Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

22 October 2010

What I learned from Whittier

Media reports say that the Whittier moms have come out victorious. That Whittier will soon get a library INSIDE the school and that La Casita will be renovated and leased to the Whittier parents for community use.

My daughter & I returned to Whittier a few weeks ago to drop off some supplies and a few Spanish-language books. It was day 27, as the photo to the left indicates, and Columbus Day (ironic, I know). The place was far quieter than I was expecting on a school holiday.

The plan was to drop off items and then return to our hectic day of errands. Instead my daughter took off for the playground. It was a nice day and me being the push over I am let her play. That's when I took the opportunity to snap a picture of the 27 Days banner. And that's when a girl playing took the opportunity to come say hi and ask if she could take some pictures too.

"Can I take a picture of you?" And obviously I let this little girl who looks like she could be mi familia. She then started to walk off with my smart phone snapping photos of everything on the playground. The pictures below are of Lucky, her new puppy.
 As the girls and Lucky ran around the playground, I sat and chatted with one of the girls' step-grandfather, J. Yes, as soon as we started chatting, I thought, "Shit. Why don't I have my digi-recorder with me?" Then again, perhaps it was best that we didn't have that between us.

J told me that he takes care of Girl 1 and her cousin Girl 2. He drops them off at school in the morning, then heads out on his seemingly-never-ending search for a new job. In the afternoon he picks up the girls and watches them. At one point one of the girls is clearly doing the potty dance. J tells the girl to ask the Whittier Moms if she can use the bathroom. The girl hesitates...J says that it's because she doesn't speak Spanish.

"Right now they are 5 & 6, they need to focus on learning English. They can pick up Spanish when they are older."

I told J the abbreviated version of my life and how for some of us *AHEM* it's actually quite hard to pick up another language later in life. I also told him that I understand where that decision is coming from.

Here I was at Whittier to show my solidarity in their fight for a library and yes, there are plenty of injustices in our public school system, but to come against this English-first feeling at Whittier wasn't expected. As a dual-language school, I assumed a lot. Too much in fact.

And I bet that same assuming way is what made CPS think they could say that La Casita could be torn down, land sold to a private school and turned into a soccer field. Instead the moms said, "Hell no!" They are still keeping vigil in La Casita until Tuesday's CPS Board of Education meeting where, dear Goddess hopefully, the deal will be finalized and in writing. Because if this deal falls apart a lot more than just La Casita will be lost - the children who saw their moms, tias and neighbors fight and then get shafted will be lost. Thankfully their fight has grabbed attention of local news, blogs and national media outlets. Hopefully this will buffer any ideas of backing out or screwing them over on details.

So what did I learn?
  • That being cynical isn't productive.
  • That change can happen, but you'll have to pull up your sleeves too.
  • That moms are certainly a force to be reckoned with - soccer, security, or whatever label.
  • That kids do want to learn. Talk all you want about electronics, online stuff but kids are naturally curious and want to learn. 
  • That some people are so broken by the all the injustices in this world that they can't muster enough outrage when something like Whitter happens. I get that. Hopefully this will help revive them because...
  • The system wants us to accept injustice because there is so much of it. How else can you explain why CPS would respond to the Whittier mom's demands with "there are 160 other schools without libraries." They want us to accept our place on their timetable. These moms, this community said, "No. You work for us." 

Congrats mujeres!

1 comments:

I'm so thrilled this story had a positive outcome.

I'm awe inspired by parents that so believe in the importance of access to books (something you'd think education administrators would back given all of the studies demonstrating the importance) that they were willing to sit-in round the clock until they got what they wanted.