Juniors in the Rhetoric class met with Alia Bilal from Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Living Memorial in Marquette Park. Students have been pursuing the guiding question, how do voices work to unite people, divide opinion, and transcend conflict? In the third unit of this Humanities course, students are asked to look at how rhetoric inspires and mobilizes?. The Action Project for Unit 3 asks students to create “an original artwork” that “speak[s] out on issues that receive little attention” and “inspires collective action.” In order to contextualize such a statement and experience it in person, we journeyed to Marquette Park to see the monument there to Dr. Martin Luther King’s protest march in 1966, known as the Living Memorial.
I first became interested in the work and activism of Troy LaRaviere from hearing and reading news reports (mostly on WBEZ and the Reader) about his refusal to implement educational policies mandated by the mayor and his surrogates in Chicago Public Schools. I found myself swayed by many of the arguments he put forth through those media and on his own personal blog, and I witnessed some of the results: good, as when his efforts helped uncover a corrupt contract for which CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was imprisoned; bad, as when he was removed from his post as principal of Blaine Elementary in Lakeview.
Unit I of SDGs & You is entitled Access, and it asks students to investigate the first, second, and fourth Sustainable Development Goals: No Poverty, No Hunger, and Quality Education (respectively). The students’ trip to Lincoln Park Community Shelter to prepare, serve, and eat a meal with the residents there gave them some first-hand experience with people in their community who know the challenges related to these goals quite intimately. This experience contributed primary research data to their first Action Project, which asks students to argue that a human need should be regarded as a human right.
Students will manage a budget for food, planning for a group of 25-30 residents (plus our class). We will create a plan for preparing the food in time for an 11:45 serving, after which we will eat with residents, sharing in both food and conversation. Finally, we will clean up the kitchen and common room of LPCS and reflect on our service.
In preparation we are mapping some areas around the world most impacted by the challenges referred to in SDGs 1, 2, and 4. We have likewise used data from the City of Chicago’s data portal to turn the mirror back on the United States, asking ourselves where in our own communities we share similar struggles. Our meal service at LPCS will show us how, even in an area of Chicago well-known for its relative wealth and privilege, challenges regarding poverty and hunger still exist.