Nine-year-old Asean Johnson speaks out against Chicago Public Schools closings

During a rally earlier this week opposing the closing of 54 schools in the CPS district, one 9-year-old stepped up to the mic with some powerful words that have quickly gained him national attention.

Asean Johnson, a third grader at Marcus Garvey Elementary School, passionately explained why he thinks the school closings are wrong during his speech. By the end, he had the whole crowd chanting “Education is a right, that is why we have to fight” and cheering for the young activist.

The video is a must-watch. We expect this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing about Asean Johnson.

The Video Catalyst Project, who posted the video of Asean’s rally speech, also interviewed him in a separate video.

During the interview, Asean said he didn’t understand why his school was being closed and that it met CPS requirements.

“My school is a great school. Its an exceptional school… We have everything that CPS says that it wants us to have. We have computer labs, we have an award-winning garden, we have several science labs, we have SEL, we have air conditioning throughout the whole building. So I don’t know why they’re trying to close some schools that have everything they say they want all the schools to have.”

We also found a video of Asean explaining why SEL is important in his school.

Today, CPS announced that four schools, including Marcus Garvey Elementary, have been spared from closure. The other schools that will not be closed are Mahalia Jackson Elementary School, Leif Ericson Elementary Scholastic Academy and George Manierre Elementary School.

If Marcus Garvey had been closed, Asean said he would have attended Mount Vernon Elementary, just a few blocks south. During the interview, Asean said he was concerned about the potential move.

“I think its pretty bad. They do not like us. If they send us behind a gang territory where the kids don’t like us, what do you think it’s going to be? Violence or safety?”

Gang territory crossovers have been a frequently voiced concern during the debate over school closings.

The Chicago Board of Education is meeting today to decide the fate of the remaining 50 schools on the closing list.

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