Sheryl Black, NAACP-CFSSB
No marching, no protest, no rally…just prayer and unity at the District 215 Administrative Center on Saturday, July 11, 2020.
Thank you to the many students, community members, administrators, and elected officials from Burnham, Calumet City, Lansing, and Lynwood who participated in the Prayer Vigil in support of District 215 School Board’s Statement of Solidarity hosted by the Chicago Far South Suburban Branch of the NAACP. A special thank you to the Lansing Police Department for being on hand to make sure we were safe.
This great time of prayer brought dialogue, unity, and opportunities to build relationships within the four communities served by School District 215. It was encouraging to have school board and/or superintendent representation from most of the elementary districts whose students feed into District 215 from District 154.5 in Burnham, Districts 155 and 157 in Calumet City, District 171 Lansing/Lynwood, and teachers from District 215. It was also encouraging to have Lansing Trustee Maureen Grady-Perovich, Calumet City Clerk Nyota Figgs, and Calumet City Alderman DeJuan Gardner in attendance. Everyone in attendance came with one purpose — to pray for racial equity in District 215.
Mia Pettiggrew 2019 TFS graduate, Raheem Adeyombo 2019 TFN graduate, Keisha Jones parent of TFS alumni, and Alderman DeJuan Gardner courageously shared their experiences and concerns related to the Rebel name at TF South, curriculum and teaching methods, student discipline, equitable hiring, promotion and discipline of staff, community engagement, and equitable school board representation in District 215. Their voices were followed by prayers from four local pastors whose congregations include many from District 215.
Pastor Leroy Childress of Grace Church in Lansing, prayed that District 215 becomes a district where racial literacy and equity is promoted and achieved in terms of district expectations, curriculum, and teaching methods. He also prayed that District 215 becomes a district where student discipline policies and practices are in the best interest of supporting the student’s educational experience and are applied equitably across race.
Pastor David Bigsby of In the Upper Room Ministries in Lansing, prayed that District 215 becomes a district known for building racial equity in terms of hiring, promotion, and discipline of all employees.
Pastor Philip France of Living Grace Church in Lynwood prayed about the necessity of community engagement for school districts. He prayed that District 215 becomes a district where there is broadbased community participation in equity plans so that the input and engagement of all families and community members is sought, valued, and responded to with respect.
Dr. Jeanne King of Christ Community Church in South Holland prayed that District 215 would become a district that seeks equitable school board representation and development of a strategic plan through the lens of racial equity.
Although there were no board members from District 215 in attendance, we are grateful that their June 12, 2020, Statement of Solidarity “acknowledges that racism and racial trauma have deeply impacted District 215 students, families, staff and communities”, that they are committed to “work tirelessly to ensure the educational environment is free from racist acts, words, and policies”, that they recognize the importance of “listening to voices with very different lived experiences”, that they have an “obligation to hold themselves accountable”, and that they “look forward to working together in demanding change and holding those accountable that engage in hateful acts against persons of color”.
It is the hope of all in attendance that this Prayer Vigil has served as a catalyst to unite the Board of Education, the feeder districts and communities of Burnham, Calumet City, Lansing, Lynwood, and the NAACP as one team, working together to improve educational experiences by eliminating racial inequities.
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32
NAACP Chicago Far South Suburban Branch
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