For over two years, the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) has been one of the organizations that coordinates a pastoral care program for unaccompanied children arriving at our borders in search of safety and refuge. Many of the children that we meet are undoubtedly among the most vulnerable children on the planet, escaping unimaginable violence and poverty. Just as we have committed to stand by them and to fight for the protection of their basic rights, today we express our full support and solidarity with the community leaders at Dyett who have been on hunger strike for more than two weeks now to save Dyett High School, Bronzeville’s last publicly-operated, open-enrollment, school from closing.
In Latin America, violence takes many shapes; sometimes violence manifests itself through violent crimes and actions that are carried out with near impunity, often by government officials themselves. Sometimes it can take on subtler forms: deprivation of economic opportunity, quality education, healthcare coverage, and of other factors which are so essential to the ability of individuals to lead dignified human lives. We interpret the closing of public schools, primarily in Black and Brown communities throughout Chicago, in the same way that we understand schemes of privatization and dispossession in Latin America: as an act of violence against communities of color.
As immigrants, the sons and daughters of immigrants, volunteers with the unaccompanied children, and people of faith committed to immigrant justice and justice in Latin America, we are humbled by the valiant actions of the Dyett 12 whose fast is reminiscent of the causes of justice described in the Bible.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”
We applaud the Dyett 12 and stand by their decision to resist injustice, to take–as so many immigrants have been forced to do–their children’s future into their own hands, even if and when this means risking perilous journeys, enduring hunger, and risking one’s health. We are confident that they will prove victorious in their quest and also call on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others to put into action the proposal for a Global Leadership and Green Technology High School that the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School helped develop, reminding the Mayor that “
if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”