Last Thursday, Mayor Lightfoot announced that, for the first time in Chicago’s history, the city will host a districtwide virtual high school graduation. No less historic, it will feature the iconic Oprah Winfrey as commencement speaker. As a life-long Chicagoan, CPS graduate, educator, and mom of two teenagers, I couldn’t be more proud of this city’s ability to adapt – we make things happen!
Unfortunately, the excitement around this announcement loses its luster when we consider the thousands of families across the city who still do not have access to broadband internet. For these families, celebrating the important milestone of graduation with their families is nearly impossible today.
Covid-19 continues to amplify inequities that exist in Chicago. In Chicago, communities with the highest concentration of children without access to in-home internet are predominately Black and Latino/a/x communities on Chicago’s south and west sides – the same communities with the highest mortality rates due to the coronavirus.
Access to broadband internet is a civil right. Without access to broadband internet, it is impossible for families in Chicago to have fair and equal access to the resources they need – to fully engage in remote learning, find jobs, seek medical treatment, and survive through this devastating pandemic.
Mayor Lightfoot, every household in Chicago needs the internet as a public utility. All of Chicago’s high school students, regardless of race or community, deserve to celebrate their graduation with their families. We can’t have equity if we don’t have access. Let’s allow them that opportunity by giving all families broadband.
Natalie C. Neris