Voices from School Communities: George Washington High School

 In Scott Sikkema, Voices from School Communities

Voices from School Communities began with a query sent by email on June 8, in reference to the murder of George Floyd and national protests. The email read, in part: “I would like to see if it’s possible to share voices directly from school communities, voicing perspectives from students, parents, teachers, artists, administration…whether it be thoughts, feelings, questions, beliefs. What are you hearing from students? Parents? How are you thinking about teaching to these events? What are your perspectives or struggles or questions as educators and artists?”

Many organizations are issuing statements, and while we support this, the CAPE program staff felt that it is essential to put forward the ideas and inquiries and emotions of our partners who work in our schools and who live in the surrounding neighborhoods.

This week, we are sharing words and images from George Washington High School (GWHS) students Erica, Jessica, Abril, Esmeralda, Giavanna, Daniela, Jovana, Kristal, Viviana, Yasmin, and Sofia. They collaborate together with their on-staff art teacher Kathryn Peterman and teaching artist Ben Murray in a CAPE/GWHS after-school program that began in 2015.

-Scott Sikkema, CAPE Education Director

We started a student-led mural project 2 years ago that sought to represent historic moments and people that have made change happen over the last 100 years in the U.S. that was set to be installed this spring in the East Side of the school. Since the project was paused due to Covid-19, and so much has happened since—we decided to adapt the project to incorporate the important events we are currently living in, and give the students the opportunity to reflect on them in real time. The image with text is a part of the drafting process from their after school visual art club. “New Ideas for Mural Additions” adds to the mural plans they already had created prior to pandemic and George Floyd killing; these are additions in response to these events.

-Ben Murray

Here are some of [the students] reactions and responses from our last two classes:

  • Promote and spread love; not hate.
  • Being quiet = being complicit.
  • It’s okay to feel confused.
  • Speak out against racism and injustice.
  • Become politically active and VOTE.
  • Elect leaders who are fair, just, and want what is best for all races.
  • Violence and destruction caused by looters and rioters is not okay and will only hurt our communities (especially businesses owned by POC).
  • Hold people accountable for their actions (Police Officers, as well as everyone else).
  • Call friends and family out. Have those uncomfortable conversations.
  • Become an ally.

-Kathryn Peterman

We thank students Erica, Jessica, Abril, Esmeralda, Giavanna, Daniela, Jovana, Kristal, Viviana, Yasmin, and Sofia, and we thank Kathryn and Ben. We will continue to share thoughts from our network of Artist/Researchers having conversations in school communities throughout Chicago.

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