Jenny Simeone

Diversity Fellow

Jenny Simeone is a 2013 graduate of University of California Santa Cruz where she studied anthropology and modern literature. She comes to St. Louis Public Radio from the sleepy hills of Berkeley, California, where she landed after stints at Ms. Magazine, KQED's the California Report, and as editor-in-chief for a San Francisco civic tech company. As the newsroom's third Diversity Fellow, she covers race, access, culture, immigration, and power. 

Stakeholders attend a New American Alliance community meeting to discuss ways to better serve and connect with new immigrants to St. Louis.
Jacquelyn Ballard | New American Alliance

Recent immigrants to St. Louis have a new resource they can tap when adjusting to life in the United States.

The New American Alliance is a referral system for immigrants and refugees that started to take shape this past summer.

For example, if a recent refugee needs help finding a job, access to healthcare, or an affordable place to live, the Alliance reviews their situation and connects them to an organization that can help.

Protesters gathered in downtown Clayton in February 2017 to show soldarity with immigrants and refugees following the announcement of President Trump's executive orders.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Department of Homeland Security’s latest announcement on the Trump administration’s immigration policies have alarmed local immigrants and their advocates.

In two memos released Tuesday, the department expanded the scope of immigration raids, undermined sanctuary areas and called on local law enforcement to help with federal immigration enforcement.

St. Louis immigration lawyer Jim Hacking said his office phone lines have been busy since the announcement, with clients unsure of how to move forward.

“People are really and utterly freaked out,” he said. “They’re wondering if they should carry their papers on them, they’re wondering what they should do, they want to have a lawyer on speed dial. Frankly, people are scared.”

Alderman Antonio French, January 2017
David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio

On this episode of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Jenny Simeone and Rachel Lippmann welcome Alderman Antonio French to show for the first time.

The 21st Ward alderman is one of seven Democratic candidates running to succeed St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. 

The St. Louis research team for Mobilizing Millions. From left to right: Debadatta Chakraborty, Neeraja Kolloju, Kristen Barber, Debaleena Ghosh and Trisha Crawshaw. All five work with the Sociology Department at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
Provided | Kristen Barber | SIUC

Did you attend the Women’s March on St. Louis? An Illinois professor and her team of graduate students want to hear about your experience.

The Mobilizing Millions study, based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, aims to identify what motivated people to turn out en masse across the nation and around the globe.

“So many people are participating in politics who maybe have never participated before,” said Kristen Barber a sociology professor at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, who is part of the research team. “So, the questions really revolve around how this engagement might impact the size of future protests and participation.”

Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, January 2017
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On this edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Rachel Lippmann and Jenny Simeone welcome St. Louis Alderman Jeffrey Boyd to the program for the first time.

Boyd is one of seven Democratic candidates vying to succeed Francis Slay and become St. Louis’ next mayor. 

Jay Kanzler, the Almuttan family’s attorney for years, paces in front of Country Club Hills' empty city hall building. He says the city's mayor has been targeting the Almuttans for years.
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

A Muslim man has filed a lawsuit against the city of County Club Hills, Mayor Bender McKinney and three aldermen, claiming that they discriminated against him.

In a suit filed last week in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Mohammed Almuttan, who is Palestinian,  claims he was denied a business license for a laundromat based on his nationality and religion.  He and his family, their attorney, and the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations have called for McKinney's resignation.

A crowd packs Luther Ely Smith Square after the St. Louis Women's March, Jan.21, 2017.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Organizers of last month's Women’s March on St. Louis are encouraging its thousands of participants to channel their energy into activism.

They hope to keep the momentum going through community meetings planned for March that will include strategy sessions on education, criminal justice, access to reproductive health care and other issues. The topics will be chosen from threads on a Facebook page for the marchers called DefendHERS. It shares its name with the non-partisan organization started by the women behind the march.

