Monthly Archives: December 2013

Watch Video from Our 50th Anniversary Event

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Here’s the video from our event, Lessons from ’63 Boycott:  The Struggle for Quality Education in Chicago Then and Now.  Panelist names and descriptions below the video.

Lessons from ’63 Boycott was held at the DuSable Museum of African American History on October 22nd, 2013.  The event drew over 450 people.

Tell us what your favorite moments were from that evening or from the panel in the comments box below!


Panelists (from left to right):

In 1963, Rosie Simpson was the mother of six young children and a leader in education reform in Chicago. She is believed to have coined the phrase “Willis Wagons” to describe the trailers that then-superintendent of schools Benjamin Willis set up for black children instead of sending them to white schools. She was one of the lead organizers of the 1963 Boycott and went on to work for the Packing House Workers Union, The Woodlawn Organization, and the Urban League.

Timuel Black is a revered educator, political activist, community leader, oral historian, and philosopher, born in the south and raised in Chicago. He is a pioneer in the independent black political movement and coined the phrase “plantation politics.” Dr. Black is among the original organizers of the 1963 Boycott of the Chicago Public Schools. He was chosen to organize the Chicago contingent of the two “Freedom Trains” for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Fannie Rushing served as a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field secretary and Freedom School teacher from 1962 to 1966. Rushing is currently an associate professor in the Department of History at Benedictine University and the Co-Chair of the Chicago SNCC History project.

Elizabeth Todd-Breland is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her teaching and research focuses on 20th-century U.S. urban and social life, African American history, and the history of education. Her book manuscript, tentatively titled A Political Education: Black POlitics and Education Reform in Post-Civil Rights Chicago, analyzes transformations in Black politics, shifts in modes of education organizing, and the racial politics of education reform from the late 1960s to the present.

Jasson Perez is a Chicago-born organizer and former student of Chicago Public Schools. As a high school dropout and formerly incarcerated youth, Perez discovered on a personal level what’s at stake when schools become a pipeline to prison. Perez worked as a labor organizer with SEIU Local 73, working with the support staff at Chicago Public Schools in the fight against school closings since 2004 when CPS announced Renaissance 2010. He currently serves as Co-Chair of BYP100, Black Youth Project’s nationwide network of one hundred young black activists working to build a transformative justice movement that centers on a feminist, queer, differently-abled, and decolonial praxis.

Jitu Brown is the education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). Born and raised in the Rosemoor neighborhood on the far south side of Chicago, Jitu attended Wendell Smith Elementary School and Kenwood Academy High School. Jitu also teaches African-American history at St. Leonard’s Adult High School. A believer in working locally and thinking globally, Jitu has taken youth leaders from KOCO to the United Nations, to the Passamaquoddy Native American reservation in Maine and to the UN Conference on Racism in South Africa. He has been published in the national education magazine Rethinking Schools, appeared in Ebony magazine and on several talk shows, including WBEZ’s Community Voices, Democracy Now and CLTV’s Gerard McClendon Live.

Trayce Matthews (moderator) is a historian, curator, and documentary filmmaker. She is currently the associate director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago, where she served as a Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in 2004-2005. Matthews is the co-producer of ’63 Boycott.

The spoken word piece “Multiple Choice” was performed by Malcolm London. Malcolm, called the Gil-Scott Heron of this generation by Cornel West, is a young Chicago poet, activist, and educator. Winner of Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Festival 2011 and member of UCAN’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, he is a teaching artist through Northwestern Bluhm Legal Clinic and Young Chicago Authors introducing poetry workshops and performances linked to juvenile and social justice to hundreds of youth.

Video by Alex Skalomenos.