Jenny Simeone-Casas | St. Louis Public Radio

Jenny Simeone-Casas

Diversity Fellow

Jenny Simeone-Casas is a 2013 graduate of University of California Santa Cruz where she studied anthropology and modern literature. She came 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 covered race, access, culture, immigration, and power. Jenny reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2016 to 2017.

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.

students celebrate graduation day with flags
Facebook|Mosaic Project

The foreign-born population in the St. Louis area grew by about 9 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to census data collected in the American Community Survey.

During that time, the number of immigrants grew to 129,559. St. Louis attracted the highest percentage increase of the nation's top 20 metropolitan areas, beating out New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco.

Alexandra Noboa takes pictures for social media as reporters conduct a pre-game interview at Busch Stadium. Noboa, the Cardinals' Spanish translator, launched the @cardenales Twitter account.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

This week, for the first time in team history, two St. Louis Cardinals' games will be broadcast in Spanish. It’s one of the biggest nods to the local Latino community, and comes during what has been a big year for Spanish speakers in Major League Baseball.

De Nichols | Facebook

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, D.C., to the public this past weekend. Unlike many of those in the crowd at the opening ceremony, St. Louis artists De Nichols, Marcis Curtis and Mallory Nezam made artwork that is in the museum’s collection.

The trio made the 13-hour trip by car from St. Louis to see The Mirror Casket’s new home. After touring the exhibits, the group left confident that the Smithsonian will carefully display the life-sized casket covered in shattered mirrors. The sculpture asks audiences to reflect on their role in the struggle for social justice.

An art piece by Kelley Walker uses a floor-to-ceiling cover of a female rapper from men's magazine. It is smeared in tooth paste.
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Sept. 23 with statement from Kelley Walker — The Contemporary Art Museum’s display of a controversial exhibit by artist Kelley Walker — and how the administration handled public objection — has shadowed the museum in tension. The exhibit uses the images of black people in ways some St. Louisans consider disrespectful and offensive.

Three members of the museum’s administrative staff who are black have called for the museum to remove Walker’s “Direct Drive” exhibition. In the letter to the museum's senior directors published Thursday on Facebook, De Andrea Nichols, Lyndon Barrois Jr. and Victoria Donaldson also said chief curator Jeffrey Uslip should resign and issue a formal apology.

A art piece by Kelley Walker depicting a civil rights-era protest is splattered with melted dark, white, and milk chocolate.
Kelley Walker, Black Star Press | Paula Cooper Gallery

Walk into the Contemporary Art Museum today and you will be greeted with brick paintings, light boxes, laptop sculptures, and a 4-by-4 chocolate disco ball. It’s Kelley Walker’s first U.S. solo museum show, Direct Drive.  

Walk deeper into the main galleries and you’ll see works from the Georgia-born artist’s past shows, most notably Black Star Press, and Schema. They include a floor-to-ceiling print of the model and rapper Trina scantily clad on the cover of KING magazine coated in digital scans of smeared toothpaste. Another uses a 1963 image of Birmingham police and dogs attacking a civil rights protester. The print is splattered with different shades of chocolate. Both works have garnered Walker, who is white, a reputation for commenting on race in America — and fierce criticism of his use of the black body.

An attendee spent time along the Mississippi River following a water prayer ceremony on Sunday morning.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Every Sunday morning, Saundi Kloeckener makes her way to the Lincoln Shields Recreation area, just north of where the Mississippi and Missouri rivers meet. Kloeckener, who is of Cherokee and African descent, joins a small group of Native American women to offer prayers for water.

For years, the group has met once a week to perform a traditional Ojibwe water prayer ceremony. Together, they stand at the water's edge to thank it, express gratitude and pray for its protection.

This week, in a show of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others across the country speaking out against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Kloeckener opened up the sacred ceremony to the public.

The casket of Phyllis Schlafly is escorted down the aisle of the Cathedral Basilicia of St. Louis following a funeral Mass on Sept. 10, 2016.
Pool photo by Robert Cohen | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Updated at 9:00 p.m. Sept 11 to clarify ongoing legal action involving the Eagle Forum. Hundreds of mourners packed the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis Saturday afternoon to honor a woman known for her conservative activism and polarizing views.

Schlafly died Labor Day at 92. The views she pushed as the founder of the Eagle Forum were underpinned by her deep Catholic faith. 

Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

When a Ferguson police officer shot and killed Michael Brown outside Canfield Apartments in August, 2014, Darren Seals was one of the first people at the scene supporting Brown's family. In the two years that followed, Seals co-led many of the protests in the St. Louis area, calling for criminal justice reform and an end to structural oppression against people of color.

Early Wednesday, police found Seals shot and killed inside a burning vehicle in the Riverview suburb of St. Louis County. The 29-year-old's death is being investigated as a homicide.

Humberto Howard | Criteria Entertainment

The St. Louis Ballpark Village is usually a venue for throwing back a few cold ones and watching the Cardinals game. But today the venue will give locals a taste of Los Angeles. La Santa Cecilia, a modern band that fuses Mexican roots music and Pan-American sounds, from cumbia to soul, is the headliner for the En Vivo Latino Music Festival.

Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

Community activists draped banners over several overpasses over westbound Interstate 70 on Wednesday to call attention to neglected parts of St. Louis and protest police killings of black people.

Each banner greeted commuters heading into St. Louis County with messages like “Black Lives Matter,” “Police Stop Killing Us” and “Invest in North City.” Kayla Reed, one of the organizers with the St. Louis Action Council, said they chose I-70 because it allows drivers to pass quickly through areas with high rates of unemployment, infant mortality and crime.

LAMP Facebook Page

Where can you get a dental exam, immigration resources, and hear traditional music from Michoacán, Mexico? On Sunday afternoon, your best bet is the third annual community health fair at St. Cecilia Catholic Church on Louisiana Avenue.

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