Be Strong, Speak up and People Will Listen

My Senior year of high school was full of AP classes, college courses that I was taking to try to eliminate courses I would need when I actually got into college.  Everyone in my school took Psych AP.  EVERYONE.  They all said the teacher was fantastic, the course itself was so interesting and best of all most of my friends would end up in my class with me!

In high school, I wasn’t the activist I was now.  I thought a lot of things and wanted to get involved but I never really had the confidence to do so.  I remained silent.

The very first day in my Psych class, we went through the usual introductions and met our outspoken teacher.  He was the kind of teacher full of energy and willing to push the rules a slight bit….

We began our very first class discussion about the differences between men and women.  As he lectured the topic slowly shifted to the reasons why men’s sports were much better than women’s.  Men were more entertaining and better athletes.  He just went on and on and on, bringing up ‘facts’ about how all the major games are men’s sports, the majority of the money from the school is received by the men’s teams, maybe if women’s teams were better athletes, they’d have more viewers, women’s sports were a joke.

I sat there stunned.  My heart was racing and more than anything I wanted to just scream at him, how dare he say that?  Those were blatantly sexist statements!  Women’s sports were a joke???????  I just sat there dumbfounded with my mouth open, looking around to see if anyone else was as surprised as I was and I wasn’t alone.

He continued bringing up what he called ‘facts’ and finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  He said “women aren’t even in racing because they can’t do it.” and that was my last straw.  As many of you know, I was raise around Drag Racing and was always well aware of how women were viewed in the sport.

My hand shot into the air.  It was like it flew up all on its own, I had absolutely no control over it.  He paused and looked at me and said yes?  I told him “You know you’re wrong.  Shirley Muldowney began racing cars in the 1970s, she was a top fuel driver and men in the sport told her to get back to the kitchen where she belonged but she never listened to them and beat them.  Rhonda Hartman-Smith was another woman racing top fuel, Angelle Sampey races motorcycles and Melanie Troxel is coming back into the sport.  Who told you women can’t race cars?”

It just came out of my mouth and there was no way to stop it.  Just like my hand, it was a knee-jerk reaction, it just happened.  I had never spoken out like this to anyone, ESPECIALLY to a teacher or any adult in an authoritative position.  That statement stopped the few boys from laughing in the class and several more girls began to speak out.  However, it didn’t phase our teacher at all, he tried to argue with me and just make a complete joke of what I had just said.

The worst class in the entire world finally ended and I just unleashed my thoughts about this teacher to my friends who were with me.  How could everyone like him so much when he is so rude and narrow minded!!?? 

That night I went on my computer and made a list starting in the early 1900s of women in racing and their accomplishments, stapled it together and was ready for battle the next class period.

We all sat down, waiting and then he entered the room.  He started by saying he wanted to talk about yesterday’s lecture and I prepared to raise my hand again.  Then he dropped the bomb, it was an experiment, he didn’t actually believe any of what he said.  My mind was blown.  He went on to explain different concepts that applied to reactions by the class.  Then we continued our studies. He was not the horrible sexist monster I had battled with the day before!  He ended up being one of the greatest teacher I had during my high school career.

At the end of class, I went up to him and I told him I almost dropped the class! He told me that I surprised him, I seemed quiet and not the person to speak out first.  I laughed and presented him the list I made the night before to which he laughed and leafed through the pages.  He said “I like your dedication, you’re smart, you know how to argue.”

It was a long while after my senior year in high school, not until my senior year in college, that I remembered that I have a voice too.  I can speak my mind, I can argue intelligently about topic.  Instead of living a life of self doubt, lacking the confidence to say what we feel, we should all remember how capable we are and how our actions affect those around us.  I was the first to speak up in class during this experiment and after me other girls followed.  What if I had said nothing?  Would anyone have tried to say something?

Change happens when one person speaks.  That’s all that is needed, one person to raise their hand.  I’m not saying I changed the world in the slightest by that class room demonstration.   However people often say 2 things to me

1.Why do you keep talking about this stuff, nothing you do is going to change anything.

2. You should really just stop talking about this stuff.  Stop pulling out the feminist card (latina card, white card and the list goes on, who knew I was carrying so many cards with me?) every 5 seconds.  The only reason these problems like exist is because people of you keep going on and on and on and on about them.  If you just stop people will forget about it and they will be fine.

Each time these things are said to me, I remember that when one person speaks, those with similar beliefs go to them and then a group is formed.  That group grows and grows and grows until major changes are be made.  That is a fact.

I will never stay silent because as a society have the ability to change.  We have come so far, but there’s more to be done, not only in the states but around the world where women aren’t so lucky.

Don’t let lack of support or criticism of your voice ever stop you.  Be strong, speak up and people will listen.

♥ Meggie

Chicago Schools are Disappearing

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while, I’ve just been so busy with school and my internship, I haven’t had time to sit and write about this pressing issue, something that needs to be addressed.

In Chicago, our Mayor has decided to close down 54 schools, 54 Chicago Public Schools and move all of those kids to different schools in other areas.  Why is this a problem?  Why should we be upset?  They are just moving to a different school right?

Wrong, the school that are being closed down, guess where they are, low-income neighborhoods.  Now these kids have to travel farther to school through very very dangerous neighborhoods.  These neighborhoods are plagued with violence and that is just a news story, that is just what you hear when you live near Chicago or any other large city, each has their own share of crime, but suburbanites like myself aren’t apart of that life so it’s a story.

