Mostly, life at the Whittier Bilingual Elementary School field house is pretty quiet. There’s time for gossip and food and music. And hugging. There’s an unbelievable amount of closeness at Whittier. If you are uncomfortable with people touching you warmly, holding your hand, expressing gratitude, or caring about you, for sure you will want to find a different cause to support that is not the Whittier Bilingual Elementary School Library.
We’ve already seen, however, that the City of Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools system don’t see it that way. The moms at Whittier today celebrate a full week of their sit-in to demand fiscal accountability for their children’s recently renovated school and a space to house educational resources.
But it’s been a week of constant police surveillance and occasional intimidation. Not to mention the stress of, essentially, living on an elementary school yard. (During one recent clash, mothers shushed an in-progress protest because the noise level was interrupting classroom activity. Later, an outdoor gathering was moved inside, because kids had just been let out for recess.)
And now, media has caught onto the drama of the struggle—if not the nuances of these women’s needs or demands. TV crews yesterday swooped in to demand soundbites. And once one came, others did, too: at 3 a.m. this morning a WGN crew came to request interviews with the protesters. “The protesters,” of course, were sleeping—many have jobs, kids, no partners, and are under a great deal of stress. The support team could have flown into a rage. (If you woke me up at 3 a.m. for an interview, I would have.) Instead they politely suggested the reporter go see if 25th Ward Alderman Daniel Solis was at home.
These photos are by Sarah Jane Rhee, a photographer and CPS mom working in solidarity with the CPS moms at Whittier. See more of her work here.(Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee)