Isis Gullette speaking.
(Fight Back! News/staff)
Chicago, IL – On October 31, a student at Jones College Prep (JCP) in Chicago dressed up in Nazi uniform and was allowed to walk across a stage during a “Halloween Costume Showcase.” The video exposing this incident has amassed over 158,000 views. In it, booing can be heard while the student goose steps across the stage and salutes, further solidifying this overt act of antisemitism and white supremacy.
Immediately, members of the Black Student Union at JCP spoke up. They made their concerns clear to the administration, as they had been doing for years, and were told “it’s not that serious.”
Paul J. Powers, the former principal at JCP, took it upon himself to send parents and teachers emails deliberately twisting what had happened. However, it quickly became clear that this was all just an attempt on behalf of Powers to look out for his interests, or in other words, to keep his salary. But the damage had already been done, and the Black Student Union (BSU) wasted no time in calling for a coalition of cultural clubs across campus. To emphasize the role of JCP’s administration in obscuring instances of racism and injustice, the BSU raised the slogan “Admin Always Covers Up” and scheduled a sit-in to take place Monday, November 7.
Support poured in from across the city and from other cities across the country. In Chicago, the Teachers Union called on the principal to resign – and if he didn’t – for him to be removed. The people were fed up, and the now-former principal was gone before the weekend had arrived.
Regardless, the BSU decided to follow through with their action. On Monday, well over 1000 students enrolled at JCP came together to hold their administration accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. Black students were present, brown students were present, white students were present, and students from other schools were present.
After the sit-in, Fight Back! asked a leader of the Black Student Union, Isis Gullette, some questions.
Fight Back!: In the past week, this video has gone viral and been viewed over 100,000 times- but we’ve also heard from student leaders that this is not an isolated incident. What do you have to say about that? Why was this incident in particular the catalyst for removing the principal?
Isis Gullette: I feel like that can be attributed to a variety of things. One, I think something like this had to happen specifically to a white minority group for admin to fully comprehend the intensity of the situation – to understand just how deeply rooted this issue is. Like you said, it’s not an isolated incident. It doesn’t exist within a vacuum, stuff like this has been happening for years and years and even Jones alumni have come forth and talked about their personal experiences with it. So, when you take all that into consideration- this really is just like a catalyst, and just a starting point, because Jones students like myself are fed up.
Fight Back!: Why is it that this was primarily Black led?
Gullette: That’s a really good question. So, from the very get-go, the second that the student walked off the stage wearing his uniform, it was like majority Black students who, for one, were booing him off the stage, and two, went to administration about their concerns with the uniform and the costume. From the get-go, it’s been mainly BSU and the Black coalition that came together to properly address this situation; because of the fact that Black students are usually the ones that step forth in these types of situations to actually speak forth – speak on like the injustice that we face and that we notice that other oppressed groups face.
Fight Back!: One final question. Now that Powers is out, does that mean that this is over? What are the next steps for the BSU? Is this a constant struggle?
Gullette: That’s a really good question. I think this issue is far from over, this is just the beginning. Dr. Powers getting fired wasn’t even really our intent, but it is just a result of the prolonged catastrophe that has been happening in Jones College Prep. For BSU in particular, we plan to get way more organized and just more involved with the school community – looking at the curriculum itself, because we feel like the education, and the way that education has like, failed us, is really important in tackling this issue.