On the eve of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Rev. William E. Hall says making educators a priority, “shows the country that we are a city of compassion and love.”
CHICAGO, Jan. 17, 2021 — The Rev. William E. Hall, pastor of St. James Community Church in Chatham, will be forgoing his COVID-19 vaccine, and instead, offering it to an educator in Chicago Public Schools at today’s 11:30 a.m. service. The service will be livestreamed at loveserveshare.org.
Rev. Hall was extended an invitation to receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to his position as a chaplain at the UCAN social service agency, but is asking Mayor Lori Lightfoot to allow him and anyone else who desires, the opportunity to transfer their vaccine invitation to Chicago public school educators and wait for a later date.
“We as a city should show acts of love in the midst of this pandemic, and not allow privilege to further divide and deny access to quality health care,” Rev. Hall said. “As we celebrate the life and work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., everything we do must come from a place of love.”
Educators sacrifice their health and safety for the betterment of their students every time they enter a school building, says Rev. Hall, and the risk increases exponentially in the midst of a deadly pandemic. Thousands of students and educators returned to CPS buildings starting on Jan. 4, and rank-and-file Chicago Teachers Union members have already reported dozens of positive COVID-19 cases among both students and staff.
Educators who legally exercised their right to a safe work environment this week and chose to remain teaching remotely were subsequently locked out of their Google classrooms by the mayor and CPS and cut off from communication with students.
Rev. Hall is asking the mayor to grant the privilege to transfer vaccine priority to teachers who are willing to take the vaccine now and protect themselves during in-person instruction.
“We cannot wait until January 26, when close to 20,000 people have already died because of COVID in our state,” Rev. Hall said. “Now is the time to save lives, and love has the power to do so.”
Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools are planning to return tens of thousands of teachers, clinicians, paraprofessionals and other staff to school buildings starting Jan. 25, 2021.
Only 1/3 of all eligible kindergarten through eighth grade students will be returning to buildings the following week.
Schools are deemed “essential” places of work by the City and State of Illinois, and educators are eligible for Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccines. This next phase could arrive as early as the end of February, which has many educators, parents, students, elected officials, clergy and community organizations questioning the timing of CPS reopening plans, especially when COVID-19 positivity rates are in the teens in many communities throughout the city.
A large majority of families are not yet ready to send their children back to school for in-person instruction — especially families in Black and Brown neighborhoods where COVID-19 infection rates and deaths are the highest. Many of these communities of color were suffering long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and are now being disproportionately impacted by the virus, which has taken nearly 400,000 lives in the U.S.
Said Rev. Hall: “Allowing people the opportunity to give their vaccine to teachers is the right thing to do, and shows the country that we are a city of compassion and love.”
For more information, contact Nicholas Henton at 773-391-2544.