Dyett hunger strike ends after 34 days

SHARE Dyett hunger strike ends after 34 days

Aisha Wade-Bey, one of the hunger strikers, said the group halted its protest because one of them kept saying she would die for the cause, and they realized she could. Sun-Times file photo

The Dyett hunger strike is over.

After 34 days, about a dozen people have ended the protest they began in hopes of making Dyett High School on the city’s South Side a neighborhood high school focused on green technology.

Organizer Jitu Brown announced the end of the hunger strike Saturday at Rainbow PUSH headquarters. He and 11 others had stopped eating solid food on Aug. 17 to try to push the Chicago Public Schools to choose a neighborhood-school model developed years ago by a group called the Coalition to Save Dyett High School.

Aisha Wade-Bey, one of the hunger strikers, said the group halted its protest because one of them kept saying she would die for the cause, and they realized she could.

“We did not want to see one of our fellow hunger strikers die, and she was not coming off unless everyone was coming off,” Wade-Bey, who said she lost 20 pounds during the hunger strike, said Saturday night.

“We were like, ‘OK, we need to try to make an exit plan and go ahead and come off the strike,’” Wade-Bey said.

She said the hunger strikers still feel that city leaders “don’t care about our children, and we need to be here to fight for our children.”

Earlier this month, after the group sought help from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, CPS announced it would place an open-enrollment high school in the school building at 555 E. 51st St. but said it would focus on the arts, in honor of Walter H. Dyett, the band leader and longtime music teacher who’s the school’s namesake.

CPS officials said that rather than choosing any of the three proposals it had solicited through a formal selection process, it would combine components from each.

Details of that plan have yet to be revealed. CPS officials have said they were looking for a principal to open the school next fall.

The CPS announcement took some steam out of the protest, but the group had continued the hunger strike until Saturday, asking for a voice in leading the new school through the Local School Council.

“We do have some other ways to continue to make sure we get this high school in our community, where it’s fair and that they have the resources that it needs for our children,” Wade-Bey said.

On Monday, the group is aiming to announce its plans.

CPS chief executive officer Forrest Claypool said on WLS-890 AM radio Friday that he was done negotiating with the group but would still listen to what they have to say.

“I think they should be thrilled that the main thrust of their campaign was met, which is to build an open-enrollment neighborhood high school in the Washington Park/Bronzeville communities,” Claypool said. “I’m sorry that there’s other elements they thought should have been included, but we listened to the community. And the community includes not just this organization but others.”

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