Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kids & Community

Last Fall I went to a conference where one of my friends introduced me as a community activist. Ha, I thought, that title is not on my name tag. Is that really what I am?! Then, I wondered if the church that sponsored my conference fee would be okay with that. Activist seemed like such an in-your-face, controversial title. Well, I have since come to own that I am an activist - a high reformer/challenger on the enniagram personality test. My passionate activist stance is focused around blended community development (y'all know that if you're reading my posts!). I firmly believe that neither stacked wealth nor stacked poverty are part of God, Bonhoeffer or Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Beloved Community" concepts. And, since some of you have asked me what I do in my activist role, below is a position statement I wrote last week in my education reform activism efforts with Stand For Children. Stand is a nonpartisan 501C3 organization, of which I am a member.  Their current campaign in Chicago is Renewing Schools, Renewing Neighborhoods.

I am Diane Miller, a mom, Chicago Public School parent/supporter and a member of Stand For Children. I live in Chicago’s first ward on the west side and have a daughter in the Honors Program at Lincoln Park High School. Our family believes in public schools. Yet, our daughter travels outside of our neighborhood to go to a good public high school. I also know that not every family in Chicago has the resources to do that. So, what I would like to address is the subject of school access. We, at Stand, believe that every child should have access to a good public school within a mile walking distance of their home. All children need to feel loved and valued for who they are and they need to have a sense of belonging in their own community and the availability and support of a good neighborhood school. 

We live in a culture of “destination communities”, meaning it has become normal to travel outside of our home neighborhoods to jobs, sports activities, churches and even our schools. Well, I ask, “What are we modeling for our kids with this scenario?” Constant going and doing of life’s activities outside of our neighborhoods has stripped both us and our children of a deep sense of belonging in our geographic neighborhoods. So, how do we restore that in this city? We start with neighborhood access to good schools. Children should be able to walk to school, to have kids to play and do homework with and feel part of a community that gives care, accountability and hope by a close village of adults that watch over them. In this city, we are now busing, driving and taking public transportation to grade schools and high schools outside of home neighborhoods to get children into good schools - it’s nuts! And, the process to get them into these schools is even crazier. Providing good schools in every neighborhood is a necessary lifeline in developing deep community bonds and nurturing a healing culture of hope and caring in every Chicago neighborhood. Again, we at Stand ask you to consider a plan where every child has access to a good grade school in their own home neighborhood within a mile radius. And, if we have to have Welcoming Schools beyond that range while neighborhood schools improve, may they be within a 1-1/2 mile radius, or within a child’s zip code at the very least. All of us, especially children, deeply need that sense of belonging that comes from being in community.  May your school utilization plan be community-honoring, supporting all Chicago's beloved children in their own neighborhoods, creating hope and smashing the evil of fear, anger and hopelessness that grips this city…Thank you.

No comments: