CPS “significantly walks back” AAEP Cancellation

cps

Evan Plummer, CPS Director of Arts, sent a letter yesterday to AAEP teachers and staff apologizing for the “miscommunication” regarding closure of the program.

He writes, “The truth is, while modifications to this program are being considered, no decision has been made to end or modify the Advanced Arts Program.”

You can read the entire letter here.

Teachers say things were a little more complicated than a simple miscommunication. WTTW’s Nick Blumberg reports on Chicago Tonight’s blog:

After informing staff on Jan. 22 that McElroy had been laid off, CPS’ Evan Plummer told them there would be another meeting on Monday. Teachers say they were informed the Advanced Arts Program would end after the current semester wraps up in June. Plummer told them all the students in the program would be informed Tuesday of McElroy’s layoff and the shuttering of AAP.

But shortly before the Tuesday meeting, teachers say Plummer pulled them aside and told them students would only be informed about McElroy – not about the end of the program. Teachers were asked not to inform their students AA[E]P was ending.

Friday, Plummer’s letter to teachers significantly walked back the cancellation.

My goodness. That sure is soooome kind of miscommunication. Read the rest of Blumberg’s piece here.

Look, what I told WTTW is how I truly feel: if CPS wants to spin this as a miscommunication, and that means the program is still up and running, then by all means a miscommunication is a best-case scenario here. Sure, great, call it a miscommunication. I have my own speculations and concerns about what “modifications” means, because when CPS uses that word it is rarely for the better.

Make no mistake, teens and youth and families care about this program. And we are paying very, very close attention right now. If CPS so much as breathes a sentence about cancelling this program, we are going to have something to say about it.

There can be no miscommunication about that.

A Eulogy for Hope: The Silent Murder of Gallery 37

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The author, center, at her first teen gallery opening at the Gallery 37 Center for the Arts. circa 2005

1/30/2016 There are significant updates to this story. Get the latest update here.

 

EDIT 10:59 PM 1/28/16: I would like to make absolutely clear that After School Matters and the Advanced Arts Education Program are two completely separate programs, with separate funding and separate administrative teams. I know this is confusing, considering they share a building and many of the instructors teach both. I apologize for the confusion. After School Matters is NOT being cancelled. The Advanced Arts Education Program is.

The first time academic pressure made me feel suicidal was in sixth grade. So when I say I won’t allow Gallery 37 to quietly die, it’s because Gallery 37 saved my life.

Yesterday I received a flurry of messages from my own beloved instructors and artist friends who are currently teaching in the Advanced Arts Education Program (AAEP) at Gallery 37, a FREE arts college preparatory program through CPS.

Yesterday morning, a close friend high in AAEP administration told me that all AAEP programming will be ending in June. I looked at my phone and felt a wound open and yawn in my chest. I tried my best to not burst into tears on my way to work. “Tell folks so they know about this, okay,” she asked.

So of course, I immediately dove into the internet to see what information I could find. Considering AAEP is a world-renowned program, modeled by public education systems all over the country and in many cities in Europe, you’d think that someone would have a lot to say about this. When I was a student there, we were visited by the President of Ireland, the Queen of Jordan, and education experts from around the world who were enthralled and excited by what we were doing. And yet, when the mayor’s office decides to pluck this jewel from the city’s crown…nothing. Radio silence. I thought, okay, maybe the news cycle needs another 24 hours to catch on this and then maybe I’ll find some information. Woke up this morning, and still nothing. No announcement on the AAEP website. No press release from CPS Department of Arts Education. In fact, heartbreakingly, you can still apply for next year on the AAEP website.

So I guess I’m that person who has a lot to say. Because the silence around this tells me that the board of ed and the mayor’s office would love nothing more than to drown this program like a kitten, with little or no resistance. They’d love to tell you how they suddenly found millions of dollars in the next budget meeting, while conveniently forgetting to mention that this money will come from ending an essential program for teens. And I refuse to let that happen.

