(Photo Courtesy of The Voice of Detroit)
DETROIT – Last week, 13 girls were arrested while protesting against the closing of the Catherine Ferguson High School. This student led action was met with the drowning of their cries with police sirens and the hauling of each young woman into police cars. Young mothers seeking a better future for themselves and their children attend Catherine Ferguson knowing of the schools high expectations and community atmosphere. They are expected to go to college and to work on the schools very successful urban farm. Yes, a farm in the middle of Detroit. The State of Michigan wants to demolish this opportunity to prevent another generation of Black mothers from having better futures. This news brought elation and disgust. The act of civil disobedience by these young mothers demonstrates both the hunger and the struggle still present in America. They decided to act against a system blatantly disinterested in their futures. The fact they they have to fight for a High School education in 2011 is deplorable.
America can not be serious about winning the future if it refuses to educate those who give birth to it.
The current Governor of Michigan and those he has appointed to manage cities like Detroit, don’t care about the future of these young women. The future they envision for the City of Detroit is not conducive to success for those living on the margins. In this context the margins are include communities of African Americans living in a city being depleted of its human and economic resources. The current emergency manager of the Detroit Public School system, Robert Bobb, is completely opposed to any home rule or leadership. Prior to the introduction of state-wide emergency rule, he vocalized his contempt for locally elected school boards.
Bobb along with other state leadership want to close Catherine Ferguson and more than 50 other schools in Detroit. Under Public Act 4, Gov. Rick Snyder (Republican), gave all emergency managers the power to “reject, modify, or terminate one or more terms and conditions of an existing collective bargaining agreement.” Earlier, this month all of DPS’s 5,466 unionized employees were laid off. Bobb now has the power to completely destroy the Detroit teachers contract. His next move will test the current law and the will of people, organizations and institutions touting a mission to achieve social justice. The local government has lost its power.
The plight of these young mothers in Detroit is much like that of low-income children across the nation. The plight of those who teach them is much like that of teachers across America. Their futures are being bargained and determined by individuals not invested in inclusive change. The past couple of months have brought mass protest and actions across America in support of collective bargaining (unions) rights and access to reproductive health services. The country is undergoing a time of great tension, separation and unity. Given this, where is the battle-cry for Detroit? Where is the national call for action to support students like those arrested to save Catherine Ferguson High School. Where is the national call for action to support the teachers without secure means to support their families? Moments in time like this test the will of the people and the people of Detroit are not sitting idly by. These moments also test the talk of organizations receiving millions of dollars each year to secure access to education and protect the rights of workers.
Where are they now, in this moment when so much is at stake?
I judge my own actions and those of others claiming to be freedom fighters in moments like these. I wept while viewing the footage of the young mothers arrest. If we don’t speak out and fight for the most vulnerable as they are attacked by the most vicious, then what are our words or actions worth?