Megan Toomer

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Duquesne University

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International Experience Summary:

Megan spent one month studying in Ghana through Duquesne University's Maymester Program. She studied traditional African religions and the history of human trafficking in a Ghanaian context. Through her studies, Megan gained a greater understanding of the role of religion in the daily lives, rites of passage, and common practices in Ghana. To supplement her studies, Megan attended a Ghanaian funeral, spoke with and watched the practices of a traditional priest, attended a Catholic mass every Sunday, spoke with the Archbishop of Kumasi, and met the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. Through these opportunities, Megan learned how religion is interwoven into the practices and customs of Ghanaians and why having knowledge of these practices are critical when understanding Ghanaian culture. Her human trafficking class deepened her knowledge regarding the effects of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and key differences between American chattel slavery and indigenous Ghanaian slavery. During her course, Megan visited several slave dungeons and had the opportunity to participate in rituals that helped emotionally and spiritually reconnect her with her ancestors who died during the Transatlantic slave trade. She also worked with and taught students at The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth school in Sunyani. This experience was incredibly rewarding because she developed new methods of teaching students despite language barriers. Furthermore, she learned a lot from the students, who shared their personal stories and future goals with her. In her free time Megan explored the University of Ghana where she met students, made new friends, and expanded her Twi vocabulary. 

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: The Unfair Truth About Fair Housing

My CEE, “The Unfair Truth About Fair Housing,” sought to uplift the voices of marginalized communities affected by discriminatory housing laws and unequal access to fair housing. My team members and I began our CEE by discussing the negative effects of fair housing policies in Ghana, Rome, and Brazil and a brief history of fair housing laws in each country. In our discussion about each country we included photos taken from our international experience to integrate our learning experiences and access to fair housing. Following our discussion of Ghana, Rome, and Brazil we transitioned to a detailed timeline of discriminatory fair housing laws in the United States. Specifically, we emphasized that fair housing laws, historically and presently, disproportionately target African American communities and prevent African Americans from obtaining housing at the same rate as their white counterparts. To shift the discussion to fair housing, gentrification, and displacement in Pittsburgh we showed a video of an African American woman in Pittsburgh who was denied housing due to her race. After the video we invited audience members to enjoy the refreshments provided and asked our five panelists to join us on stage for our community panel. Our panelists included Carl Redwood, Jackie Smith, Derrick Tillman, and Kristen Scipione, all of whom work to improve access to fair housing in Pittsburgh and curb gentrification and displacement in historically black communities in Pittsburgh. The panelists were asked a series of questions about gentrification, fair housing, and displacement. The questions aimed to educate audience members about access to fair housing abroad and in Pittsburgh. Furthermore, the questions sought to provide audience members with ways to effectively involve themselves in the effort to provide equal and fair housing to all people regardless of their socioeconomic status. Our CEE ended with a brief Q&A session to allow audience members to ask the panelists questions that were not asked during the community panel.