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I #StandWithPP Because I’m a Woman Who Likes to F*ck

via giphy.com

This isn’t a post about the videos. Others have already written and proven very eloquently that the videos are highly emotionally manipulative pieces of garbage. I’m not going to sit here and tell you everything else Planned Parenthood does other than abortions, because then I would be apologizing for the fact that they perform abortions. This isn’t a post about how they screen for cancer and prevent disease.

This is a post about f*cking.

Specifically, that I like to do it. As much as I can. With whomever I please (currently one very awesome dude. Hey boo!).

I’m sorry, does that make you uncomfortable? Are you squirming in your chair like a twelve year old in health class? Do you feel like I shouldn’t be saying this publicly, that this is attention-seeking, that it’s none of your business? Well honey, I would absolutely agree that it’s none of your business, except that roughly half of the country has decided to make it their business. I didn’t bring this up. I’m not on the street wearing a sandwich board that says “LET’S GET DOWN IN POUND TOWN.” (Although that sounds like fun and something I totally would have done five years ago. If anyone is inspired, plz post pics.) I’m simply making a statement that shouldn’t shock anyone: I’m a grown-ass woman who likes to do grown-woman thangs, and that includes f*cking. And guess what, I agree with you that it’s a ridiculous thing to say publicly. Because it’s sad and disappointing that a woman claiming to enjoy her body is making a radical statement.

Yesterday, during the Capitol Hill hearing to de-fund Planned Parenthood, women across the country decided to deFEND Planned Parenthood (you see what I did there? heh) with a national Pink-Out day. Using the #StandWithPP hashtag, thousands of women showed support by being brutally honest about their own experiences with Planned Parenthood. Some stories were deeply emotional confessions of unwanted pregnancies. Women came out of the woodwork to frankly discuss the circumstances surrounding their abortions with the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion. Women discussed life-saving cancer screenings that caught breast cancer early. Women with ovarian cysts and other dangerous hormonal imbalances shared how hormonal birth control keeps them healthy.

It is extremely important that these women are able to continue to get the medical attention they need. But do you know what was missing from a lot of these conversations? Exuberant unapologetic celebration of sexual health.

via giphy.com

I don’t have ovarian problems. I don’t have breast lumps. I haven’t had an abortion. But you know what I do have? Sex. Aaaaalllllll the time. And Planned Parenthood has been there for me every step of the way from just about the very beginning of my sex life. Now, my parents are amazing people and both of them are feminists. My dad (I LOVE YOU DAD!) set up my first gynecological appointment when I was fifteen and I got my horny little ass on birth control. But just because my parents were supportive doesn’t mean that I wanted them to be all up in my personal business. When I had questions that were too embarrassing to ask my older sister–primarily because asking those questions would be tantamount to admitting that I was having sex–I went to the Planned Parenthood on Sheridan and Devon in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. One of the reasons Planned Parenthood is so important is because there needs to be a safe place where young people can receive basic and VITAL information about sex. Information like, oh, it isn’t supposed to hurt. I ran over to the Planned Parenthood when I was freaking out over a random bump on my vulva (it was a zit! I had no idea you could get zits there! Gross!). During my freshman year of college I was so stressed that I didn’t have my period for five months. I had multiple Planned Parenthood visits because I was concerned that I was pregnant. In my twenties if a partner couldn’t remember the last time he was tested, I dragged his ass over there. I was having lots of sex myself, so I got tested multiple times a year because it’s not only important to be healthy, but it’s also important to not be an asshole. In my current SUPER AWESOME monogamous relationship, our sexual life together started at Planned Parenthood. We love each other, and we want each other to be healthy and happy, so we didn’t have sex until we had been fully tested and knew with certainty that we had a clean bill of sexual health. Sitting together in the waiting room was one of the cutest, dearest moments in our relationship. We were excited, and why not? We were TOTALLY going to have sex!!!

via giphy.com

It’s important that women have access to hormonal birth control so that they can manage hormonal imbalances. It’s important for women who are not prepared to be mothers, for a myriad of reasons, to have access to safe and legal abortions. it is equally important to have access to birth control because women have a right to enjoy their bodies without the looming fear of pregnancy.

