The level of civic engagement among students and faculty on the Macalester College campus in Saint Paul is a point of pride.
At Macalester this quality is highly valued, incorporated into learning experiences, and encouraged in student organizations.
The Macalester College Habitat for Humanity chapter is a shining example of this dedication to civic engagement.
During the month of November, in addition to spending a day volunteering on a build site, the chapter raised awareness about homelessness and housing on campus with a series of events.
Collaborating with the Art Alliance and Macalester College's Civic Engagement Center, they held a Race and Housing Inequality panel on November 3rd.
The panelists were Eric Goldfischer, a University of Minnesota geography graduate student working on mapping the inequalities of race, Angela Butel, a Macalester alumna working at Catholic Charities, and Rebecca Lucero, the Policy and Community Engagement manager at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.
The panel explored homelessness and housing inequalities in the Twin Cities, discussing some of the systemic issues that have contributed to these issues such as the G.I. Bill. Passed in 1944, this legislation had a range of benefits for veterans such as low interest, no down payment home loans. While this helped millions of veterans purchase a house, discriminatory practices and regulations made these benefits unavailable to many black veterans.
A few days later the chapter sponsored a film screening of The House We Live In (a section of the PBS documentary, Race: The Power of Illusion) which is about the correlation between race and housing in the United States.
"I had watched the same movie the day before in my Race and the Law class, and I was particularly interested in what Macalester students outside my class had to say about the clip," says senior Anna Lee, "everyone contributed to the talk and shared their experiences, or lack thereof, regarding housing segregation and inequities."
Responses to the panel and film inspired the Paint Away Inequality event and a community mural was created and displayed for the rest of the month of November. Habitat was recently given permission to install it permanently in part of Markim Hall.
This mural goes up as the recognition of National Homelessness Month. Its design was based off a PBS documentary about the construction of race in America and how racial divisions have played an integral role in shaping the racially segregated residential landscape of today. The mural depicts many faces that represent the mix of immigrants that make up the U.S. and also the formation of our country as a land divided by racial lines. It also depicts different types of housing, showing the contrast between suburbs and intercity slums that were created due to unequal housing opportunities. The roads that cross through the mural and the figures standing under bridges and on the street represent the plight of homeless minorities whose situation is largely the result of an institutionally racist system. Hopefully this piece of art will remind us to be conscious of the history of racialization in America and to try and reconcile its damage by promoting social and economic equality for all Americans no matter their heritage or skin color.
The mural was designed by Art Alliance based on sketches by participants at Habitat for Humanity events surrounding Race and Homelessness in Minnesota. It was collectively painted in Campus Center Atrium by Macalester students on November 14, 2015. This is a collaboration between Habitat for Humanity, Art Alliance, and the Civic Engagement Center.