On Friday, October 23, a group of almost 40 St. Kate’s faculty, staff, and students headed to downtown St. Paul to see Not in Our Neighborhood at the Minnesota History Theatre. This effort is part of the ongoing work of St. Kate’s Welcoming the Dear Neighbor?, an interdisciplinary focus on housing policy past and present, and was supported by the Sr. Mona Riley Endowed Chair in the Humanities and the Endowed Chair in the Sciences. The group was comprised of students, faculty, and staff from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives.
"This is exactly the kind of interdisciplinary thinking that St. Kate’s encourages," said Kristine West, PhD, Endowed Chair in the Sciences and associate professor of economics. "As we face the challenging issues in our world today, they will only be solved by opening up communication and bringing together different perspectives.”
Over two years ago, St. Kate’s led the charge to expand Mapping Prejudice efforts into Ramsey County to help create better understanding of the history of housing discrimination in our community. We have been uncovering, working on, and wrestling with Ramsey County’s hidden history of racism in housing, and its current day implications and impacts, ever since. And this coming spring 2022, Ramsey County’s map of racial covenants will be released.
As part of our ongoing effort, St. Kate’s has been in collaboration with History Theatre and its two plays focusing on housing injustice, Not in Our Neighborhood and Not for Sale. Both plays were put on hold in spring 2020 due to the international pandemic but in the weeks before St. Kate’s made the pivot to online learning, students in professor Todd Deutsch’s Art and Technology course used digital design skills to create posters in response to what they were learning about housing injustice as their service-learning project. The two plays served as inspiration for their work, and the class was able to take a field trip to History Theatre and meet with staff to gain a better sense of the space. This fall, with new COVID guidelines in place, the theater reopened with the powerful story of Nellie and William Francis in Not in Our Neighborhood, featuring St. Kate’s designs on display.
“To have been a part of the Welcoming The Dear Neighbor? project and collaborating with History Theatre was the first opportunity of its kind that I'd had, and one that I'm very grateful for," said Dee Taropurua ’23, Art and Technology student. "It felt very powerful to have created a work of art that contributed to the ongoing conversation of racial injustice and housing inequality that was also available for others to view.”
Beyond Deutsch’s course, many other students have been involved through service-learning classes, as well as co-curricular opportunities for students to get involved. Some of the students who attended the play had worked with faculty on Summer Scholars and Assistantship Mentoring Program projects related to housing inequality. Anastasia Rousseau ’22 and Ava Griswold ’21 did archival research including work directly related to the Nellie Francis story, and this past summer Victoria Delgado-Palma ’23, Calyn Schardt ’23, Linnea Ziebol ’21, and Ava LaPlante ’23 worked with census data to document the story from a quantitative perspective.
As the students gathered to carpool to the theater, Welcoming the Dear Neighbor? history faculty Rachel Neiwert, PhD, recounted the story of Mother Antonia taking students to plays and concerts as part of their liberal arts education.
“Taking such a lovely group of students, staff and faculty to see this play together really makes me feel like we are living the legacy of the sisters and wrestling with what it means to 'welcome the dear neighbor,'” said Neiwert. St. Kate’s plans to bring another group to Not for Sale, a February production by History Theatre with the same focus of racism in housing.