Having control of our reproductive rights is essential to sexual equality. Safe sex is a basic human right that is as important as shelter and food. Women deserve to enjoy their bodies and take control of their sexual lives with as much power and autonomy–and pleasure!–as men do.

At the base of the arguments against Planned Parenthood is a belief that women are expected to shoulder extreme consequences for enjoying sex. It implies that pregnancy is a punishment women deserve, and that women who need abortions are irresponsible. The reality is that taking charge of your body is one of the most responsible choices a human being can make, and there are those who believe women aren’t capable of making that decision for themselves. So, I’m sorry if you were irritated or uncomfortable hearing about my sex life. But if you want to control the reproductive rights of women without hearing these essential details of women’s lives, then maybe you shouldn’t kid yourself about how “pro-life” you are. 

Oh, and by the way…..happy HUMP DAY EVERYONE! 🙂

via giphy.com

 

Resisting the Prowling Lion: The Fatal Problem of White Silence

image via http://www.digitaljournal.com/

image of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church via http://www.digitaljournal.com/ compliments of their Creative Commons Share Alike license

Edit 6/19/2015: Some helpful people on Facebook have pointed out to me that the African Methodist Episcopal Church has a very rich history that should not be erased by conflating it with the Episcopal Church. Of course it was not my intention to diminish this history in any way, and I’d like to take a moment to promote that history. You can click here and here for more information about AMEC. Click here for more information about Emmanuel Church, and click here to find an AMEC parish near you. 

First, let me start by saying that I was deeply disturbed by the tragedy in Charleston. The detail that hit home for me was that this church is an Episcopal church. I’ve been an Episcopalian all my life, and I know the evening compline service forwards and backwards. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of liturgy our church has to offer; simple, profound acknowledgment of the presence of God in our daily lives. I imagined the church I grew up in, the only building in the world where I am not afraid of the dark. I’m terrified of dark corners in my own home, but there isn’t a single space of that building that is threatening to me. It is the house of God. I feel God’s presence equally in the basement and in the nave. The violence of having that safety ripped away from you, of the most heinous crime against God being committed in His house, tears at the fibers that are deepest in me. Earlier today I was listening to Mahler 4 with a friend and had to hold back tears when he told me that the symphony is based off of a child’s vision of heaven. Immediately I thought of the child who played dead to avoid being murdered.

When I read this article about Dylann Roof, the Charleston Church Shooter, I read a sentence that brought my reading to a screeching halt and tripped the switch to the alarm bells in my belly. One of his classmates says that Roof made racist jokes frequently, and they didn’t think anything of it at the time.

They didn’t think anything of it at the time.

They didn’t think anything of it at the time.

They didn’t think anything of it at the time.

This right here, white people, is why it is extremely important, life-saving important, world-changing important, to speak up and refuse to let casual racism slide. Because someone who casually and frequently mentions that a group of people are inferior fails to see them as human beings. That loss of humanity is one step away from justifying violence.

People around Roof say that they can’t imagine how this happened, that they never saw it coming. I don’t know about you, but I can see it all too clearly. I can hear him seething a racist comment to his group of friends after school, and I can hear the silence–that heavy, pregnant silence that white people are so good at–permeating the room. Or, perhaps they laughed that uncomfortable laughter, polite laughter, that whites have mastered. Maybe the seed was planted by a racist family member who made a hateful comment at dinner, and the polite change of the subject was not lost on him. And that silence (or laughter) buoyed Roof’s beliefs in white supremacy. It solidified his belief that he was unshakably right.

I’m not saying that the people who heard him and said nothing are responsible for his killing innocent Black Christians who were gathered for prayer. But when white people decide that it is more important to be polite than to confront casual racist remarks, we are making a decision to uphold white supremacy. We can’t call this man a lone gunman, we can’t call this tragedy an isolated incident, when at dinner tables across the country we shrug our shoulders and excuse Uncle Johnny because he’s just a good ol’ boy.

