CICS News & Events, Charter School Student Moves Thousands In Chicago With “I Am For Peace” March

June 5, 2015
By Chicago International Charter Schools (source)

Razia H. is an alumna of CICS Washington Park and currently attends Perspectives Charter School. During her time at Perspectives, Razia helped to organize a peace march led by students who are passionate about stopping violence in Chicago. This march is the subject of the documentary “I Am for Peace” and will be featured on the National WE Day Broadcast, a program to air on ABC in August 2015. In this article, Razia talks about her motivations for working on the march and how charters gave her a positive foundation for change.

I recently spoke at WE Day, which is a celebration of all the students who participated in community service all year. I worked on a peace march at Perspectives Charter School, which has gone on for the past two years.

Planning the march started a few years ago when some of my classmates and I were talking about a young man who had been killed after a basketball game in Chicago. We realized that this kind of violence was not unusual, and it was so hurtful to have that expected in our community. As students, we knew we had to get schools together to say “stop the violence” because in order to impact others, you have to impact the mindset of the people closest to you.

It was pretty difficult planning the march because we had to find out how to apply for permits and really get organized. A lot of people came out against this project, but that didn’t stop me. I’m the type of person that, when I set my mind to something, it’s going to get done.

In the first year, the march was just Perspectives students- about 500. The next year, people started hearing about what we were doing and loving it. That’s when people started reaching out and coming to march with us. This year, we had 3,000 students, teachers, volunteers, and community members. As part of WE Day, we’re going to be filming in June for a story on the march. The show will also be doing stories on other kids across the country who have been working to serve their communities. We’re excited to spread our message and tell people: don’t be a victim, be a voice.

Even though I’m graduating this year, I am not going to let go of this movement. It’s my baby, I can’t let it die! I’m going to University of Missouri in the fall, and I would even be interested in starting a similar initiative there.

I grew up in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, and went to CICS Washington Park from kindergarten to fifth grade. All of my brothers and cousins went to CICS Washington Park, too. A lot of people in that area might feel like our situation may never get better, growing up around all that violence. But really, education is key.

I really liked CICS Washington Park- it’s very family oriented and everyone feels at home. The rest of my family loved it too- my mom could always contact any staff if there was ever a problem, and I felt like I could go to anyone if I needed anything. That made it easy for me to voice my opinion. I also had a great teacher who I still keep in touch with, Ms. Beck, who now teaches for UNO Charter Schools. Ms. Beck did a unit on the Holocaust that taught me a lot about what it might have been like to experience that injustice.

After 5th grade I went to Perspectives Charter School. My brother had gone the year before me, and he loved the experience. Like CICS Washington Park, Perspectives felt like a family and made it easy for me to share my opinion. My former principal Dr. Rollins was a big inspiration for me, and a huge motivation later during the peace march. She was behind me 100% and helped me with the entire thing.

During my time at Perspectives, and working on the peace march, I’ve been able to meet a lot of people in corporations and foundations that are interested in what I’m doing. This has really shown me that being famous or being a celebrity isn’t everything—you can make change, be successful, and still wear a suit. When I go to University of Missouri, I want to double major in Communications and Business, and minor in Black Studies. Working in public relations for a nonprofit or business is my goal.

Overall I think that charter schools are hands-on. In my experience, staff take time to pull you aside and get to know you, ask if anything is wrong, and help you out. And I think you can’t get that experience anywhere else.