CHICAGO — A group of middle school students are getting a hard lesson in Chicago politics.
Instead of spending their day off school relaxing Monday, they spent it teaching the public about their mission: To change the name of Douglas Park.
They say they’re getting the run around from the Chicago Park District and they aren’t going to take “no” for answer.
“I just feel like at this point we acknowledge that the institution of slavery is wrong, unjust — a black spot on the history of this nation then — he’ll always be known for the work that was done in Bronzeville. His work as a lawmaker. But he doesn’t have to be commemorated in this institution,” said Bianca Jones, a former teacher at Village Leadership Academy.
For nearly three years this group of middle schoolers from Village Leadership Academy has been working to change the name of Stephen Douglas Park to Frederick Douglass Park.
They first made their case to the park district in 2017.
Many of the park’s signs have already been changed by a rogue activist — someone who sneakily added an extra S last year.
“We want it to be permanent because like we don’t want it to wash off like we want it to stay there for forever,” said a student.
They don’t know who did it.
The student activists said they submitted a proposal to the park district board to change the park’s name officially on December 4.
But the Chicago Park District said they never received that request.
They got thousands of supporting signatures and canvassed all over North Lawndale. But still nothing has changed.
“The official process is 45 days to wait on a decision, it’s currently what February 17th and we haven’t heard anything back from the board yet,” said teacher Jennifer Pagan.
They held a teach-in Monday at the Douglas Park Cultural Center to put pressure on the park district.
“We want to be taken seriously as grassroots organizers not just as cute kids who are well spoken.”
“They’re learning a lot about representative government and how bureaucratic a lot of the people are — same skin color — oftentimes don’t have your needs at heart,” said Pagan.
The park district has a meeting Wednesday. The Douglas Park name change is not on the agenda.