Phillip Jackson is the founder of Black Star Project, a youth social services organization on Chicago’s south side. He has a unique vantage point from which to observe the young people who’ve been organizing against police brutality since the Laquan McDonald videos have been revealed.
“Laquan McDonald, if he hadn’t been shot 16 times what would his life be like?” Jackson asks. “So we think the crime is, well, he was shot 16 times and then died. Is that the crime? Or is the crime that whether he was shot or not he really doesn’t have a life worth living…And so in a sense we’re the criminals. We’re the ones…who are responsible for Laquan, not his being shot down, but for him being in that position.
And Jackson views the protest movement that emerged after the video’s release as something extraordinary, possibly historic.
“Maybe we can compare what happened on North Michigan Avenue to the beginning of the bus boycott in Montgomery as a catalyst for a different kind of movement,” he asserts..
Some highlights from this week’s show are below, or you can read the complete transcript here: CN transcript Dec 17 2015
On the youthful protesters on Michigan Avenue, Black Friday
Well, as a person who works with young people, who respects young people, I don’t think that these young people per se look at themselves as moving into the political space. Now the space that they’re moving in does actually impact politics, but they’re moving into a different space. They’re moving into a real human rights, civil rights “revolutionary space”, and yes, it will impact politics, but they are not right now making a conscious effort to go into the political space. However, their actions are now scaring a lot of politicians to stay up late at night and get up early in the morning to try to understand what these young people are doing.
They are also picking up on the late Dr. Martin Luther King in the purest sense of the word. I was so proud of those young people…I was so proud of those young people, the way that they actually executed the plan, executed the boycott, executed the marches. Dr. Martin Luther King, one of the few times that I can imagine, would be smiling down and saying, “That’s what I would have done.”
Now, it’s created some issues because there is an older leadership structure in the community [laughs] and they’ve been doing things the same way for 40-50-60-70 years and they want to continue doing things pretty much the same way. That’s not this new generation. This new generation, I mean they’re on something different. They may go left, they may go right, they may go up, they may go down.
On the future for Chicago’s black youth:
Nothing is going to change in Chicago when we say, well you know we want more black policemen. Well okay, we want more black policemen. But in Chicago only 7% of black boys read at a proficient level in the 8th grade. That means you’re not going to have black policemen. It means you’re not going to have a black middle class and so it’s wonderful to want it, but unless you start doing the things now that are going to impact this City 15-20-25-30 years from now there’s not going to be change.
On CPS plans to close the Betty Shabbaz/Barbara Sizemore Academy
Now the City as a whole, 7% of black boys read at a proficient level in the 8th grade. Well at this school that the Chicago public schools has decided to close 71% of the black boys… read at or above grade level. And so you know, as you and I well know over the past few years how many superintendents have we had, how many administrations have we had? But these people are making decisions about closing effective schools. And granted, Barbara Ann Sizemore is not perfect, but the black community, and I’m going to take the liberty today to speak for the black community, the black community would rather have 50 Barbara Ann Sizemores than many of these other schools that are in our community and it’s being closed. And so a question that we kind of talked about is can this Mayor create the kind of reforms that the City needs in order to move forward? And I believe that he’s getting bad advice from all the wrong advisors.
On the future of education for Chicago’s black children
What I am saying is that for the past 10-20-30-40-50-60 years what I’m saying is that education in Chicago, education in America has failed black children, so I am saying that, totally. Now, I’m saying well, what works? What works to educate black children? So I’m not sold on the charter model. I’m not sold on our current public education model. I’m not sold on the voucher model, but I don’t hear other people asking the question that I’m asking – what works to educate the children who are least educated in our City? What works to educate the children who if they are properly educated and successfully educated, they will add the most value to our City. No one is asking that question.
If we’ve got to close every school – charter, public, catholic, etc., in order to come up with a way to successfully educate black children I’m willing to do that as well, or I’m willing to work with whoever, whether it’s the teachers, the principals, the gangbangers, preachers. We will work with anyone who can help us create a viable education model, and let me tell you why. Nothing is going to change for black Chicago if education doesn’t change.
On family life
The family is the building block of society. If you don’t have strong families, you don’t have strong bricks in order to build your house. We do not have strong families in the black community, and I see almost no attention going to that.
On the role of gangs
The best mentors in the black community, it’s not the Boys and Girls Club, it’s not the Big Brothers Big Sisters, it’s not the churches. The best mentors in the black community are the street gangs. Gangster Disciples, black stones, four corner hustlers, vice lords, those are our best mentors. I mean those are the people who make the most commitment and most effort to bring young black boys into their organizations.
It’s not a thought, it’s a reality. And so until we can actually create a system that can defeat that system very little is going to change. Once again, I see lip service being paid to it. ‘Oh we should mentor our boys. Oh black boys need mentors.’ That’s lip service.