On Wednesday, February 17th, a college student rally took place in Springfield, Illinois in front of the Capital Building. During the three-hour bus ride, most students anticipated the outcome of the Governor’s State Address. CSU students arrived at approximately 11:15am while the other Illinois college institutions awaited their arrival. Chicago State Student Leader, Charles Preston, then begins to walk to the podium to give a speech on the financial crisis plaguing Illinois.
“This is a call to address the injustice in the face of it! This is a call for the students to continue to organize, rally, make noise, and demand the Governor (Rauner) to do his damn job and to get a budget signed. Also, to demand MAP Grant funding to the students at the state universities,” Preston began. He then stated, “Coming up here today, I realize how blessed I am to be with a group of students that is often looked down upon as the worst. Chicago State has been bashed by such Governor with racist statistics and along with the bashing of our administration. We came all the way from Chicago where we experience divested communities, the closing of 50 schools, the closing of half of Chicago’s mental health clinics and now (they’re) trying to take a public university in the black community of Chicago; a community that is in a food desert, a university that curves the gun violence within Chicago. Chicago State was named one of the safest campuses in the U.S.” Mr. Preston spoke very passionately, on what is taking place within Chicago State, as most students are fighting for their livelihood. Therefore, he states, “We must call it what it truly is, it is unlawful. We should not be here today. We should be in class. We should be giving our professors a hard time (laughs) being students.”
Illinois has gone 8 months without a budget. Preston questioned what would politicians tell people who have lost their jobs, along with concerned students, administration, faculty, and citizens. “We’re here to not play with them like they play with us; they’ve been playing political chess with us back and forth, republican and democratic. Today, we’ve had enough!” Preston demanded. Thus, he called for solidarity with the variety of institutions that are affected by such hardship. A variety of student leaders that were in attendance spoke on behalf of their institutions, namely, Governor State, Eastern Illinois University, Harper University etc.
On their way into the Capital building, the students shouted a variety of chants; Chicago State’s Students were the dominant group and let their voices be heard with such chants, mainly, “No budget, no peace,” and “Killing all the poor, he’s hiding behind that glass door”. CSU President Dr. Calhoun also came along to show his support of the students’ rally, while addressing the need of a budget. Politics have determined how a student achieves their education, which students do not approve of such game. Chicago State University means more to these students than just a school, it is their home and without CSU, they do not have anywhere to go; they do not want to go anywhere else. This institution place students in an environment, whereas, they do not have to look for any acceptance and they can live within their natural self, along with cultivating their culture.
In the midst of the protest, as the students were chanting, Chicago State Student Leader Charles Preston was assaulted by a Springfield official. Such words were exchanged, “You can’t shout here.” Mr. Preston states, “My first amendment says different” and then the officer declares, “That’s it, you’re done”. Mr. Preston demanded Officer Moore to get off him, as there was not any wrongdoing. However, Chicago State University Professors intervened in the matter to help their student; as such, professors are mentors to their students. Professors shielding their students from hostility is seen often on campus, which makes Chicago State University so valuable and precious to the black community. Thus, Mr. Preston began a Mic Check, “Officer Moore said we can’t chant in this building; I suggest that we chant in this building”. The students then proceeded with their hands up and chanted along.
Thereafter, The Black Caucus addressed the media and suggested that they cannot allow such leadership to come out of Illinois and they refuse to be a part of the shenanigans. While expanding that the Governor did not have the courage to address MAP funding. They further stated they would stand together, as there is an attack on Black Lives Matter and other matters must be approached carefully. Hence, they have concerns that the Governor is not addressing the needs of the community. The Black Caucus will go on to answer quite a few questions. However, as Toi Hutchinson was at the podium, Mr. Preston asked The Black Caucus, “Why can’t the democrats get the supermajority to override the veto and who should the activists specifically target to get the bill passed”. While Mr. Preston further stated if she could specifically state who the people were, however, Mrs. Hutchinson refused to answer this question. Then, Kimberly A. Lightford will go on to state, “We’re with you, so give us a moment and we could entertain you when we’re done.” Mrs. Hutchinson, then answered this question off camera, referencing that she did not want to throw any representatives under the bus. Mrs. Hutchinson also suggested that they are trying to get people to come onboard to pass a bill, which will be beneficial to the people of the community.
Later, Chicago State’s Students stood face to face in solidarity with their hands locked, in front of Bruce Rauner’s office. The students shouted a few more chants, and then said a prayer.
As Chicago State’s students concluded the rally; the respected colleges stood in solidarity to take pictures and to dab on such injustice. Chicago State’s president, faculty, alumni, and others came to support this impactful rally.
#SaveCSU #BudgetOrElse #FundBlackEducation