On the last Monday of August, more than 400,000 students in the
Chicagoland area embarked on their first day of school. It was then
that parents in predominantly black and Hispanic communities first
took notice of the 600 community members hired to stand on corners
within the neighborhoods - in yellow reflective vests - as a part
of our Mayor's
Safe Passage program.
When the program was first announced I was adamantly against it.
It reeked of marking certain Chicago neighborhoods as dangerous
conduits to schoo l- as if these children go through war zones and
Let's not mince words. It's not that I don't think that the
issue of our children living and going to school in dangerous areas
exists. I just wish that this wasn't another way to separate our
children even more and make the problem even more glaringly
apparent. Your neighborhood sucks, ours doesn't. Your neighborhood
doesn't have people that care about you, ours does. Your
neighborhood schools don't have all of the cool stuff that ours
does. It's just so . . . yuck.
The blaring yellow signs that were put up throughout the city's
west and south side neighborhoods is something else that I have an
issue with. To me, it intensifies the segregation that so many
people swear we don't have. If the sole issue were really one of
safe passage, why not put the signs on all school walking routes?
Why not hire people to stand guard on the north side of the
I attended school on the North side. I went to one of the best
elementary schools in the city. Yet I still remember the dangers
during my time. One of my young classmates was sexually assaulted
by an older guy in an alley when she was in fifth grade. I just
want our city to not target a specific area for "safe passage" when
all of our children - no matter what neighborhood they live or go
to school in - deserve it. Don't instill a sense of danger
automatically. Maybe I'm wrong. Or just looking at it from the
wrong perspective. Who knows?
I am happy to say that the pleasant surprise that came out of
all of this are the safe passage workers posted all over walking
routes. The gentleman posted on our son's route looks out for him
and so far we've had plenty of conversations. During the horrible
heat wave, we would bring him iced water during his shifts. Why is
this important, you may ask? Because it encourages parents and the
community alike to talk to each other, to get to know those
surrounding them, to become, dare I say it, neighborly.
I'm not sure where I'll stand come the end of this year, but for
now, although I was against the program initially, I'm liking where
I still hate the yellow signs though.
Natasha is 1/6 of the Nicholes clan who live in the heart of the city. She's a mother of four and the wife of a husband she met in 8th grade. Passionate about being heard, she started blogging when she found out she was having twins. Now she blogs because she's addicted.
See more of Natasha's stories here.
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