Powerful summers in St. Louis – Harvard Gazette


Some of Saul Glist’s most meaningful moments as a student at Harvard were spent in St. Louis, where he worked with community leaders and programs for the past three summers.

After falling in love with the city and its rich history of activism the summer after his freshman year, they are here this summer to work on their senior thesis and serve as student coordinator for the Commonwealth Project, the brainchild of Walter Johnson , Winthrop Professor of History. and Professor of African and Afro-American Studies. The program brings faculty and students to the St. Louis area, a region facing long-standing economic and racial challenges, to collaborate on community-led justice and cultural initiatives and historical research.

“I think what makes the Commonwealth Project special is that we try to build relationships over the years. We don’t just send one or two students to St. Louis [to work] in one organization,” said Glist, who will begin her senior year this fall. “We’re trying to bring a group of students here who are going to learn together and have their own experiences. [They] just understand different parts of the city and then grow as a group.

The idea for the project grew out of a series of conversations Johnson had with St. Louis activist and artist Tef Poe when he was an American Democracy Fellow at the Warren Center in 2016-2017, Johnson said. The hope was that the project would help foster students’ ability to work “in mutuality and solidarity” with activists on the ground.

“Our students have been told all their lives that what they should do is try to be leaders. The message I’m trying to get across to them is that they need to listen,” Johnson said. “They need to listen to the issue and understand the issues in the same way that those on the front line, who are eyewitnesses, understand the issue. They must learn to respect and amplify the ways people on the front lines have tried to solve problems or dream up solutions for generations.

Glist learned about the project, which is supported by the Mindich Program in Engaged Scholarship, during their freshman year after taking a class from former professor Elizabeth Hinton on mass incarceration and historical perspective. That first summer, students worked all over St. Louis in different organizations and with local scholars.

The 21-year-old history and literature concentrator enjoyed his time in St. Louis so much that he returned to work remotely for the Equal Housing Opportunity Council (EHOC) in the summer of 2020 through the Mindich program. They then chose to take a year off from school at the height of the pandemic to continue working for EHOC.

Glist, whose thesis examines housing rights in St. Louis as well as tenant organizing and real estate development, returned this summer for the third time to work on her thesis research and be a student coordinator.

The students spent 10 weeks in St. Louis helping three community organizations for social change: Black Men Build, ArchCity Defenders, and EHOC.

AJ Veneziano ’23 and Malik Sediqzad ’24 are two of five interns working there this summer. For Veneziano, Saint-Louis was an opportunity to soak up the knowledge and militant work that permeates the city. For Sediqzad, a Missouri native, however, the project was an opportunity to give back to his own community.


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