Friday, April 22, 2011

What Got To Me Today: Silencing Voices at Catherine Ferguson High

I have refrained from taking the time to complain in my blog about all of the issues I am having with Michigan's new Governor.  I have refrained from writing about how I feel about appointing Emergency Financial Managers in cities like Detroit and Benton Harbor, and who knows how many others?  I've been quiet about the idea of some business CEO coming in and muting out our elected officials.  I have stayed quiet about Union Busting and tax breaks and the threat to end the film industry. But the schools, Mr. Governor...there are other ways

So I've been quiet until today.  Today I became aware of a public school in Detroit, recently under fire.  Now you might say, "What schools in Detroit aren't under fire?"  But this school is different.  It is inner city. It is a farm. It successfully graduates ninety percent of its students.  It sends 100% of its graduates to college. That's right, ALL of them. Did I mention the graduates are all pregnant teenagers or new teen mothers?

Catherine Ferguson High is named after a woman, a freed slave, who lived in New York in the 1800's.  She dedicated her entire life to the betterment of education in impoverished areas.  The school began with a couple of desks and one playpen, then under The Salvation Army. 

The school in Detroit uses adjacent plots of land for vegetable farming and livestock.  Each student works the farm, in addition to their college prep courses, and then is privy to the fruits it bears.  This, in a place where fresh vegetables aren't exactly plentiful. 

The school offers on-site childcare so these young mothers and mothers-to-be can finish their education and provide a life for themselves and their children.  The idea is to break the cycle.  Give these girls a chance of getting out, to believe they are worth educating, to stop their children from falling into the same situation.  These girls are succeeding.

Did I mention that in order to graduate, students MUST have been accepted into college? 

So back to what got to me today...Catherine Ferguson High is on the chopping block...with many other Detroit schools.  Troubling to say the least.  But what is more troubling is what happened when the girls tried to come together and save their school.  See, last year the school was up for closure and was stopped by communtiy outcry and protests.  Detroit knows this award winning school is a gem within its walls.  They know these girls don't have nearly as good a chance at success without it. 

It makes sense then, when the girls found out about another possible shut down, they gathered at their school to plan a peaceful protest.  During Spring Break, they met up at the school to paint signs to protest.  They were just "planning and preparing for" a protest, they weren't even protesting yet. 

Apparently, they weren't supposed to be gathering and preparing, so the Detroit Police Department showed up to arrest these girls for gathering and preparing?  I'm curious what the charges were?  Perhaps they were having a "sit-in" and there have been many a protester who have been taken away in cuffs for their cause, so perhaps there was indeed a squatting or trespassing charge...that, I get.  If they weren't allowed to be in the building, and refused to leave, then I get it.

But what REALLY irked me was how the arrest was handled.  There happened to be a news crew on site when the arrest took place. keep the camera crews from hearing what the girls were saying, what they were trying to tell the news crews, which in turn would tell the public, the police department blared their sirens to drown out their voices.  So on camera we have police officers putting teenage, pregnant, handcuffed, straight A and B students into their police cars to the tune of voice drowning sirens.  In cuffs or not, these girls have the freedom of speech.  They have every right to express their opinions. 

GRrrr....I get fired up just thinking about it. This is forever my cause.  Nobody has the right to silence another.  We all have our right to free speech. We all have a right to be heard.  We don't have to listen, we don't have to agree, but we ALL have the right to speak our own opinion.  We ALL get a voice. 

Shame on those sirens.  This is what got to me today.

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