How to Fit in at the Sit-In

My family and I live on the far north side of Chicago, just blocks from the Evanston border. This month, however, I've been spending most of my free nights and weekends down south in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. If you're guessing there might be another woman in the picture, you're correct.

In fact, there are several of them.

Let me 'fess up -- I've developed quite a thing for the radical moms from Whittier Elementary School, and I'm doing what I can to let them know it. These women are now in the fifth week of their sit-in at the field house they call La Casita. They moved into La Casita on September 15, after learning that Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman was going to demolish the one-story structure that has long served as a community center.

And what are these subversive moms demanding? That Chicago be awarded the 2020 Summer Olympic Games? Nope. That Mayor Daley finally come clean about hiring Angelo Torres? Not a chance. That Mr. Huberman spend a couple of days teaching their kids at Whittier? Good luck.

No, the Whittier moms just want La Casita to be converted into a badly needed school library for their children. And since moving into the field house last month, the moms have begun to do just that.

At the same time, however, they've also been busy raising their kids, making a living, contacting their elected officials, and drumming up media attention. The Whittier moms have had a lot on their plates.

That said, one thing I figured out quickly during my first visit to La Casita was that the moms didn't really need my help, though they certainly made me feel welcome. These women know the ins and outs of their own community, and they damn sure know how to make their voices heard. (I had a front-row seat for two straight nights to watch them grill one of Ron Huberman's top assistants.) And did I mention that these moms are among the strongest, most determined folks I've come across during my decades on the planet?

So if they really don't need my help -- and trust me, they don't -- why do I keep making the drive from Rogers Park down to Pilsen? It's simple -- I want to show the moms that my family and I support their efforts to get something as basic as a school library for their kids. I also want to remind them -- on those occasions when it looks like they need to hear it -- that they're not crazy for doing what they're doing.

Sit-ins, like marathons, are endurance contests. Most of the 35,000 runners who passed through Pilsen during last weekend's Chicago Marathon probably spent several months training for that one race. Most of the Whittier moms, however, signed up for the La Casita sit-in with no advance preparation.

Not surprisingly, several of the moms have told me that the endurance contest at La Casita, much like a marathon, has had its high and low points. But these same women have also been quick to let me know that morale at La Casita improves whenever random Chicagoans like me stop by to say hello and offer words of encouragement.

So that's what I plan to do for the duration. I'll bring extra coffee. I'll order more pizza. And I'll even bust out my guitar and sing Sesame Street songs for the kids if it keeps the moms smiling. Whatever it takes.

Ellas son mi gente.