We Hurt, We Struggle, Some Die, And We Just Keep Going.

When our schools’ ceilings are leaking, when our classrooms have no heat in the wintertime and students bring in blankets to keep each other warm, they tell us, “You know CPS is broke.” 

When our City Council votes to pass a crummy budget, they force crap down our throats in the same way they tell us to eat the crap they serve in our city’s school lunchrooms. But we get used to the crappy food, the same way we get used to the crappy budget proposals. And the crappy investments. No one should have to get used to the way we live, but we do, we have to. Even as we keep fighting for better, we stay accustomed to crap. What else can we do? 

They teach us that investment and channeling of resources mean nothing so that when our communities receive nothing, the bare minimum, our fussing is minimized.

Yet we fight, we fight, we fight, we get drained, and tired, and we fight again. Look at the way the Chicago Teachers Union has been fighting for years. We have seen great leadership–great fighters on the battlefields. But what does that mean when our communities still struggle with the same problems of eight decades ago, when the CTU was established? The same issues persist around investments, structures, processes; but hey, we got some great leaders and organizers. We got some strong voices. 

It makes me question my own voice. Who cares about my voice, my tone, what I’m saying? “You’re so articulate Catlyn,” people tell me. “I wish I had that perspective of the world when I was your age.” But here’s the thing: does my power of articulation persuade people who sit in positions of power to do the right thing? Does it convince them to fight and provide a better world for their constituents, the people’s lives they legislate over? Do the deaths of so many—not only my peers and my family but so many more—persuade them to invest in ways that could actually keep us alive?

Our Budgets Don’t Analyze All the Resources We Need

At this very moment, hundreds of Chicago children are gone because of a damn gun. Hundreds, if not thousands, more are dealing with the repercussions of that trauma. Thousands go every day without resources. 

But when I say resources, I don’t just mean what the law requires grown-ups to provide for children, like food and shelter. I mean other things that humans need, but are too often deprived of: love, acceptance, perspective, comfort. Hugs. Big, warm hugs. 

Every day, children go without these things at the same time that they sit in classrooms with other complex humans, within a very complex, robotic, greedy system. Every day of every year, we use the same processes, and we are forced to believe that because the children are here, they are benefiting. 

Perhaps you’d expect me to say “the system isn’t working,” but I won’t say that. I wouldn’t like to use the word “working,” because everyone is indeed working. Our parents go to work. Our alders go to those city council meetings. Our teachers go to the bargaining tables. We sit in our classrooms, and that is that. 

Meanwhile, people say: Well, at least we have bargaining tables! Well, at least we have this democratic process! At least we have money in our pockets! And well, at least the kids are in schools, and not out on the streets.

The New City Budget Won’t Stop Our Children from Getting Killed

Two weeks ago, my close friend lost her best friend to gun violence. At school, you could tell she had been crying, you could also tell that not only did she have to wake up after finding out, but sit through four different classes that morning without any acknowledgment of her pain. I took her to the bathroom and hugged her as tight as I could as she cried on my shoulders, while I repeated, “I know, I love you.” 

Two weeks before I held my close friend as tight as I could, my other friend, a beloved youth organizer, was shot and killed in their car. I had met Azul for the first time in August, where they approached me with such an angelic presence and loving words. 

We hurt, we struggle, we cry, some die, and we just keep going, because that is what we have not only been told to do, but that is what the structures around us expect and want us to do, conform. Because that is what keeps things standing. So, we use the same processes, the same structures. We sit at these bargaining tables. We send these people to City Hall. Who cares if we are tired of the same struggle we have gone through for decades? Who cares if the people we send to City Hall aren’t using their positions of power for any good? Or perhaps there are a handful of those who do, but are tired, and exhausted and have used their power to the full extent, but that’s all they can do. 

So then, we hurt, we struggle, we cry, some die, and we just keep going.

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Catlyn Savado

Catlyn Savado is a CPS high school student and a youth abolitionist organizer.