Youth as Engaged Cultural Workers: Displacement, Housing Justice and the Legacy of Student Uprisings on the Lower West Side

Nicole Marroquin
Paulina Camacho

In 2014 Paulina Camacho and Nicole Marroquin started a collaborative art and action research project with students at Benito Juarez Academy High School.  Students have been working with community history, particularly the Harrison High School student uprisings in 1968, and the 1973 student takeover of the Froebel Branch of Harrison High School. In the fall of 68, Harrison students organized massive citywide walkouts and student marches of up to 35,000 students, and this movement transformed schools into sites of resistance, citywide centers of student organizing, and places for black and brown coalition building.  The 68 walkouts led to the eventual creation of Benito Juarez High School in 1978, but it is a complex history of police violence and infiltration of the movement by the Red Squad, the secret arm of the Chicago Police’s Subversive Unit.  This history has gone largely unwritten– but who better to recover the stories and interpret them through a decolonial lens than those for whom the stakes are the highest!  Who better to address the violence of gentrification and terrorism against immigrant communities than the young cultural workers in the school that was born from community struggle?  Juarez students turn to the neighborhood to study their own community AS the archive, and as a source of knowledge.  They present radical proposals for development without displacement, and for a future where they are still here.   

link to project site