How The Chicago Freedom School Protected Youth During 2020 Uprisings

man in black t shirt and black pants holding fire
Zain Murdock
February 15, 2024

The Chicago Freedom School (CFS) wasn’t supposed to open on May 30, 2020. But as the city rose in rebellion, its youth needed refuge. So, directors Jacqulyn Hamilton and Tony Alvarado-Rivera rose to the occasion.

Young people streamed in from the streets. Some needed rest after hours of marching. Others had to charge their phones and call family. The hungry and thirsty came for free food and water. The bruised, tear-gassed, and bloodied sought medical care. 

Hamilton and Alvarado-Rivera had to think fast to keep their students safe. But a group of cops in riot gear crowded outside the school and demanded entry.

The CFS directors stalled while cycling through their options. While Alvarado-Rivera negotiated, Hamilton evacuated the youth from the back, sending a signal once every child had been safely relocated or driven away.

When police finally entered, they threatened to shut down CFS. The school was fined and hit with a cease-and-desist order. 

But in the end, CFS filed a lawsuit against the city, and the order was rescinded. It’s continuing its 15 years of radical youth work today. 

Chicago’s uprisings would continue for months.

Police can surveil us, invade our spaces, and arrest us, but they cannot stop us from caring for our communities.

The Freedom School reminds us that a safe future is something we can practice now.

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