Chicago Students Say #Enough to Gun Violence

On Saturday, June 2, at 10 a.m., Everytown for Gun Safety will host a Wear Orange event in Hadiya Pendleton Park, 4345 S. Calumet Avenue.

While #WearOrange events will be happening all over the country this weekend, the Chicago event includes a twist: a public art project developed by local students. Students from Chicago’s public and private schools have been working together on a campaign called The Schools Say Enough Sidewalk Challenge.

The Sidewalk Challenge was created by students from the private GCE Lab School, who originally set up shop back in March in Bughouse Square (officially known as Washington Square Park).

The Basics are simple: Write one or more names of schools and students who have experienced school shootings, then post to social media and ask friends to do the same. The initial protest morphed into a larger installation at Bughouse Square.

In a citywide effort, students tied 7,000 pieces of orange fabric to the park fence to represent their peers who have lost their lives to gun violence since Newtown. They hung 1,300 notes of hope to recognize all their peers who died last year alone. They planted flowers in soil and bullets in clear plastic backpacks.

Day after day, they returned to the Bughouse Square to write names, along with members of the community. Eventually, the sidewalk protest stretched an entire city block. You can see what it looked like in this video:

When their protest was “evicted” by the park advisory council, they moved to Nettelhorst Elementary. The Sidewalk Challenge later moved on to Schurz High School and the Montessori School of Englewood, where the Chicago Sun-Times picked up the story.

GCE freshman Nissrine Bedda helped spearhead the initial installation in Washington Park and is determined to keep using art to make social change. “Here in Chicago, gun violence is a daily threat. We are the next generation. We are the ones who are able to choose how we want to be represented. We do not need violence.”

Get Involved

The organizers of the Sidewalk Challenge offer these next steps for anyone interested in joining their campaign:

  • Sign our petition.
  • Take The Schools Say Enough Sidewalk Challenge. Find the list of school names here. #Enough
  • Send us a photo, poster, or short video. Upload high-resolution jpegs or video here.
  • Traveling Installation and DIY Kit. We’d love to come to your school, park, organization, or house of worship and facilitate the the Schools Say Enough Sidewalk Challenge for a totally turn-key experience. But no need to wait for us! Here’s everything you need to make a major statement, including signage, schools names, and peace bullet stencils.
  • Follow our journey. We vow to keep shouting from the city’s sidewalks until TPTB listen.
  • And don’t forget to register and vote!
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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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