Sifting through Senator Kirk’s “Chicago will become Detroit” threat

Last week Republican Senator Mark Kirk said that the citizens of Chicago should “re-elect Rahm or Chicago could end up like Detroit“. Now the on the surface the comment seems to just imply that for whatever reason Senator Kirk believes that Rahm Emanuel will be more able to help with our city’s finances than his challenger Chuy Garcia. It is odd that Senator Kirk believes this, because since Mayor Emanuel took over our city’s bond rating has dropped five times. Clearly the mayor is great at raising money for his own re-election campaign, but raising money to help the city….not so much.

So lets go a little deeper into Mark Kirk’s comments threatening that if Garcia is elected Chicago will become like Detroit. My dad grew up in Detroit and like many white Detroiters in the 1950’s and 1960’s his family left the city during the time of “white flight” and moved to the suburbs. This white flight was caused by real estate agents and banks using a lot of scare tactics to convince white home owners to sell their homes quickly and cheaply because the “blacks” were moving in. Then these same real estate agents and banks would jack up the housing costs and sell these same homes to black families. This tactic eventually was made illegal, but not before it radically altered the housing landscape in Detroit and elsewhere .

Detroit had it rough from the 1960’s onward and only until very recently are things slowly starting to turn around. There were riots in the 1960’s, job loss in the 1970’s by the Big 3 (Ford, Chrysler and GM) deciding to close factories to find cheaper work forces so they could maximize their profits, with no regard to the people they employed. Without a strong economic base the 1980’s-2000’s were tough. Detroit had issues with drugs, poverty, and crime. Crime became such an issue that every year the night before Halloween called Devil’s Night , vacant homes would be light on fire and burned. The 1980’s movie Robocop was based on Detroit crime.

To many white people living in suburban Detroit, the name Detroit became synonymous with all of these societal issues. Many white people became afraid to go into the city at all or only go to certain parts.

This is the issue with Sentator Kirk’s comment. On the surface it seems like a just falsely mistaken economic threat, but under the surface lies a much more sinister comment. One that implies that if Garcia someone who is Latino is elected, Chicago will have big challenges, because he isn’t qualified for such complex things as improving the economy.

Implications that certain races aren’t qualified enough date back to the Eugenics movement used in the U.S. to claim only certain groups of people (i.e. white) were intelligent enough for certain jobs or privileges. This idea of Eugenics also led to the creation of tests that we now call “standardized tests” that are supposed to measure intelligence. This Eugenics idea was so wildly popular that Hitler himself and Nazi Germany picked up on this idea.

Republican Senator Kirk’s fear tactics shouldn’t come as a shock either, because Republicans have a history of these type of comments. In 2012 there were enough racist comments said by prominent Republicans that a three minute video compilation was made.  These comments were said by people like Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorium, Mitt Romney, and Tram Hudson. This video is titled “Sh*t Republicans Say About Black People” and you can watch it below.

In 2012 a group of TEAM Englewood High School poets coached by Missy Hughes and myself came across that video and were very upset about it. The students decided to write a poetic response to the Republicans in the video. They titled it “What Black Poets Say to Racist Republicans”. Have a look.

Clearly Senator Kirk and Governor Rauner want Rahm in office and will use fear tactics to try to make this happen.

But now Chicago it is our turn to have a response to Senator Kirk and this new round of outdated racist comments, like how the TEAM Englewood poets responded to the Republican comments in 2012.

But how do we go about this?

The answer is much simpler than a choreographed and researched poetic response. We do this by going to the voting both on April 7th and voting Rahm out!

Posted on Gapers Block

http://gapersblock.com/mechanics/2015/03/11/sifting-through-senator-kirks-chicago-will-become-detroit-threat/

Interview on the Outside the Loop show on WGN Radio

I was interviewed by the Outside the Loop show on WGN radio about the blog I wrote Lessons I Learned in Englewood.

I got to talk about some of my favorite things; teaching, race, and the brilliance of Englewood students. I am the first interview of the show.

