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Best of the Week 2019-2020: Holy Cross Values


This week, IB Film students attended the "Undesign the Redline" interactive exhibit about the history of redlining in metropolitan areas around the country for inspiration on a new upcoming student documentary. This rotating exhibit, which was started by a design collaborative in the Bronx, is currently showing at Mount Pleasant NOW Development Corporation, a nonprofit community that addresses housing needs in Ward 3 in Cleveland. After studying about redlining and the history of housing segregation in several literature and history courses, students better understood the "Undesign the Redline" exhibit as a contemporary issue and how it affects the city of Cleveland today. Being in the early stages of their film project, students are recognizing the communal effort and relationships it takes to have a powerful impact in "undesigning" the social issues caused by redlining. With a focus on hope and servant leadership, our student filmmakers, in partnership with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, are looking to foster community and bring awareness to this issue through their voices.

"In Cleveland, the greatest predictor of lifetime health is actually your zip code, not your genetic code," says Film Department Chair Ms. Lydia Munnell. "Maps that track poverty rates, blood-lead levels, infant mortality, life expectancy, food deserts, tree canopy, water and air quality, asthma rates, and so on all overlay with redlining maps almost like transparencies." Students have learned that redlining was a legal form of segregation that manifested in a variety of zoning laws through blockbusting, denial of home loans, and explicit racial zoning. The Federal Housing Administration's Underwriting Manual set a precedent of racial segregation and maps were produced rating neighborhoods based on the presence of African Americans and the proximity to African American neighborhoods. "Unlike the southern segregation that most people are familiar with, our students were surprised to learn that redlining happens essentially in every major metropolitan area in our country, especially in the north, midwest and west," says Ms. Munnell. "Cleveland has its own history with redlining, and it has very real implications for how we live today. One of my favorite parts of the exhibit involved students finding where they lived based on the 1930's redlining maps. Many of them were surprised by the status of their neighborhood or suburb. The experience asked them to think about how their own street, district, neighborhood or city has been shaped by deliberate and legal segregation."

Looking forward to the production process of this film, Ms. Munnell addresses the importance of students feeling invested in the project and representing all diversities, races, ethnicities and backgrounds that are part of this story.

"Our film won't just be about redlining - it'll understand its fundamental lens: a group of high school students learning about the legacy of redlining in their own city," says Ms. Munnell. "The way we talk about hope at St. Ed's is not passive. A hope is not a wish. When we hope, and when we bring hope, we act. We do things to actively reduce harm and improve life for our neighbors. As a teacher and as a department, our mission dovetails with that. I want students, ultimately, to recognize systems of oppression around them and understand that those systems were man-made and can be unmade. A series of choices by individuals, agencies, banks, and local governments created a system of housing discrimination that has shaped our contemporary understanding of race and class. Only when students understand that these systems aren't arbitrary and aren't essential to life in our city can they begin to actively make choices to dismantle them." Click here to watch a quick visual rundown of our IB Film students' experience at the "Undesign the Redline" exhibit.

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