Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women is Closing

Continuing a thread of Detroit mainstays that are soon to close, the Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women, a small school of 300 which teaches agricultural skills to pregnant girls and young mothers, is set to close due to massive funding cuts to the Detroit Public School system.

The Catherine Ferguson Academy allows young girls with children to finish their high school education while teaching them important skills of growing food, eating well and proper childhood nutrition. The long term benefits of such a school are obvious.

Students and faculty of the school are waging a sit in as we speak. The Detroit Police have already arrested and forcibly removed several people, including women with children. To help out with the mounting legal fees that the girls will face, you can donate here:

“Make a financial donation TODAY. Checks can be made out to BAMN and either brought to the school or mailed to P.O. Box 24834, Detroit, MI 48224.
On-line donations can be made securely at: or via paypal at

I have to thank my friend Mark for alerting me to this on his site. There is some interesting discussion there, as well.

Here is an account from a witness:

“When we heard the police were coming, we ran to the library as fast as we could and barricaded ourselves in there. The police knocked on the window, and before we knew it, they busted open the library door. We all got in a line and held hands. We took a vote because we wanted to be democratic and we decided not to leave. We chose to stick together, we came together and we were staying together. We were chanting, ‘Whose schools? Our schools!’ The whole time I was recording everything on my phone.”

She said the cop who arrested her, a Detroit police officer named R. Brown, saw that she was recording the events and snatched the phone away. She said Detroit Public Schools officers also took part in the attacks.

Huge cops push 100-lb. Ashley toward car

“I had sat down, and he yanked me up and slammed me down on my stomach on the floor,” Matthews said. “All the girls went berserk, telling him to get off me, but he was just wiping up the floor with me. He pressed his thumbs in my neck, and he tightened the handcuffs so hard that I have bruises there. I cried at first but then I made myself stop.”

Matthews said she weighs only 100 lbs. and is often mistaken for being much younger because she is so small.

Supporter is horrified at brutality

“The officer pushed me up against the police car, with my face against it, and put me in it,” Matthews said. “They police didn’t read us our rights even though they told us we were under arrest. Then they were playing ‘good cop, bad cop,’ asking, ‘does your mom know you’re going to jail?’ I told them ‘She knows, I’m fighting for my education, and I want a lawyer.’ I wouldn’t talk to them any more after that.”

But Matthews said the police “verbally assaulted” them the whole way to the Eighth Precinct at Schaefer and Grand River.

Police rousted demonstrators too

“All the officers were so rude to us you would have thought we had killed somebody,” she said. “They asked us, ‘do you have money, because you’re going to be in jail all weekend.’ They told me it was good I’m 17, because I would have to go on the ‘big block’ and I’d better not be talking that ‘education stuff’ there. They were so mad because it was females standing up. But we have the right to fight for our school, and we were non-violent.”

She said the students felt absolutely “degraded” by the treatment they received from the police.

Here is a trailer from a documentary about the school:

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

3 responses to “Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women is Closing”

  1. matt brown says :


    I’m home on a weeks vacation with Christine and the children. On my flight home I met an expat who lives full time in Malawi. I gave her your name, told her about your frequent travels there and, told her to look you up. If you get an email from her – it’s my doings. Nice lady who has fallen in love with the people and hates the government. Thought you might be able to keep in touch with things going on there through her.

    Take care,


  2. Pete Larson says :


    Thank you, man. I’m not in Malawi at the moment, already back in the states, but I’ll be back there again. Do you remember her name? It’s a pretty small world down there…

    The government is pretty bad, but not as bad as some, although that it’s getting worse.

    Hope you are good, man!


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