Alarmed that students at the Sarah E. Goode Stem Academy walked out of class Monday (Dec. 13) because of alleged racism at a school named after the first Black woman to receive a U.S. patent, Rev. Janette Wilson, senior advisor to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and her staff went to the school and met with officials.
Students say they were also allegedly threatened if they walked out of class because of their complaints of racism against Black students and teachers, they wouldn’t be able to “walk across the stage and get their diplomas” come graduation time.
Despite the threat, a multi-racial group of students made good their promise and walked out of class around 10:50 a.m. About three dozen students staged a walk out of the high school, located at 7651 S. Homan Avenue, carrying signs that read, “Be the Resistance: Be the Change,” “Rise Against Racism,” and “Where is the CTU?”
Rev. Wilson, who is also the national executive director of the PUSH For Excellence (PUSH EXCEL) program, the educational arm of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, headed by Rev. Jackson, said, “It was heartwarming to see students engaged in a powerful, non-violent student protest.
“Several students said the walk out of the building was to protest the disparate treatment of African American students versus Latinos and white students,” Rev. Wilson stated. “They were very disciplined. They were very focused, and they were certainly non-violent.”
During the rally, which included a five-minute silent protest, student leader, Glenford Flowers, a senior, said, “There is racism and prejudice against Black teachers in our school. A lot of the student voices are not considered in the school. They have a student body, but we are not able to criticize or judge rules given to us. They just put it out, and that is unfair to us as students.
“We are standing up against the prejudice in the building especially from the staff and from the student themselves,” Flowers said.
When asked for examples, Flowers said, “There were a couple of students who did the High Hitler salute. The students were never punished.” Flowers said there is also “staff discrimination and prejudice” of Black teachers along with student discrimination and prejudice. “That is why we are out here to stand up for our voices and to stand up for Black teachers.”
Asked if the students were told if they walked out they would not be able to walk across the stage and get their diploma, Flowers said, “Yes. Admin. I think it is unfair and a way of discouraging students from actually being allowed to voice their concerns and their voice.
“It’s a tactic they use in real scenarios like policing, the National Guard. It is the same playbook they use by the school admin,” Flowers stated.
When asked what can the students do, Kendall Canteberry, also a senior, said, “We’re trying to make a change. We are trying to get what we deserve going to this school.”
Asked if he experienced any racism at the school, Canteberry said, “I have experienced racism by a specific teacher. I won’t tell their name, but when I was having their class, they accused me of copying off of other students work. They didn’t want to grade my work because they said it wasn’t mine. I did it with them. They wouldn’t grade it at the end of the day. Other students are being called (racist) names.”
Rev. Wilson briefly met with the principal, Armando Rodriguez, and CPS’ Network Chief 16, Megan Hougard. Initially, Rodriguez said he would talk to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition staff after they spoke to the students in the auditorium; however, upon Hougard’s arrival, that meeting was changed to sometime this coming Wednesday.
Rodriguez said he wanted to talk to the students “to find out exactly what they are talking about” concerning their allegations of racism.
Ironically, the Sarah E. Goode Stem Academy is named after entrepreneur/inventor Sarah E. Goode who was the first African American woman to receive a U.S. patent on July 14, 1885. She was born into slavery in 1850 and was freed at the end of the Civil War.
Goode invented a folding cabinet bed for small homes. Married to carpenter Archibald Goode, she opened up a furniture store in Chicago selling goods to working class customers. She died in 1905.