By TONIA HILL
As most high school seniors across the country are preparing for end of the school year senior festivities such as prom, luncheon, and graduation.
Kenwood Academic Center graduate, Eva Lewis is taking on something extra, she is prepping for a benefit concert for Bouchet Elementary Math & Science Academy, 7355 S. Jeffrey Ave., on Saturday, May 20.
The upcoming benefit concert is a culmination of the work 18-year-old Lewis has conducted all year long for an independent study course at her high school, Walter Payton College Prep 1034 N. Wells St., and in conjunction with her non-profit “The I-Project” an initiative to humanize youth impacted by intersectionality.
The term intersectionality, coined by legal scholar and civil rights advocate Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, describes the way in which oppressive systems such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, etc., are interconnected and cannot be looked at separately.
Lewis, a high school senior who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, is a resident of South Shore and lives on the same block as Bouchet.
Bouchet and other Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have been hit hard over the last two years due to district-wide budget cuts resulting from nearly two- year budget impasse in Springfield.
Lewis reached out to school officials at Bouchet and asked what she could do to help. She then decided to have a fundraising campaign for the school because it lacks basic needs for its students.
“Bouchet is on my block, I’ve grown up around it, I have friends from Payton who have gone there,” Lewis said. “It’s not funded to the extent that it needs to be and they [students] don’t have the resources that they need for everyone to learn in a conducive environment.”
The goal is to raise $25,000 for the school. Lewis hopes to raise $5,000 at the concert on Saturday. The campaign is called “Emancipation Education.”
The funds raised will go towards getting a chrome cart so that each student at Bouchet, which has just over 600 students can have a computer. Presently, the school has one chrome cart with 100 computers for the entire school.
If Lewis raises more than $25,000, the school would also use funds for school uniforms.
“The school has a high homeless population, and a lot of the money that they have at the school has to go towards buying school supplies and uniforms for students,” Lewis said.
Additionally, she said the school would like to develop more after school programming for students. Currently, the school has just one after school program with additional funds, Lewis said, the school administration could tailor and develop more programming to the interests of students.
As a student who attends a selective enrollment high school in downtown Chicago Lewis said, she recognizes that she has benefited through the misallocation of funds in the district and wants all schools in the district to have equity in funding.
“It broke my heart when we [Payton] received $17 million dollars it was at the same time that all those schools were closing,” Lewis said. “My school is disproportionately funded compared to others. We have parents who can pay. Schools like Bouchet, [which has a 99 percent low-income population] don’t have parents that can throw hundreds or thousands of dollars at the school to fund their education.”
Lewis has had the support of other high school students who have been helping her along the way to get things organized for the concert.
“I’ve mostly worked with other high school students who have been emailing Senators and people, out of Springfield,” Lewis said. “We have been reaching out to Aldermen, arts collectives, churches and businesses [to help the cause].”
Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation, is sponsoring the event and providing the Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave., as the venue which will feature performances by Ric Wilson, Kopano, Daryn Alexus, Christian Jalon, Ausar, and more.
Artists performing at the event have signed on and agreed to perform for free.
Lewis hopes the benefit concert will humanize the plight of students at Bouchet.
In addition to education, Lewis is also passionate about racial injustice and policing. Lewis and her friends, some of whom are also Kenwood Academic Center alumnae are organizers with Youth for Black Lives.
The group led a massive peaceful protest in downtown Chicago last summer in response to the killings of Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minn., and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., by police officers. 500 people participated in the sit-in protest in Millennium Park, followed by a march that shut down Michigan Avenue and State Street with over 1,000 peaceful protestors.
In January, Youth For Black Lives met publicly with Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and discussed police shootings, reform, and officer accountability.
Doors open at 6 p.m., for Saturday’s benefit concert. Tickets are $15 for students with ID and $25 for adults. To purchase tickets and to find out more information visit www.itstheiproject.com.