time since Aug. 17.

"We decided that we will feed our bodies so that until we win sustainable community schools for all of our children, the mayor and cps won't get a moments rest," Brown posted to Facebook Saturday.

Activists began their strike after Chicago Public Schools delayed its decision to reopen Dyett High School, which was phased out between 2012 and 2015.

When CPS annouced that Dyett would re-open in 2016 as an arts-focused open-enrollment school, in what administrators called a compromise between the activists' plan for a "global leadership and green technology high school" and other proposals, strikers were not satisfied.

Still, Brown said, his team should be proud of "several key victories."

"Last year we made CPS commit to reopening Dyett," Brown's Facebook post continued. "This hunger strike stopped it from being privatized."

Duane Turner, a former CPS principal who helped develop the activists' proposal for Dyett, said the decision to re-open the school was owed in large part to the strikers' "courage and commitment."

"Beyond that, though, I think they had a larger victory, which was to demonstrate how callous the school administration is, and how unwilling they are to listen to their communities," said Turner, who lives three blocks away from Dyett. "The fact that people had to starve themselves for 34 days just to get a meeting with the people who are supposed to be representing them ... I think that got a lot of people to pay attention."

Brown's post said he and other activists would remain on an "advisory council" for Dyett, through which they would push to "have green technology and global leadership in the curriculum."

Representatives of KOCO said the strikers would hold a full press conference at 4 p.m. Monday at the Rainbow PUSH headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., to discuss their next steps.

CPS and 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns could not be reached for comment Sunday.

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