History Teacher Jeff White arranges tour of significant Chicago sites
by Melanie Jongsma
CHICAGO, Ill. (April 17, 2018) – The Bishop Ford Freeway, Beaubien Woods, Pullman porters, Oakwood Cemetery, elevated trains, the stockyards, Bronzeville, Prairie Avenue, Harold Washington, Dearborn Station, Union Station, Lou Mitchell’s, the Obamas’ Hyde Park home, Valois Restaurant—these people and places are all significant parts of the story of Blacks in America. History Teacher Jeff White included them all, and more, on a special tour he offered to Illiana students last week.
The tour was inspired by a student club called Better Illiana through Better Understanding, which is facilitated by Senior Aerial Shaffer. The club worked to involve the whole student body in a variety of observances of Black History Month this past February, including panel discussions, a “river mural” of meaningful quotes, and special chapel services. White’s tour was originally planned for a Saturday during Black History Month, but student sports schedules, theater rehearsals, and other commitments made it difficult to find a day that worked for everyone who was interested. So Principal Peter Boonstra agreed to allow the tour to be offered during a school day.
On Thursday, April 12, 37 students and 2 teachers boarded an Illiana bus at 7:30am. They spent the next seven hours listening, observing, taking photos, and expanding their understanding of the Black experience in Chicago and the south suburbs.
This was the first time White had given this particular tour, and depending on student response, it may become a regular part of his tour repertoire. The group packed a lot of stops and a lot of information into a single school day, and White hoped to debrief with the students and other teachers to find out which, if any, stops should be eliminated or shortened.
However, if Aerial Shaffer’s reaction is representative of her classmates’, it may be difficult to make the tour any shorter. “The trip was awesome,” she said via email the following week. “I thought it was a great way to celebrate African-American history. I learned a lot of information about the history of the area around me—from the minute we got on the bus until the end of the tour.”
Illiana Christian High School is currently located at 2261 Indiana Avenue in Lansing. For more information, call 708-474-0515.