Cities Journal

Hunger Strikers Go To D.C. Seeking Help

You might say that this story began with the Great Depression from which Bronzeville, a once-thriving African American community in Chicago, never recovered. You might say that it began later, when drugs and crime started seeping into the area. You might also say that the story began in 2013, when Chicago Public Schools shut down almost 50 schools in the Metropolitan area.

Or, you might say that it all started 17 days ago when a dozen Chicago residents started their hunger strike, demanding a quicker solution to the issue of Walter H. Dyett High School, closed this June, as part of the school shutdowns of 2013.

Two of the hunger strikers, April Stogner and Jitu Brown decided to take the issue to federal authorities, more precisely the Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Their decision to seek the help of the federal government is not just about the school in their neighborhood that got closed. It is also about the fact that schools are closing in African American communities all over the country, most notably in Chicago, New Orleans and Newark.

The strikers, but other activists as well claim that these closings are disproportionately more common in impoverished minority neighborhoods and that the communities suffer as the result of the closings. One of the strikers, Stornger stated it very clearly:

I’m hungry for justice for my grandbabies. We live in a country where we are not valued as black and brown people. Let’s call a spade a spade. . . . We’re not begging, we’re demanding. This is our school. This is our community. Take your hands off.

Education Secretary did not meet with the protesters.

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