Published: Sept. 17, 2019

Community conversation explores displacement and racism


MSU Libraries will host a community conversation to address questions of home, root causes of displacement and how structural racism shapes economic inequality, an event in support of the 2019 One Book, One Community initiative. It will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 23 in the Green Room (4 West) in the Main Library. 

The program is free and is the result of a collaboration with MSU Citizen Scholars, other MSU students, MSU faculty, MSU staff and the broader community. Participants will have an opportunity to explore key themes of Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” and discuss how these themes resonate with conditions across the nation and in our own local region.

Dean of MSU Libraries Joseph Salem said the event is part of a larger effort that librarians are making to develop and foster conversations about empathy and cultural responsibility.

“We’re committed to providing welcoming spaces where we can work with others to advance conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility,” Salem said. “This OBOC event is an important opportunity to encourage these discussions.”

Sharon Ladenson, gender and communication studies librarian, helped organize the event and said the goal is to bring the local community together to engage in a dialogue about the national crisis in housing insecurity. 

“My role has involved reaching out and working with faculty partners Sandra Logan, director of MSU’s Citizen-Scholars Program, and Cheryl Caesar, assistant professor in the department of writing, rhetoric, and American cultures at MSU, to collaboratively host and facilitate the community conversation in the library,” Ladenson said. “I’m very excited that MSU Citizen Scholars will take an active role as discussion facilitators.”

The Citizen Scholars are part of Sandra Logan’s social justice class (AL 491), which is focused on displacement in its many forms. There are 33 students in that course, who have all been preparing to lead some of the discussions at the event. The students formed small groups in class and were assigned to create chapter-by-chapter overviews of events and issues which affect displaced people, learning how structural conditions and policies shape people’s experiences and choices.

“As incoming students, new to the university setting, I think it’s a challenge for them,” Logan said. “But this challenge gives them opportunities to build confidence and to recognize how the work they do in their groups sets a pattern for effective learning and interaction. As leaders, the point will not be for them to necessarily assert their own perspectives, but rather, to facilitate an open and interactive conversation.”

“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” a powerful account of the challenges faced by eight Milwaukee families in their struggle to maintain a roof over their heads, is one of nearly eight million unique titles held by MSU Libraries.