Team Englewoods poets (from left to right): David Holmes, Alicia Hincon, Dallas Battle, and Kenyatta Tolbert
  • David Stieber
  • Team Englewood’s poets (from left to right): David Holmes, Alicia Hincon, Dallas Battle, and Kenyatta Tolbert

I’m always ripping Mayor Emanuel about this, that, and the other thing, so today I thought I’d show him some love—like I were an alderman or a member of his board of education.

So here goes . . .

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mayor inspire so much creative agitation from the roots, especially among teens and preteens. In contrast, Mayor Daley was dullsville—barely a blip on the radar.

But Mayor E? It seems like nary a day passes when I’m not hearing some new ass-kicking poem, rap, or play he’s inspired. Just goes to show you how closing all those schools and clinics can jump-start the imagination.

You know, this might be a theme the mayor champions when he promotes the local arts scene at next year’s South by Southwest conference in Austin—as he did at this week’s event.

Let’s just briefly run through the list . . .

There’s Asean Johnson, the nine-year-old from Marcus Garvey grammar school who’s been rallying crowds with his oratorical denunciations of the mayor’s school policies.

Too bad the mayor didn’t bring Asean to fire up the crowd at SXSW.

Then there are the Young Fugitives, the actors and playwrights who got censored by After School Matters—one of the mayor’s favorite arts charities—for, among other things, creating an F-bomb-dropping character named Mayor Rahmye.

I bet you the folks at SXSW would have gone bananas over Mayor Rahmye.

And now we have Dallas Battle, Kenyatta Tolbert, Alicia Hincon and David Holmes, aka the poets from Team Englewood Academy, a public high school on the south side.

They brought down the house at last week’s Louder Than a Bomb poetry festival at Metro with an impassioned rendition of their poem “Hide Your Schools, Hide Your Children, Hide Your Homes, ‘Cause He’s Wrecking It All.”

OK, everybody at SXSW—guess who’s the “he” they’re hiding things from.

Here’s a hint . . .

“Hammer in one hand, paintbrush in the other
Rahm Emanuel is single-handedly destroying our city
Mr. Wreck-It Rahm.”

While the mayor was in Texas, singing his sweet little song of self-love, the poets at Team Englewood were laying out a powerful indictment against his reign.

“Step one: Take away our schools
Step Two: Put them out their home
Lastly: Destroy it all and
Deny Deny Deny
But remember, to always keep a straight face when you lie!”

“We got that line—’Wreck-It Rahm’—from Wreck-It Ralph,” says Alicia Hincon, a 17-year-old senior on the team, referring to the Disney movie. “And took it from there.”

Team Englewood shares a building at 6201 S. Stewart with Urban Prep, a charter school. Every year Mayor Emanuel shows up at Urban Prep to celebrate the fact that so many of its students go on to college.

Good for Urban Prep. But it sort of irritates the Team Englewood kids. Not that that they’ve got anything against their Urban Prep counterparts. It’s more like—what are we, chopped liver?

“They put Urban Prep on the high pedestal,” says David Homes, a 17-year-old junior. “We’re just as good as them.”

Holmes says he hopes to attend Howard University and major in science. And Hincon says she’ll probably attend Carthage College. So you see, Mr. Mayor, it’s not only charter school kids who go on to college.

I’m sure the mayor’s love for Urban Prep has nothing to do with his ongoing war with Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers Union.

Speaking of which—take a bow, David Stieber, Missy Hughes, and Kelli Rushek. They’re the teachers—and CTU members—at Team Englewood who coach the poetry team.

The poem summarizes Mayor Emanuel’s first two years in office. It alludes to shutting down mental health clinics in poor black neighborhoods, diverting money from schools to fund the South Loop B-ball arena/hotel, the Englewood rail yard expansion and, of course, school closings.

Many of which hit close to home.

“Banneker Elementary—closed
Woods Elementary—closed
Yale Elementary—closed”

They wound up winning the prize for group poetry at Louder Than a Bomb. Here’s a YouTube link to their March 8 performance, which features lines like this:

“See, Rahm, we are mathematicians
Your lies are adding up
And this new Chicago is just another one of them”

That about sums it all up.