CHICAGO (CBS) — A recent class field trip to the Chicago History Museum left some high school students upset and offended.
And instead of just letting it go, the group from the Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy is now pushing for answers and seeking change.
CBS 2 was the only camera allowed inside a meeting between leaders of the Chicago History Museum and about 15 students from the Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy.
“Basically, this is a Chicago history museum, so we would like to see more of our people,” a student said at the meeting.
The students at the alternative school, at 2570 S. Blue Island Ave., are expressing their disappointment after noticing the exhibits and narratives about Latinx people fell short.
“Imagine how many younger kids came and didn’t think that their ethnicity or their family background wasn’t as important, because they didn’t see it in the museum,” said Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy student Samira Rivera.
During a trip to the museum in September, some of the students in teacher Anton Miglietta’s class, felt offended when all they saw was a low-rider car in the lobby.
“Low riders are often associated with, you know, hot-rodding and vehicles and cars, and Latinx history makes this association with cars,” Miglietta said.
“It isn’t really even Latinx. It’s more of like an L.A. thing,” Rivera said.
Chicago History Museum Curator Peter Alter told the group, “Our intention was not to offend, but that is a failure, I would say, definitely that lies specifically with me.”
The students launched a campaign to bring public attention to the issue and to get the museum to make changes. They made banners, created a social media buzz, and wrote letters to the museum about their concerns.
“We’ve got some work to do,” said Chicago History Museum Vice President John Russick. “Hopefully through this process of meeting with you, you can help us think about what those next steps for the museum might be.”
And now, they’re getting results. Their meeting became a first step in what they hope will become a permanent or ongoing exhibit representing Latinx people.
“I’m glad that questions are being answered and that we’re coming into agreements,” one student said.
“I’m shocked that we actually got this far,” another student said. “I thought it wasn’t going to go this way.”
“Hopefully, we can move forward in a collaborative way,” said the museum’s Alter.
At the end of the meeting, the group picked another date to gather – this time at the school – to continue the dialogue. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.