Expanding the Meaning

The Multicultural Undergraduate Political Science Coalition Raises Awareness of the Interconnectedness of Racism and Homelessness in Minneapolis
Graphic for the MUPSC student group of 4 outlines of heads and faces against a background of different colors

Dedicated to non-partisan community service and advocacy, the Multicultural Undergraduate Political Science Coalition (MUPSC) is dedicated to making the Department of Political Science and the broader University of Minnesota campus a safe and welcoming place for students of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, abilities, and ages. 

MUPSC is led by passionate multicultural political science students whose mission is to provide a community for other multicultural individuals to feel heard and supported, whether it be in politics or in other related fields.

Critical Importance of Universal Housing

Each semester MUPSC chooses an overarching topic to explore. “In spring 2020,” MUPSC President Hibo Ali explains, “our main focus was housing assistance in Minneapolis.” The shift to remote learning under pandemic conditions in March 2020 put any plans on hold but the group returned to the topic after the explosion of anti-police brutality and anti-racism demonstrations during the summer.

“Especially after the murder of George Floyd and the protests and the homeless encampments that came from that,” Ali says, “we decided we should go back to that idea from last semester.”

High profile activism centered around the Sheraton Hotel Sanctuary and the Powderhorn Park encampments exposed for the students the critical importance of universal housing.

Collaboration between MUPSC officers, faculty advisor Professor Helen Kinsella, and PhD candidate Tracey Blasenheim resulted in the wildly successful online panel held in late November 2020 titled, “Parks and the Uprising: State Failure and Radical Organizing Around Homelessness.” Kinsella says, “MUPSC is a dynamic, energized and collaborative organization and working collaboratively was easy and successful.”

Listening to the Many Different Sides

The event brought together the diverse perspectives of academics, non-profit leaders, activists who had experienced houselessness, and a parks commissioner plus an engaging question and answer session with dozens of attendees. “What ended up happening was a deep, fruitful discussion between all parties involved,” according to MUPSC Vice-President Hana Abdelhamid. “In organizing this event, we were better exposed to the importance of featuring and listening to the many different sides of a story.”

The diversity of perspectives on the panel was a crucial component of its success, organized intentionally by the MUPSC students. Abdelhamid relates, “Patrick Berry,” a Minneapolis-based activist and organizer and a panel participant, “was houseless himself. Hearing his point of view was valuable. That was very important to MUPSC. We couldn’t just have academics talk about this idea they have no relation to.” 

The event was moderated by MUPSC Community Liaison Rielle Miguel. Miguel described the challenge of putting on an event like this and the pride in pulling it off. “This was the first time I’ve ever moderated a panel like this-- of course I felt a bit intimidated. However,” Miguel continues, “the panelists were so passionate about the issue of homelessness in our city, and the audience consistently asked thought-provoking questions that made our discussion go extremely well.”

Blasenheim, an activist who volunteered at both the Sheraton Hotel Sanctuary and the Powderhorn Park encampment agrees this was a successful event. “The MUPSC officers did a fantastic job organizing and moderating the event,” he writes. “I can't thank them enough for how well they put this together and for their insightful, skillful moderation of the discussion.” 

Expanding the Meaning of Being a Member of the Department

In addition, Blasenheim thinks “this panel showed that unhoused political movements are an important topic for future collaboration between academics and activists. “

MUPSC decided to organize the Parks and the Uprising panel in an effort to raise awareness on the interconnectedness of racism and homelessness in Minneapolis. “I think we can all agree that the protests that stemmed from the death of George Floyd really motivated our student group to take on this project,” Miguel says. “Especially since we’re a group of multicultural political science students.”

In addition to panel discussions, MUPSC organizes fundraisers for direct mutual aid and for non-profit organizations that support those facing poverty, the threat of eviction and displacement, and unsheltered homelessness. Ali says the fundraising activities during the summer were the impetus for the panel discussion in the fall. “That was the catalyst to continuing the discussion on housing for the next semester. And we continued to do fundraisers after that.”

MUPSC, according to Blasenheim, “is expanding what it means to be a member of the Department of Political Science right now. I would highly encourage undergraduates to attend their events in the future. MUPSC will help bridge the gap between what Political Science majors are studying and the political changes happening all around them.”

If you are an undergraduate student interested in joining multicultural voices that are not usually given a mainstream platform and gaining knowledge about social justice and representation issues whether or not you are a political science student, contact MUPSC by email at mupsc@umn.edu or on Instagram at mupsc_umn.

Abdelhamid says, “It is, without doubt, the most inclusive and supportive community I have found on campus!"

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