I write a lot on my blog about words, about the importance of what we say, about the coded language white people use. That’s because I sincerely believe that the root of this problem can be solved by white people committing to having difficult conversations with each other. Advocacy doesn’t end when there are no longer any people of color in the room. I believe this event could have been avoided if the people closest to Roof had decided to cross their comfort zone and talk to their white skinbrother about his racist beliefs. When I speak out against racism it’s not just so that I can stand up for POC; it’s so that the other people around me, particularly young people, can hear a worldview in which racism is completely unacceptable. I speak out against racism because I believe that whites can do better.

So, fellow white people, the next time you hear a racist joke or comment, speak up. I’m not saying you have to be a skilled logician ready for a searing word-battle. Shutting down a racist conversation by simply saying, “That’s racist” is a great start. If they squeal and squawk and insist that they aren’t racist, I’m not saying that you have to counter every point they make. All I’m saying is that white people need to drop the pretense of manners and confront racism in our everyday lives. After all, what good are manners when we’re killing each other over the color of our skin? We’re trying to have a damn society here. Who knows how many lives might be saved if we expected more from each other, even at the dinner table and in the school hallway.

I’ll end this blog post with a piece of scripture from 1 Peter 5:8-9 that struck me today. It gave me strength to continue to confront racism in the white people I love and know, to overcome that initial discomfort. If you are Christian or not, I hope this passage gives your strength and comfort in these difficult conversations.

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.

If I Were a Black Kid

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Recently harrowing footage of a police officer brutally attacking a black teenage girl in a bikini went viral. Watching events unfold is nauseating as the officer grabs the barely-clad teenager by the hair and throws her to the ground, proceeding to restrain her with his entire body. When two teenage boys try to help her the officer chases them off–with his weapon drawn.

Luckily no one was killed that day, although roughly 70 individuals were exposed to racist threats by neighbors, were harassed by police, and terrified for their lives.

We are all way too aware of how horribly this could have gone down.

As usual, when footage like this comes out I grit my teeth and hunker down for the onslaught of flippant casually racist bullshit that will spew out of white people’s mouths over this event. I don’t have to go into it. From people actually using the word “n***ers,” to searching for any reason these teens could have been suspected (maybe she had a knife hidden in the five square inches of fabric covering her body!) we’ve all seen the nonsense white people vomit out of their mouths.

But let me address one particularly insidious response:

If I were a black kid, I’d do x, y, and z if I was confronted with the police. 

I’ve seen this argument over and over. One person even wrote on facebook, “Have a sense of preservation, for God’s sake.”

This argument aggravates me to no end because clearly the person making the argument has at least enough creative empathy to go that far. They can at least start a sentence with, “If I were a black kid.” But their little walk in someone else’s shoes stops there, and the rest of that sentence conveys how they would act as a white person. Because let me tell you something, white folks making this argument:

You’re NOT a black kid. This is NOT your experience. Stop pretending.

Saying, “If I were a black kid, I’d get down when a cop told me to get down” implies that you trust your bodily safety to those police officers. It implies that you believe these officers are rational and “must have some reason” to be asking you to get down. It implies that you haven’t seen kid after kid murdered by police. It implies that your first human instinct is to fall down, not to run. It implies that if you behave, you won’t get hurt. We have seen over and over again that this is not the case for black youth who are approached by racist police.

Your response is not empathetic. You are claiming to have insight into the Black experience while refusing to acknowledge the Black experience. Sit down. 

Because the reality is that white people insist with their words and actions that there is no correct way to behave as a black person. Across time in this country white people have used “bad behavior,” from whistling to selling loose cigarettes, as a valid excuse for gruesome violence against black people. In this very instance of the kids at the pool, we have an example of white people calling the police simply because their presence at a pool party was perceived by whites as threatening. It would appear that the only bad behavior here was being in public while black. We used to hang people from trees for this grave transgression. Now, we just call the police.

