Photo: The twelve Dyett hunger strikers

The Dyett 12: (Row 1, L-R) Dr. Aisha Wade-Bey, Anna Jones, April Stogner, Cathy Dale; (Row 2, L-R) Irene Robinson, Jeanette Taylor-Ramann, Jitu Brown, Marc Kaplan; (Row 3, L-R) Dr. Monique Redeaux-Smith, Nelson Soza, Prudence Browne, the Rev. Robert Jones. Photos by Phil Cantor.

I have been a teacher for ten years in low-income communities of color. In those ten years, I have often taught children in dilapidated buildings, with ancient heating and cooling systems, if they have air conditioning at all. I have seen public schools closed in historic numbers: shut down and “turned around” only to be worse than the “failing” schools they supposedly rehabilitated. I have seen experienced Black teachers—anchors in the community, mentors who showed me how to maintain my love and appreciation for children while at the same time working for a system that despises these children—pushed out, laid off, and shamed by an unfair and biased evaluation system that labels their many years of experience as “developing.”

I have seen politicians and businessmen use education as a “get-rich-quick” scheme. While teachers are held accountable for more but provided with fewer and fewer resources, these same millionaire politicians assert that we haven’t put enough “skin in the game” and should not only work tirelessly with underprivileged students for 30–40 years in the conditions mentioned above, but should do so only to look forward to living in poverty once we retire because they refuse to adequately fund our pensions.

Photo: CTU delegates hold banner saying, CTU supporters the Dyett Hunger Strikers and GLGT Proposal

CTU delegates show support for the hunger strikers.

But in these ten years I have also met extraordinary Black and Brown young people who demonstrate that resiliency is as inherent within them as their hair and eye color. Students that inspire me with their brilliance. Students who I shed tears of joy with as they invite me to their prom send-offs and college trunk parties, and too many that I shed tears of sorrow and regret over as they are taken from us too soon.

These are the reasons why I go hungry for Dyett.

Because I refuse to accept that the current state of education is the best we can do. Because every child deserves a world class education in their neighborhood. Because every child should see themselves reflected in their teachers and in their curricula. Because our children of color should see that both their bodies and their lives matter; that their greatness is what will transform our society. Because teachers deserve to be treated as professionals with knowledge and expertise that is not only valued, but coveted, especially as their years of experience increase. Because parents and families deserve a space where they, too, are valued and respected as having knowledge and expertise that is needed in the classroom.

I am an experienced Black teacher, a mother, a union activist, and a resident in the community of Dyett High School. This is why I go hungry for Dyett.