Lessons Learned in Englewood: 8 years of reflections from a CPS teacher

A little over 8 years ago when I took my first job in CPS at a high school in Englewood, people of all races would look at me like I was crazy when I told them where I would be working. During my time teaching in Englewood I had people make assumptions about me, such as, that I must not be a very good teacher if I teach in Englewood , because surely, if I was a good teacher I would be working somewhere else.

Obviously if people were making assumptions about me working in Englewood, they were surely making assumptions about my students who lived in the community. I have written previously about when a random stranger on the bus called my kids animals and how I responded.

Through all of assumptions and stereotypes I realized that the students I taught were all that mattered. But I also very recently came to a point in my professional career that I needed a change of schools. Leaving the students was and is still hard. I didn’t officially make the decision until August so I told my students through email and text messages. That was the hardest thing by far about leaving. But the beauty of the students was they wanted me to be happy. Yes, they were upset and hurt, but every single student (I even messaged kids who graduated awhile ago to let them know) really just wanted me to be happy. So I write this dedicated to every single student I taught in Englewood which is close to 1,000 students.

 So here is some of what I learned from my time in Englewood:

1. Teachers know that kids can detect a good teacher in the first few minutes of meeting us. Well my Englewood students could detect a good teacher in seconds

When we hired teachers at our school we would always have students sit on the interview and ask questions. Once the interview ended, if our students had doubts then that person wasn’t hired.

2. The kids knew the stereotypes about them, but more importantly with guidance knew also how to beat those stereotypes.

3. That most of the kids I taught could make better politicians than many of the people who are in power in this city.

4. That Englewood produces genius. Yup, you read that right. Still doubting? Then watch this.

5. I learned that having open and honest conversations about race wasn’t always easy, but was always very necessary.

Lisa Delpit an acclaimed scholar on race once came to our school and observed me teach and talked to students that I taught. Because of my openness to talk about race and the stories my students shared with her, she was inspired enough to write about me in her 2nd book.

6. That 4 Englewood high school students can stand up and poetically dissect every terrible policy Rahm Emanuel has put in place.

7. That when I experienced the worst loss of my life it was the students that I taught who knew how best to support me.

8. That when the first student that attended our school was murdered students and staff came together.

It was in my fourth year of teaching that I got a phone call at 6am on a cold January Saturday morning from our assistant principal who told me Travell had been killed. Travell was a very likable kid and a kid who had turned his life around from early in his high school career to just get accepted into college. His loss rocked our school. Everyone dreaded going to school that Monday after his death. But it was everyone at the school, students and staff that kept us all together so we could grieve and overcome this tragedy.

9. That when one of our staff members passed away the students and staff came together.

One of the most happy and upbeat people at our school, passed away last year. He was loved by students and staff alike. No matter what, he was always smiling and was one of those people that truly made school a better place. It was at his funeral that students stood up and spoke and shared stories of love for Stokes that helped us all overcome this loss.

10. That there are some amazing organizations, people, and teachers working in the Englewood neighborhood. If you never heard of RAGE then you need to.

11. That a public high school in Englewood had over 90% college acceptance rate, but the Mayor never came to congratulate us.

12. I learned that being white and bald would automatically lead me to be nicknamed Caillou.

13. That every student deserves so much more than this city’s government and poorly run school system is giving them.

14. That everywhere parents and students want to succeed.

While I was growing up and going to school, I have some teachers who still stick in my mind. The teachers who really helped guide, coach, teach, and inspire me. Well the thing that most people who aren’t teachers don’t know is teachers have kids who stick in their minds the same way. While there are way too many students to name individually who stick and will continue to stick with me, I know that I have become a better person, because of the “dangerous” Englewood students that I taught.

**I am still a CPS public high school south side teacher, just at a different school now**

Published in HuffingtonPost Chicago
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-stieber/lessons-learned-in-englew_b_5876554.html?utm_hp_ref=chicago&ir=Chicago

Published on Gapers Block

http://gapersblock.com/mechanics/2014/09/30/lessons-learned-in-englewood-8-years-of-reflections-from-a-cps-teacher/

Radio Interview about Educational Funding on Outside the Loop Radio

Last week I wrote a piece in support of the idea proposed by Karen Lewis to place a small tax on the Mercantile Exchange to generate revenue for schools (since the Merc gets millions in tax breaks).