Fellow white people, don’t be that white person who excuses modern-day lynching. Let’s please NOT use this moment to chastise the teenagers who were injured and traumatized by this officer. There was no excuse for his behavior. The full burden of shame lies on the officer. Instead of inventing useless hypotheticals insisting what we would do if we were black kids, let’s actually exercise our empathy and speak out against racist police. Let’s also speak out against the kind of racism that insists black people are not welcome in white spaces.

No, Seriously, Which Word Should Be Banned in 2015?

If your internet is working, you’ve probably read this moronic piece of brain garbage written yesterday by Katy Steinmetz of TIME magazine listing her least favorite “words” that should be banned. (I say “words” in quotations because four of the fifteen “words” on her list are multiple-word phrases like “said no one ever”, but I digress.) Her list includes innocuous words like “bae” and “obvi,” but of course the number one word people want to ban in 2015 is feminist.

image via feministing.com

image via feministing.com

Yup. Feminist. And of course, 4chan, easily the most woman-hating rape-porn-loving little corner of the internet, has decided to take time out of their rigorous whitehead-popping schedule to cast as many votes as possible against the word “feminist.” Why? Because they are protesting unethical journalism in the gaming community. My eyes are audibly rolling to the back of my head. This is the same group of cretins who doxxed Zoe Quinn, a feminist gamer they decided didn’t deserve the positive feedback she received for her game, because clearly when women are praised it’s because they must be fucking somebody, amirite? 4chan was in the news recently for leaking nude photos of multiple actresses. They’ve also threatened many other women in the gaming field with rape and murder simply for expressing support for Zoe. So. Clearly their ethics are of unquestionable virgin purity. Let’s hear it for ethics!

Steinmetz’s divisive gag-inducing tagline for why “feminist” is on the chopping block doesn’t help.

feminist: You have nothing against feminism itself, but when did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party? Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.

Oh! Okay. It’s not like the GOP just won a landslide in the U.S. on a wave of misogynistic sewage. It’s not like said celebrities were sincerely and seriously sexually violated by the distribution of deeply private photographs. It’s not like the Supreme Court has made staggering decisions this year to make it more difficult for women to make medical decisions for themselves. It’s not like JUST THIS WEEK, Michigan passed a law that women need to have a separate insurance policy to cover an abortion in case they get raped. 

Gosh. Feminists are so annoying. Why can’t they just stick to the issues?

My friends on Facebook have had a field day with this, saying which words and phrases they want banned in 2015. My personal favorites are “Hey baby can I get a smile” and “Let’s ban ‘I’m leaving’ because I never want to be alone again.” Just for funzies, here’s my own little poll for words that should be banned in 2015.

butthurt: Ah, the derisive term that turned the entire internet into a rape joke. I’ve even heard staunch feminists and progressives use “butthurt.” Time for this homophobic, misogynistic catchphrase to go, along with all the people who counter every single argument with it.

feminazi: Can we please just put this one to bed already?

fapp: Hey, you know what this world needs? Another onomatopoeic verb for thirty-five year old men masturbating in their mom’s basement!

hashtag: Don’t get me wrong, hashtag humor has its time and place, but when you’re speaking to someone WITHOUT screens between you and they keep saying “hashtag,” that is just…..awk….ward.

bitchface: Gotta love it when people tell you your face looks like you’re a BITCH when you’re thinking. I don’t have resting bitchface, I have resting thinkface. Deal.

Fall Craft… or “Blair Witch Project?”

twigs

Today I celebrate my first full day of funemployment by doing what the female-funemployed do best: going on a Pinterest binge. Scrolling through fall holiday crafts, because of course I am so, so ready to get my Halloween on. Some of these crafts are hilariously unintentionally creepy. As an avid horror fan, may I present to you: Fall Craft… or Blair Witch Project? You decide!

cones

twine

spidey

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creepywreath

Aaaaand for comparison (some cussing):