ESTL Cohort Launch First Ed-Advocacy Campaign

Charli Cooksey

Why East St. Louis

In September 2018, WEPOWER launched its partnership with the people of East St. Louis. For 2018, or so I thought, we were going to be laser-focused on education policy change in St. Louis City with northside residents. But, when we were unexpectedly/ serendipitously invited to East St. Louis and after meeting with concerned citizens, talking to partners like Jessica Wernli and Mike Atty, and looking at the data, I knew we not only had an obligation but opportunity to spark lasting change.

My Northside pride is STRONG, but my new love, admiration, and respect for the people of East St. Louis–their history, their hope, and their vision of a revitalized city their children can be proud of–has energized me in ways that I never expected.

During the first month of the Power-Building Academy, we embarked on a tour facilitated by social justice trailblazers Eugene Redmond and Reginald Petty of historic places in East St. Louis. The history of the East St. Louis Race Riots and the years of divestment explain the pain and trauma. The history of the city’s change makers–from activists to jazz legends to educators and business leaders who advocated for change in solidarity–contextualize the deep power that exist in its people. The passion and conviction of our Power-Builders, their children, families, and neighbors foster a sense of boundless possibility where residents find strength in their past and merge it with their audacious visions of the future to create a city reflective of the brilliance of its people.

Today, after several months of community organizing training, community engagement, policy research, and data analysis, a number of concerned parents, students, educators, and community members have come together in hopes of elevating the district to new levels. Power-Builders knocked on neighbors’ doors in the district to garner feedback from the community about their vision for the district. Nearly a third of respondents felt that the standard of teaching and curriculum needed to be raised to higher standards.

Today, Power-Builders and their allies invite you to join them as they declare the urgent need for District 189 and the community in which it sits to rise to its fullest potential, to its historical reputation of excellence. Rise to a level of equity where children feel validated by who they are, who they are becoming, and their role in advancing change in East St. Louis.

Rise 189

Vision: We envision a School District 189 where all students thrive and perform on grade level.

Policy Solutions: We demand that the Superintendent and School Board adopt these policy demands by April 23rd, 2019.

  1. Implement community-wide strategic planning every three years.

  2. Report progress of the strategic plan to the community annually.

  3. Record and televise all school board meetings.

Calls to Action

  1. Send a letter to district leaders in support of the policy solutions above.

  2. Join Power-Builders at their Rise 189 Teach-in to learn more.

  3. Volunteer to knock on doors and phone bank with Power-Builders leading up to the April 2019 School Board Election.

Together, with Power-Builders, East St. Louis educators, students, and concerned citizens, we have the power catalyze District 189 to rise beyond the pain, trauma, and inequities of today, to higher heights of pride, justice, and educational excellence.