Put yourself in their shoes, think of these kids, living through what they do every single day of their life!!!!  Really think!  Imagine growing up where gunshots are the soundtrack to your life and seeing those around you disappear, either innocent victims of violent crimes or getting involved in something they shouldn’t because they see no other way out. Imagine going to a Chicago Public School,  it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the education they are receiving is not great.  Don’t get me wrong, you can always do something with your life if you apply yourself even in CPS, however, this school system does not give these kids the support they need.  These kids are constantly being told no, whether it is indirectly or directly, facing these obstacles in society or facing prejudice because they are those kids from those neighborhoods, they are just criminals right? No worth, no future so why invest time in them?

I’ll tell you exactly why.  They are our future, they are children who deserve love and a chance in life, they deserve positivity and people who look at them and say good job, I can’t wait to see you go to college, I can’t wait to see the picture you drew today, I can’t wait to put your ‘A’ paper on the fridge, I can’t wait to see you every day succeed in the struggles you face that most of us know nothing about.

Look at my life for example.  I live in the suburbs, I have a perfect, loving family who smiles and has fun and fights and yells and laughs, we do everything, each day loving each other even more than before.  I went to elementary school completely carefree and then middle school, where I got my first experience in real life.  A boy in my 7th grade class, one who I tried to tutor and spend time with during school, helping him with studies, even though he wouldn’t listen most of the time.  He was very smart, just unmotivated.  He overdosed on meth and was gone.  That was scary and unexpected and sad.

Then I went to high school, walked there every day, the most I had to worry about was it being too cold outside or too hot on my walk to school, but most days Mom drove me because of how heavy my book bag was.  We did have security guards in school and a few arms police officers, but nothing huge.  There were fights, but nothing terrible ever happened.  No one was killed, no one had knives or guns, there were no gangs.  I did really good grade wise, good enough to get a large academic scholarships to a private college along with a piano scholarship, once again my entire family and all of my friends supported and backed me even though I felt lost, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  Now, I’m graduating, have an internship at a nonprofit and I love when I’m doing with my life.

I’ve had my struggles, I watched as my grandmother’s health slowly deteriorated as lung cancer took her life and I watched my grandfather slowly lose his memory.  I’ve watch my mother struggle after her 3rd back surgery which left her with incredibly complex and painful nerve problems because her surgeon did not do everything he should have.  I’ve had my own problems I’ve had to deal with, but I have never been shot at, I’ve never even heard a gun shot in real life.  I’ve never seen any drug use or been exposed to that life directly, I’ve never lost anyone to violence.  I’ve never been afraid to play in my front yard, or leave my house for that matter.  I’ve never been afraid to go out at night, or walk down certain street.  I don’t worry about the people on that side of the street who hate the people on my side of the street or have been afraid of people that stand on the street corners “conducting business”, because we don’t have that where I live.  We take these things for granted because we don’t have to worry about small things like this, these kids do.  At a certain point you know right from wrong and can make your own decisions, but can we blame a 10-year-old for getting involved in negative, awful things he or she sees every single day of their life?  Shouldn’t we be working to keep that out of their life and keep the positive in?

Now with the closing of these schools, kids have to walk farther from their homes, through gang infested areas, areas afflicted with the disease of drugs, infection of gambling and scarred by bullet casings and the lives they took.  This is what they’ll be forced to walk through as they try to get an education.  I urge you to click here and watch this video of a group of mothers and students who take a walk, the walk that their kids will now have to take to their new school, an extra 12 blocks through sidewalks with needles and alcohol bottles on the ground, but luckily no one was outside because they went on a “good day”.

Now the reason that our Mayor is doing this is to work on decreasing a $1 billion deficit (click here for that article).  I think there can be a better solution that taking away schools for kids who live in extremely dangerous areas. The Mayor has also just approved the building of a condominium in the River North area (a hot real estate location in our city) that costs $29 million.  We don’t need another condo complex or at least that project can wait so our children can have their schools, their education which affects their future.  Here is are two articles (click here and here) about the building of this condo complex if you would like to read about it.  It was difficult to find information about it.  The first is definitely against the building of this condo and the second article I found because it is neutral on the subject, even a bit supportive, which is very important to me, to find an article that isn’t necessarily written to fit my argument, but I want to demonstrates both sides.  However I still think it’s clear, we could use the money for something else, like keeping our children safe.

They want to remove these schools because they are under utilized.  I read one article, I believe it is the article that had the video about the walk to the schools, that suggested that half of the school should be a community center, or an area where adults can get their GED or something like that and I think a community center would be a great idea.  Not only that, these kids won’t have to put themselves in more danger by walking farther to school and they’d have a safe place to go after school.  I know an idea like this would need man power, however it’s better than closing schools and exposing these kids to even more danger than they already are exposed to.

I would like to finish this entry with this, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I challenge you to walk the path these kids will have to.  Do it without your security guards, without police officer, at night, during the day, walk as an average person and as you walk, picture yourself as a child.  Let’s see how much you agree with this idea after walking on these streets with out your guards or you money protecting you, seeing what these kids live through on their street that you are forcing them every day, the dangers you are exposing them to.

This is frustrating and upsetting and I don’t even understand how anyone could make this decision, putting our youth, our future, our children in danger like this.  Their life is hard enough and dangerous enough as is, do you honestly want to put them in more danger?  I’m in the process of writing a letter the Mayor, expressing my anger and shock at his poor decision.  Below is the address for the mayor’s office if you would like to join me in my anger and frustration at this absurd decision.  Even if you don’t live in Chicago and agree that this is an awful idea, write a letter too because if you don’t agree with this, you wouldn’t want your city using Chicago as an example to do something similar if the debate ever arose.

Remember always and forever, every single decision you make, big or small, it will always affect someone else, so before you make it, take a walk in their shoes and really think about the people.

Mayors Office: Mayor Rahm Emanuel

121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago City Hall 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602