Bac Le, 70, picks up his grandson after studying for his citizenship test with a tutor from Bilingual International Assistant Services. Le moved to St. Louis from Vietnam to be near his children.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Between learning U.S. civics and history to acing all four parts of the naturalization exam — passing the U.S. citizenship test is no walk in the park. For older immigrants who don’t speak English, the learning curve can be even steeper.

“Think about your own grandmother,” said Jason Baker, executive director with Bilingual International Assistant Services. “Imagine her trying to learn a completely foreign language at an advanced age. And then in that foreign language learn about the Federalist Papers and be able to produce it on command. Some grandmothers will be able to do it. Others will not. Mine certainly couldn’t.”

Areli Muñoz Reyes, who is enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, attends St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For the past two years Missouri legislators in Jefferson City have sent a strong message to undocumented students in the region: you can go to college in Missouri, but we won’t make it easy.

That's what it looks like, at least, to Areli Muñoz Reyes a student  St. Louis Community College at Forest Park who started in the fall of 2015. Already worried about what will happen to undocumented students under the administration of Donald Trump, she’s also facing steep tuition rates without the state-funded scholarship she worked hard for.

In July 2016, black organizers with the St. Louis Action council hosted a protest against police brutality and systemic inequality in the region and across the nation. This Saturday, the Women's March on St. Louis will walk through the same streets.
File Photo | Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend, hundreds of thousands plan to gather for the Women's March on Washington. Expected to be one of the largest demonstrations in American history, the march aims to send President-elect Donald Trump a message on his first day in office: women will not be ignored or disrespected.

More than 3,000 people who can't make it to the national march Saturday plan to join a local march through the streets of downtown St. Louis. While this local march is in solidarity with the national effort, for some participants, it's been hard to find solidarity. 

In the weeks leading up to St. Louis' march, white organizers have fielded complaints that they’ve marginalized women of color and transgender women. Although the march aims to unite all women in a fight for their rights under a Trump presidency, many critics have vowed not to participate in an event they say is exclusionary.

Karen Aroesty is the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In the weeks after the presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected reports of more than 1,000 hate-related incidents from across the United States. Fifteen of those incidents happened in Missouri. In the St. Louis region, local reports detailed verbal taunts and harassment based on the victim’s perceived race or religion. Many people might conflate hate incidents with hate crimes, but most reports following Nov.

Students stand together as sophomore Ali Brock speaks to Ladue schools Superintendent Donna Jahnke at a student protest on Nov. 16, 2016.
File photo, Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When students at Ladue Horton Watkins High School staged two walkouts in November, they called for a stronger response to racial aggressions on campus — particularly an incident after the presidential election. A little over a month later, 16-year-old Niesha Ireland says the atmosphere at school still isn't perfect, but it's gotten a whole lot better.

“I still get those remarks in the hallway that aren’t too racist, but when you think about them, it’s like, ughhh,” Ireland said, rolling her eyes. “But at the same time it was way worse [before] — and the teachers wouldn’t catch it. Now the teacher will be like, ‘Excuse me, what did you just say?’ Maybe not all of the staff, but I do feel like they are hearing us out.”

Participants in Las Posadas procession, which tells the story of Joseph and Mary as they sought shelter before the birth of Christ, walk the Anza Trail in Martinez, Calif., this Dec. 6, 2014, photo.
Anza Trail NPS

In churches and neighborhoods across St. Louis, many Latino parishioners gather before Christmas for Las Posadas, a 500-year-old practice that retells the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, where they sought shelter before Christ was born. For many, the celebrations that take place from Dec. 12 to Three Kings Day on Jan. 6 help keep religious, family and cultural traditions. Gustavo Valdez, a St. Louis resident, has celebrated them since he was a 9-year-old boy in Monterrey, Mexico.

University City lions at city hall (2010)
File photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

Fair housing advocates in University City are planning to bring back a bill the City Council killed this week. The proposal would have protected people who use Section 8 vouchers from discrimination.

Had it passed, the bill would have made the municipality the second in the St. Louis region to ban housing discrimination based on a renter’s source of income.

