When Southwest Side Students Heal Together
STUDENTS | February 18, 2021
When Southwest Side Students Heal Together

By Dion D., senior at Bogan High School

I consider my friend group one of my biggest accomplishments of high school. Even though we’ve been apart for almost a year, I can still remember all of us taking up two tables in the lunchroom—having a great time talking and enjoying each other’s company. At the lunch table, we were all equal. 

We share a special bond as Southwest Side students.  It’s a bond that I got to explore recently when I took part in a racial healing circle through Network 16, which is comprised of high schools on the South and Southwest Sides of Chicago. 

This healing circle was a beautiful thing. Even though we were together using Zoom, it didn’t stop us from being open with each other. I had never met some of the students I was talking with, and I still felt like I got a weight off my chest. 

We talked about what Chicago should be known for. We talked about what we would do if we were the mayor. Being able to talk about racial justice with my peers proved to me how my high school experience has helped me think about multiple perspectives. 

My Chicago is complicated. When I’m walking with my brother through Millennium Park, I feel that I live in the most beautiful city in the world. Yet the media never seems to want to focus on this beauty—or the talent of my generation. 

I live in a very racially diverse neighborhood, and I think it is safe and we all live amongst each other peacefully. Yet there are times when people see me and close their doors as quickly as they can. 

Why can’t we all be on the same page as a city? Why can’t our youth all be on the same page? 

If someone were to tell me about what they think my part of Chicago is like, my first response to them would be: “Have you ever been there?” If they haven’t, I want them to learn from me, not from the internet or someone who hasn’t walked down Pulaski once in their life. 

We heal by talking to each other. People think that kids from different high schools only have rivalries. In Network 16, we put those aside and got to know each other as peers. 

And I want to keep talking. I want to keep talking about the racial injustices and police brutality that were a wake up call this past summer. It made me sad that things even went that far. I want to keep talking about funding schools equitably. I really want to keep talking about the recent presidential election and where we go from here. 

There are people out there who think they can talk to people of color based on how their parents and previous generations spoke to them. If my generation doesn’t speak out about this, we won’t be able to progress as a society. 

This will go far beyond high school. I want to pursue a career in criminal justice. I think our criminal justice system needs to be less about punishing people and more about talking to them. We can de-escalate problems by treating each other as equals. 

It can be tempting to want to take power over someone else. We may think that will gratify us, but during my high school experience, I felt the most fulfilled when I was surrounded by those who just wanted to have a conversation with me, whether at the lunch table, in the classroom, or on a Network 16 Zoom meeting. 

The Class of 2021 is talented enough to do a lot of good in Chicago, and it will start by going outside of our comfort zones. I’m extremely thankful for my tight-knit group of friends and all the conversations we’ve had throughout my four years at Bogan. Now I’m ready to go one lunch table over, one neighborhood over, maybe even somewhere I’ve never been before, to help our city heal. 

Racial healing pauses when we stay silent. Let’s keep talking. 

Dion has one semester left at Bogan High School in Chicago’s Ashburn neighborhood. His goal of becoming a police officer or criminal investigator will take him to the University of Illinois at Chicago in the fall.