I was interviewed on Outside the Loop Radio this week about school funding and how the lack of funding impacts schools in Chicago, but specifically my school in Englewood.

The interview is about the first twelve minutes of the show.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange — Maintaining the Status Quo in Chicago Public Schools

Karen Lewis (former CPS teacher) elected President of the Chicago Teachers Union proposed an idea to generate funding, to improve Chicago Public Schools and our city. Her idea is to place a small tax on shares bought and sold at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In an interview published in the Sun Times Lewis said, “This is an opportunity to actually make heroes out of these (wealthy) people. Instead of everybody being angry at them about their money and their greed and all these other things. This is an opportunity for them to say, ‘You know what, we’re part of the city. We love this city. We’d like to see the city work. We’d like to be a part of the process and this isn’t going to be enough to make us want to go.’”

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange issued a statement in response to Lewis saying in part, “…we do not believe the way to accomplish a strong public school system is through singling out futures traders with a tax more than 200 percent higher than what the average trader pays to buy or sell a futures contract…”

For those non-math people like myself 200 percent higher sounds like a lot of money, but in reality if shares were currently being taxed 33 cents they would now be taxed about 67 cents more to make it a dollar tax. Saying something is 200 percent more is just a fancy way of saying something is tripled.

Sixty seven cents more to improve our schools which in turn improves our whole city.

In the same interview where the Chicago Mercantile Exchange claimed it basically couldn’t afford to pay 67 cents more the Mercantile Exchange spokesperson said, “The CME Group absolutely believes that our hometown of Chicago should have a strong, world-class public education system.”

So the Chicago Mercantile Exchange wants a world class education system yet will not give a minute fraction of its wealth and revenue to actually make this a reality?

Please keep in mind that the Mercantile Exchange gets millions of dollars per year in tax breaks. Meaning that all the money that they are not paying in taxes that would go to improving our city and in part our schools stays in their pockets making them even more wealthy.

This my friends is what maintaining the status quo looks like in plain sight.

Teachers and schools are blamed for anything and everything wrong with education. Yet, when teachers demand more money for our schools and our students we are labeled as greedy and the ideas we have to improve education are dismissed.

As an educator in CPS for the past seven years working in the Englewood neighborhood it is painfully obvious that schools need more funding.

Schools need support (i.e. financial resources) for our city to truly give ALL of our students a “world class” education.

Last year Chicago Public Schools reduced the budgets by about $2,000 per student. In a small school like mine that translates to about $400,000 that we lost just last year. In larger schools that number is in the millions of dollars that schools once had that they no longer have to use for school staff, supplies, field trips, and the overall functioning of a school.

In my school cutting $400,000 translated into supplies being cut, technology not being repaired and seven people who no longer work in our building. That means there are seven less adults (teachers, security, tech coordinator, and a teacher coach) that can no longer work with students and help make their education and safety better.

So the Chicago Mercantile Exchange claims it wants a “world class education” for the students of Chicago, but in the same press release basically says it can’t find 67 more cents to invest per transaction for the youth of Chicago to better our city.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange is just following the lead of our mayor who claims he wants what is best for the kids, yet steals TIF money that is supposed to go to our schools and neighborhoods and builds stadiums, parks, roads that benefit downtown while also sending his kids to a private school that has everything that ALL our schools should have.

Like Rahm Emanuel the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is just providing lip service claiming it cares about kids, while maintaining the status quo of Chicago and keeping this city a tale of two Chicago’s—One for the rich and one for everyone else.

Or as I like to interpret the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s quote, it just comes down to (millions of) dollars for the rich and pennies for our kids.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-stieber/the-chicago-mercantile-ex_b_5282766.html

Outside the Loop Radio Interview

I’m interviewed on Outside the Loop radio about the TEAM Englewood Spoken Word group piece from Louder Than A Bomb 2014 in which our poets wrote the piece “Hide Your Schools, Hide Your Children, Hide Your Homes, Cause He’s Wrecking it All“. This is a poem written entirely by four Englewood public high school students about all Rahm Emanuel is doing to harm this city.

