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Little Village Mothers Begin Hunger Strike for New High School

On Mothers' Day, Little Village residents began a hunger strike at 31st and Kostner to protest the City’s failure to build a much-needed high school at the site. Schools Chief Paul Vallas promised the school 3 years ago but has since stalled the project. Residents blame local politicians for the delay -- and their patience has been exhausted. Photos: Dawn Roberts
[Photos: Dawn Roberts]

On Sunday, May 14, a group of mothers from the Little Village community began a hunger strike to protest the Board of Education's continuing delay in constructing a promised -- and long overdue -- high school at a vacant lot on 31st & Kostner. Little Village residents, parents and youth have taken over the site, and have vowed to continue their fast and protest until the Board and schools chief Paul Vallas live up to their commitment. 14 parents have joined the hunger strike and have vowed not to eat until Vallas agrees to build the high school at the agreed upon location.

Vallas had tentatively agreed to meet with the hunger strikers on Tuesday, but the prospects for a meeting fell apart after strikers said the meeting needed to be held at either 31st and Kostner or in a neutral location -- and Vallas backed out.

"We cherish the thought of a better future for our children," says hunger striker Maria Elena Lee-Patino. "This high school provides us hope for a much better future than we have today. Why can't we get our promised high school?"

The Board of Education promised to build the high school three years ago, at the same time they promised to build two other schools, Walter Payton High and North Side Prep. While Payton and North Side Prep have been built and opened, the Board has yet to find and allocate funding for the Little Village school.

The hunger strikers argue that the broken promises of the Board, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois undermine the needs of Little Village youth and the community, and constitute little more than abandonment. Residents have also charged that the delays are both political and strategic, and say that Mayor Daley and his 'puppet' Latino representatives -- Ald. Danny Solis, State Senator Tony Munoz, State Rep. Eddie Acevedo & State Rep. Susana Mendoza -- are stalling the project to discredit the local alderman, an independent. But residents are not backing down.

"Our hunger strike will not end until we see results," says hunger striker Linda Zarate. "Promises need to be kept and Mayor Daley needs to understand that we love our children enough to be out here in the cold for them."

Daley's vaunted political machine and his personal Latino patronage army, HDO -- the Hispanic Democratic Organization -- aggressively targeted independent State Senator Jesus Garcia and independent State Rep. Sonia Silva for defeat. Residents argue that since the two were ousted the Little Village community has struggled to receive the resources it deserves. They charge Daley and his 'Mexican puppets' with dragging on the project to discredit 22nd Ward Ald. Rick Munoz, an ally of Garcia and Silva and one of the few remaining independent voices in City Hall, in the upcoming 2002 aldermanic elections -- at the expense of the community and local youth.

"This is just another tool to criminalize our youth and our community," charges youth organizer Rudy Lozano, who supports the hunger strikers. "The mayor recently cut over 15,000 summer jobs for youth, has re-instated the anti-gang loitering ordinance and is now with the help of the Latino sellouts blocking the construction of a much needed high school in Little Village. The residents and youth of Little Village will stand for it no longer! If anything happens to these 14 individuals who have put their lives and jobs at stake it is Paul Vallas, Mayor Daley and the sellouts we have to blame."

Protesters have been staging daily rallies and press events, and plan to hold a mass on the site this week in conjunction with the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

1. Come support the 14 hunger strikers at 31st & Kostner
2. Call Paul Vallas @ 773-553-1500 to demand that the high school be built now -- and ask where the money went to construct the high school.

For more information, contact Manuel Heredia at 773-401-1040 or 773-447-1764.



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