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The fight for racial justice in our schools is as vital and necessary as it was when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led it more than 50 years ago. Today, schools in the South are as racially segregated as they were in 1968, when an assassin’s bullet took Dr. King from us. Chicago Public Schools also still reflect intense segregation.

Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis defending the rights of striking workers and working to expand his Poor People’s Campaign. At the heart of his work was the demand for economic and social justice for Blacks and other oppressed people in this nation. Dr. King was horrified by the treatment of Chicago’s Black communities. The same segregated, under-resourced public schools, embedded in neighborhoods neglected by generations of disinvestment and economic starvation exist today as they did when he took residence in North Lawndale.

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The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is flanked by 7-year-old Eva Grace Lemon and Aretha Willis as they march to integrate schools in Grenada, Miss., in 1966. (AP Photo)

King was fond of quoting, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Today, it can be hard to see the endpoint of that arc from where we stand. From housing inequality, to voters rights, to equitable schooling, so much of Dr. King’s dream is still unrealized. So his struggle continues and it takes new forms.

Much of what Dr. King fought for would be expressed today in the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.” In the CTU, we are proud to organize for Black lives, as we did this past year in all five of our strikes where demands for adequate supports (like nurses, counselors and social workers) for our predominantly Black and Latinx students, Sustainable Community Schools for their communities, and funding for programs that reverse the erasure of Black teachers in CPS stood front and center. The CTU is proud to declare that Black lives matter, and to organize and support our members as they dedicate their labor to that proposition.

Black Lives Matter at School Week

February 3-7, 2020. This year, as in years past, the Chicago Teachers Union passed a resolution to join the national Black Lives Matter at School Week week of activities to kick off Black History Month. We are proud to join in the BLM at School national activities. Originating in Seattle in 2016, educator participation has spread throughout the country in the years that followed. The week of action highlights four basic demands for our schools:

  • End “Zero Tolerance” discipline and implement restorative justice
  • Mandate Black History and Ethnic Studies
  • Hire more Black teachers
  • Fund counselors, not copes

The CTU has a number of resources to help you participate in this week of action. We hope members will draw from and contribute to these resources.

Every day, educators have the opportunity to further Dr. King’s work. On this day, let’s rededicate ourselves to the struggle for Black lives.