The interview is from 12:00-22:00

Hide Your Schools, Hide Your Children, Hide Your Homes, Cause He’s Wrecking it All

A poem written by 4 TEAM Englewood Public High School students about all that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is doing wrong in Chicago. These students wrote this piece and took part in the Louder Than A Bomb spoken word competition put on yearly by Young Chicago Authors here in Chicago.

Hammer in one hand paint brush in the other
Rahm Emanuel is single handedly destroying our city
Mr. wreck it Rahm
look what Chicago is becoming
bending the rules to fit in the lie of building a new chicago
building new streets
when his own plan got some pot holes

Tearing down our dreams
its getting really windy in these streets
Red X’s mark the spots where his wrecking balls are next to drop

We are not included in the Blue Print of the New Chicago: we’re being pushed out
our buildings transformed into condos – and we know those AINT FOR US
Thermal shock is setting in from the whipping wind of the heartless sins
of the mayor

Norfolk Railroads is pushing us southern folk out
Homes replaced with tracks
that will be laid
where our heads used to
If dry wall could talk
it would speak many prayers to keep our homes
now vacant lots that hold lots of remnants
of 60 years of backyard barbeques
baby showers
and when electric sliding was the super power of the summer
55th and Normal
we are losing all of this

Torturing, tormenting us as we choke on the ashes of our memories
*Cough Cough*
Let’s hope we don’t get sick
Because he’s closing all our clinics
He needs to get treated
And then maybe we can sew back on the other half of the middle finger
that he has been giving us

Its almost as if he’s E Manuel of E-Limination
Exportation!
Extermination!
Eradication!

Step one: Take away our schools
Step Two: Put them out their home
Lastly: Destroy it all and
Deny Deny Deny
But remember, to always keep a straight face when you lie!

Try to pour the cheap paint over our eyes while stealing dollars from under our mattresses
There’s not enough? Close their schools
But he’s building a new DePaul stadium
Using our TIF funds to Transform the South Loop into the Promised Land of redevelopment
and some river walk
of course downtown
The paint is starting to streak.
Building a new Chicago or extending a new lie!
How can a city so in debt blueprint something so expensive?

Banneker Elementary – Closed
Woods Elementary – Closed
Yale Elementary – Closed

The paint is cracking:
From every west side basketball brotherhood
To south side sisterhood bonds through pom-poms
And every poetry team that had dreamed of being on this very stage
has been ripped apart,
Goodbye

Bad foundation for our future generations
struggling with 40 students in one class
so they learn from the streets
There’s not money for our schools, but, there’s enough to build a New Chicago
But that New Chicago is NOT for us.
The paint is wearing thin and so was our patience
Irreparable damage has already been done

Time to stop the destruction of OUR city
Prevent the further corruption of our already twisted politics of Chicago

25% of Chicago school children won’t amount to anything
25
50
75
100% sure that we will be something
See Rahm we are mathematicians
your lies are adding up
and this new Chicago is just another one of them

Our poets featured in the HuffingtonPost Chicago:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/team-englewood-spoken-word_n_4941587.html?utm_hp_ref=chicago&ir=Chicago

Our poets featured in the Chicago Reader:
http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2014/03/12/englewoods-message-to-mayor-wreck-it-rahm

Featured & interviewed on CBS Chicago:
http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/03/14/youth-poetry-team-obliterates-mayor-wreck-it-rahm-in-viral-youtube-video/

Our poets discussed on Outside the Loop Radio show:(14:45-20:40)
http://www.outsidetheloopradio.com/2014/03/13/otl-episode-387-louder-than-a-bomb-poetry-slam-mayor-emanuel-needs-to-hear-from-the-kids-story-club-chicago/

Like & Follow our Spoken Word Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/TeamEnglewoodSpokenWord