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My first day of high school I ate lunch in the bathroom—or at least I tried to. I walked into the bathroom, sat on the sink, and attempted to eat my cheese sticks while I wondered why I couldn’t just be a regular kid. Girls walked in and out, frowning at me and laughing with their friends. I was embarrassed, but I knew that this embarrassment was much better than what awaited me in the intimidating lunchroom.
Recently, I’ve started to realize how different my community is from other people’s.
Have you ever noticed how poor communities of color are portrayed in movies and shows? It is always much worse than how affluent, white neighborhoods are represented. The visual contrasts are vast, and the message is clear-- poor communities of color are different and don’t deserve the same things.These symbolic messages almost always impact our reality, which creates obvious divide between these communities.
The crisp clean floor sparkles with each step my feet make. As I walk through the corridors I can’t help but stare in awe. To my right is a sleek and shiny cafeteria, with fixed round tables and an open space. Looking to my left, my eyes cross in amazement at the state of the art library, jam packed with novels and study areas. I peak out back, through the sturdy gymnasium doors, to find a football field sitting in a bed of emerald vegetation.
Strolling through this alternate educational dimension, reality finally sets in-- I’m visiting a school only 15 minutes away from my own. Immediately, I’m pulled back to the reality of my school. The dread of having to sit on broken desks, in a class not of my choosing. The inadequacy of my school’s “multipurpose” room; a small designated area serving as a crammed gymnasium, lunchroom, and auditorium. The storage closet library my school provides isn’t efficient enough for the 732 students it serves.
Hello everyone, I’m Wally. For most of my school life I’ve been in a district that can’t even afford a proper lunchroom.
You may think that sounds strange, but for me, it’s reality. I never questioned the lack of resources available to me--I thought it was normal.
Here’s a list of a few regular occurrences in my school I pegged as normal:
Using one small room as a gymnasium, lunchroom, and auditorium
Not having a music class
Only being able to use instruments that my teacher could afford to buy us
Not having access to any transportation
Using a small closet for a library
Reading 10-year-old books in that closet
Using broken desks, chairs, and ripped books
Check out the first vlog by Naja Nile from the 482Youth group of 482Forward "Why I Organize" about student organizers. 482Forward is a citywide education organizing network in Detroit. "We are neighborhood organizations, parents, and youth committed to ensuring that all Detroit children have access to an excellent education, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status. Together, we are building power to make systemic change and win educational justice for our communities.
We're looking forward to more blogs and vlogs from 482Forward in the weeks to come!
Check out the first vlog by Naja Nile from the 482Youth group of 482Forward "Why I Organize" about student organizers.
482Forward is a citywide education organizing network in Detroit. "We are neighborhood organizations, parents, and youth committed to ensuring that all Detroit children have access to an excellent education, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status. Together, we are building power to make systemic change and win educational justice for our communities.
If you’ve ever attended a public school, I doubt
you’d call it perfect. I’m Naja,and I’m a product of Detroit’s public school system. I know firsthand what it’s like to be in a class of 45, with 40 desks to sit at, 30 textbooks (often decades old), and a seemingly permanent substitute teacher. I know what it’s like to open a math book to do homework, only to have the page I need ripped out. I know how frustrating it is to call a friend for clarity on material, only to realize they’re having the same problem, and it isn’t either of our faults. I know how difficult it is to learn science in a classroom full of students wearing coats and hats because the school can’t afford to fix the heating. I know how it feels for your school to permanently close without warning, to then be forced to travel an hour to a new school, sitting three to a seat on a hot school bus every day. Like I said, public schools aren’t perfect, and Detroit’s system is no different.