Presbyterians Today

JUN-JUL 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | JUNE/JULY 2018 21 which offers a curriculum called "Sacred Conversations about Race." Through facilitated, guided conversa- tions led by trained facilitators, Oak Hill engaged in these hard conversa- tions — and continues to have them, implementing what they're learning into their Amen House ministry. One of the first groups to stay at the Amen House to participate in the Urban Plunge — an opportunity to enter into the heart of urban minis- tries — were students from Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church in St. Louis. The plunge went so well that they kept coming back. Last summer they worked in a community garden near Ferguson. On their way back, the Rev. Melanie Smith, Ladue Chapel's associate pastor for youth and young adults, chose to drive down Kingshighway Boulevard, which crosses over the Delmar Divide in St. Louis. That's the part of Delmar Boulevard where the setting changes from blighted houses, run-down factories and aban- doned buildings to beautiful stone churches — a picture of the legacy of racial segregation in St. Louis. When they got back to the Amen House, Smith asked her group, "What did you see?" "It switched. It switched, like really super-fast," a member of the group replied. Then Smith asked them, "Why? Why do you think?" The students began discussing what they'd seen and the legacy of racial separation in their city. They talked about the practice of "redlin- ing" through creation of the Federal Housing Administration, which refused to insure mortgages in and near black neighborhoods from the FHA's inception in 1934 to 1968, when the Fair Housing Act was passed. Mortgage lenders adopted many of these same practices. Racially restrictive housing cov- enants were also used to keep people of color out of white neighborhoods. Cloe Frank spent time at the Amen House when she participated in an Urban Plunge in eighth grade. Later she spent two summers there as a mission intern. Now a student at the College of William & Mary, she says her time at the Amen House had a significant impact on her. "It got me outside of my bubble," she said. "It helped prepare me to not pretend to know what was going on in my own neighborhood and city." Growing up in an upper-income home in Kirkwood, Missouri, Frank realized how sheltered she'd been. She'd gone to public school but didn't get a holistic understanding of her privilege until she participated in the Urban Plunges at the Amen House. "I was shocked at first, which moti- vated me to want to help," Frank said, adding that she realized "how much work had to be done." "It's disheartening at times and sad," she said. "It doesn't change overnight." She began having conversations with her parents about what she was seeing and what she had experienced. Her mother started going with her to some of the nonprofit organizations she had volunteered for after the Urban Plunge, and her father started working in a program at Ladue Chapel that helps people get released from prison and get back on their feet. "My family and I have a whole new perspective," Frank said. "It's so hard to come out of poverty in such an unjust system." About two months before the Michael Brown shooting, research- ers at Washington University and St. Louis University released a detailed report highlighting socioeconomic disparities along the Delmar Divide. According to the report, the neigh- borhood to the south was 70 percent white. Average home values were $310,000, and 67 percent of adults had bachelor's degrees. To the north, which was 99 percent black, average home values were $78,000. Only one in 20 had college degrees. Ferguson is north of the divide. The officer who shot and killed Brown lives in a suburb south of the divide. Since Brown's death and the Ferguson uprising, public attention has focused on systemic racism and ANDREW W. YEAGER-BUCKLEY A Hands & Feet team spends time sorting clothes.

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