“We’re disappointed,” said Glenn Burleigh, a community engagement specialist at the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council who helped create the bill. "University City has always touted itself as being extremely progressive and pushing forward toward integration, [but] has not taken the charge from the Ferguson Commission and helped moved us forward here.”

Faizan Sayed, executive director of Missouri’s branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, organized a news conference to speak out against current events in Syria.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Several of the 300 families of Syrian refugees who have settled in the St. Louis area this year are still afraid to publicly condemn their former government's attacks on Aleppo — even living so far away from their native country.

“They’re worried that someone’s going to see their picture or their [social media] feed on TV, they’re going to find out who [they are] and they’re going to hurt their family in Syria,” said Faizan Sayed, executive director of Missouri’s branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Sayed reached out to at least 20 Syrian families asking them to speak at CAIR press conference Thursday denouncing the bombardment of rebel-held neighborhoods in Aleppo. Every single one turned him down.

Arjun Sidhu holds an American flag while sitting with his mother, Mandeep Sidhu, originally from India, at a naturalization ceremony held at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site on Nov. 10, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While much of the nation remains at odds over the results of the November elections, some people are feeling more optimistic for the future than ever. Newly naturalized U.S. citizens in the St. Louis region are excited to be a part of the country, and many are raring to vote.

At a naturalization ceremony held last week at the International Institute of St. Louis, 39 people from 24 different countries stood together in front of a crowded room for the first time as new citizens.

Among them was Lenilson Pereira Dos Santos Coutinho, a clinical medial physicist who was born in Brazil. Coutinho, who came to the United States for graduate school, laments not being able to vote on Nov. 8. Now that he’s a citizen, he can’t wait for future elections.

Kamila Kahistani cast her first vote as an American citizen in 2016's November election.
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

In response to an outpouring of client concern, local immigrant advocacy organizations are hosting information sessions on what a Trump presidency will mean for St. Louis immigrants.

Among those who are concerned is Kamila Kahistani, who arrived in the United States with her sister seven years ago from Afghanistan. She was a refugee when she came via Russia, escaping war in her native country. Kahistani, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen five years ago, doesn’t worry about how immigration policy changes would affect her. But she does worry for the family members she’s petitioning to bring into the country.

Miley, age 4, whose mother is undocumented, receives a letter of support and encouragement during a community dinner at Kingdom House on Nov. 17, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On Nov. 8, Martha’s 8-year-old daughter didn’t want to go to school.

“When I asked her why, she said she was worried that if [Donald] Trump won, I wouldn’t be there to pick her up after school,” Martha said, in Spanish. “I told her, if he wins or not, I’ll be there for you.”

That certainty could wane in January. The president-elect has pledged to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants after his inauguration. Martha, who is undocumented, said the election results have heightened her and her family’s fears about deportation.

Friends comfort each other outside Ladue Horton Watkins High School as students gather to support the mother of a student who was burned with a hot glue gun.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 21 with town hall meeting information — Ladue School District officials are "hopeful" after a meeting Friday with members of the St. Louis County NAACP, according to a district spokesperson.

The discussions came after two days of student protests over recent racially charged incidents against black students at Ladue Horton Watkins High School. Three students were disciplined.

The owners of Diana's Bakery, at 2843 Cherokee, set up a Día de los Muertos altar honoring Mexican celebrities.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s a quiet night on Cherokee street where Minerva Lopez has lived for the past decade. She scans the blocks and breathes a heavy sigh.

“It makes me sad being here today,” Lopez laments in Spanish.  “In California we would have had a huge party.  Two hundred thousand people would take to the streets to celebrate Día de los Muertos.”  

St. Louis children go trick-or-treating armed with funny jokes to deliver.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As a newcomer to the region who has never once heard of working for your Halloween candy with a joke, I find the St. Louis tradition endlessly charming — even after the 15th “What is a ghost’s favorite food? Booberries.”

