I seem to be getting the reputation of being a big activist when it comes to protests, marches, and rallies. After the NATO conference here in Chicago, one of my co-workers came to me and said he watched the news all weekend to see if he could catch a glimpse of me on TV. While I’m all for a good protest and march, the NATO marches were a bit too unpredictable for me.
I recently had the opportunity to be a part of a historical rally and march. On Wednesday, May 23rd, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) held a State of the Union meeting at the Auditorium Theatre. Leaving the house on Wednesday morning, I said to my dad, “Watch for me on the news tonight.” While I know that is not a normal thing people say to each other, my dad looked at me all decked out in red with my “Proud to be a CTU Member” button on and said, “Okay.”
Inside the theater were 4,000 CTU members all dressed in red. We heard speeches from lawyer and CPS parent Matt Farmer; Rev. Jesse Jackson; IFT President Dan Montgomery; AFT President Randi Weingarten; and CTU President Karen Lewis. I was in awe throughout the whole event. At one point, I was a little choked up just realizing that I got the chance to be a part of something with such a historical significance. It felt so powerful to be a part of a group all in one place for the same cause.
Outside the theater were over 1,500 other members and supporters waiting to start the march. It was great to see groups of nurses and other workers on the sidewalks cheering for us. People in restaurants stopped their dinners and came to the windows clapping and holding up makeshift signs. All in all, the support we received was very positive and overwhelming.
Going in the next day to work, the first thing my administration says to me is, “I didn’t see you on the news.” When in my classroom I asked my students if they watched the news. They said yes, and that they saw the teachers all got together wearing red. They thought about it for a minute and then asked excitedly, “Were you down there Ms. Q? You must have been because you were wearing red yesterday!”
I explained to them that I was downtown with all of the teachers and asked them if they knew why all of the teachers were there. A lot of them did know the reasons and I was so proud of my students for knowing. We continued our conversation by talking about the ideas of fairness and bullying. I was, and still am, impressed about how well my students understood what is going on and their ability to have a wonderful class discussion about it.
So as we continue our contract talks, here in Chicago I know that we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Knowing that the union is united for the cause makes the struggle just a bit easier.