Rice Closing: The End of A Harlem Legacy


Rice High School is  closing. The news broke early last week, after nearly two months of the school’s financial predicament being in the media. It is time to face reality. The famed Catholic High School, that introduced me to so much literature, is closing its doors for good. The picture above may not mean anything to folks who are reading this, but this is the mural in the cafeteria of the school. Drawn by Harlem’s Franco the Great back in 1993, it illustrates Black historical figures such as Malcolm X, Arturo Schomburg, and Frederick Douglass amongst others. This is symbolic of the wonders of learning, and how it will lead to betterment of the self, and the Black community as well. I saw this photo every morning and afternoon for four years. Now that the school is closing, this light of learning will be dimmed, and the underserved residents of Harlem will lose an oasis of knowledge. Some may think that I am being hyperbolic in these remarks, but in my opinion there is no way I can overstate the damage that will be done to the Harlem community by the shuttering of this 73 year old institution. The blessing of Rice High School is that it will be remembered for being a basketball powerhouse. The curse, is it will go down in history as little more than that. Once the view of a place sticks, its hard to get it off.

Only the attendees of the school will know of the good that Rice did for the community. The community service required to graduate, the summer readings to challenge us during those down months. The lessons learned about personal growth, about putting in the effort to make the difference in other people’s lives. I have written much about how Rice has helped me, but that’s not what I am thinking of primarily right now. I am thinking of the current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who will have to scramble to find other schools to finish their education. The young Black boy who is slated to finish 8th grade in a month, and has one less option. What of their futures? I guess in the scheme of things, it is of no major concern huh? In following up with this story, I found myself disgusted with the level of indifference displayed when this news spread. I could call names, but I will refrain from doing so. I just am appalled at how many Black media outlets and Black politicians  looked the other way on this.

I can only wonder what will become of this building once the school is closed on June 30th. Will it be turned into a condo ala PS90? Or something else regarded as more “useful” then a school for young Black and Latino men? Whatever the case, other options will have to be explored for those in the future.

I wanted to take the time to thank everyone for helping me spread the story of this happening. Even though the campaign to save the school did not succeed, its good to know that people far and wide, did try to assist in getting the word out. Thank you to my readers. In all likelihood unless something additional occurs, this is the last time I will address this issue of Rice High School on this blog. What is happening, cannot be changed. So there is no point in beating a dead horse. But, I want to leave you with one last thing before I close out this post.

Also on the mural is a quote from Chief Seattle. For those who may not be able to quite make out the picture, it says  the following: “This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Teach your children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”  This speaks to the issue of the environment, but can also be applied to social infrastructure as well. As long as we continue to consider ourselves to be an advanced post-industrial society, yet allow our schools to close, we will continue to suffer the consequences of having a less educated population. We will continue to be outpaced, and in a lot of ways, will deserve it.

Marc W. Polite

Rice High School attendant and alum, 1993-1997


  1. Class of 85 here. I personally have been proud throughout the years to see the quality of individuals that have come from Rice. its the quiet little changes we Rice graduates have made in society that make a difference in the world. the people that support the society, not just the basketball stars or athletes. Now to see this haven of education pass quietly into the night is quite disturbing. In Harlem i remember walking past Marcus Garvey park from my projects on first ave. past the “wine’os” and “druggies” to get to school every day. and the one thing that forever stuck was the fact that not once did they ever bother us. even those in desperation and with feelings of little hope knew that we were hopeful, and they respected that. i am very distraught at knowing that no longer will a child such as myself have that last hope of a chance towards a better future. public school is a hit and miss at best. Rice was always a Hit. In Rice if you failed it was because you chose too. No system to blame. your chance was there. you took it or you didn’t. Rice Raider Forever.

  2. Thanks Rafael for checking in and sharing. It is shameful how much will be lost for Harlem with Rice closing.

  3. A sad time in Harlem. I too remember the words of encouragement from the community to make sure that we continue to go school and make better of ourselves. The love that we received from the staff when we reached our goals rather on the court or in the classroom.

    What can I say Rice High School is will always be open in my heart and Soul.

    And now as a teacher in the NYC Public School system I quote a Rice High School teacher (Brother Sherlock) “Have a Safe, Sane, Sober weekend so that you can come back for another fun filled adventure of learning!!!!

  4. There are no words to express how much of a loss Harlem is about to take on June 30th. You are right Kevin. We will always have Rice in our hearts.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.