Sugar skulls and flowers decorate an altar at Diana's Bakery on Cherokee Street.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Preparations for Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, among St. Louis Latino communities are already apparent up and down Cherokee Street and in many of the region’s Mexican businesses. Celebrated the first two days of November, the holiday has the same elements every year: altars, marigolds, sugar skulls — and people comparing the day to Halloween.

“Día de los Muertos isn’t Halloween! It’s not Halloween,” said Minerva Lopez, who lives on Cherokee Street. “We don’t dehumanize death. For us, death is our friend. We see it as something that will happen, and in the meantime that it’s not happening, we’re here to live.”

Participants in St. Louis' Black & Engaged trainings pose with fists raised after part of the weekend's sessions.
Charles Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

While the presidential election on Nov. 8 looms large across the nation, St. Louis activists and community organizers are trying to refocus the conversation on local politics. Black & Engaged is a national project for mobilizing black voters under 40. Organizers held its final civic engagement training in downtown St. Louis as part of their four-city tour this month.  

Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Oct. 21 with email from principal on investigation into the incident Earlier this week, Kirkwood High School families and community members received an email from head principal Michael Havener, explaining the conclusion of an investigation into an apparent use of blackface on campus earlier that month. The letter challenges the students who called out the incident.

Juxtaposing "the talk" given to white children versus black children is just one example of the types of illustrations on the plates at a Dysfunctionware dinner. Oct. 20, 2016 file photo.
Aaron McMullin | Dysfunctionalware

A few days after a grand jury declined to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown in 2014, Tara O’Nay’s family sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. For the first time the St. Louis interdisciplinary artist could remember, her relatives talked about race over a meal.

St. Louis Alderman Terry Kennedy leaves a committee hearing
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

Should the Board of Aldermen consider if its policies are fair to communities of color when making decisions?

Members of the Engrossment Rules, Resolutions, and Credentials committee think so. Today the committee approved a plan recommending that the full board apply a "racial equity lens" to city policy decisions.

But, what is a racial equity lens?

A flip page of a book.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Independent publishing projects are the name of the game this weekend at the third annual St. Louis Small Press Expo. Saturday the Grand Hall of the St. Louis Public Library's downtown location will host over 80 vendors with everything from lit-mags about architecture, art books about sexuality, publishing collectives run by Mayan artists and anti-oppression zines.  

Last year, Danielle and Kevin McCoy attended the St. Louis Small Press Expo as guests. The couple has been together for 13 years — eight of which have been dedicated to their art practice as WORK/PLAY. This year they’re presenting sketch books for artists and screen printed zines. They're also organizing the panel "Inside the Law with Glen Rogers," a retired police officer with more than 20 years of experience in the region.

Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association

The St. Louis County Library will explore the disappearance of African-American sites in the region at a presentation tonight.

The panel discussion is the third event in the library's "We Are St. Louis” series exploring the nuanced identities of the region’s residents. It will be held at the Lewis & Clark branch in north St. Louis County.

A high school sign.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

When a black student tells a white principal in a predominantly white school that another student’s behavior is racist, how should the principal respond?

That question came into focus at Kirkwood High School last week, when a white student left a chemistry class with charcoal covering his face.

Principal Michael Havener said the student meant to mimic a beard. But because the student had smeared his entire face, it looked more blackface to Kirkwood freshman Kiden Smith and her friends.

Vince Bantu (left) listens to speaker SueJeanne Koh at the Summit for Future Theological Educators of Color, a conference held in Evanston, Ilinois, in the summer of 2014.
Vince Bantu | Jubilee Community Church

What exactly is an “inter-minority" dialogue?

For Vince Lee Bantu, it’s a space for where people of color can come share their common cultural experiences and nuanced struggles while building connections.

On Saturday, Inter-Minority Dialogue is an event with workshops that will explore topics that include “Latinos, Immigration, and the Church;” “Being Arab in St. Louis;” and “Partnering with Refugees.” Organized by local faith leaders like Bantu to focus on the experiences of people of color, the event will take place at Comunidad Cristiana Vida Abundante, 1216 Sidney St., in St. Louis.

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