GSLMUN: Local Issues, Local Connections

GSLMUN: Local Issues, Local Connections

Ayomide Ajakaiye, Reporter

                         With the absence of in-person Model United Nations (MUN) activities, the JBS MUN team created the Greater St. Louis Model United Nations (GSLMUN) conference. Unlike traditional conferences, participants had the opportunity to discuss St. Louis-based issues and speak directly with the heads of St. Louis districts and officials.

              One of the main topics was the Delmar Divide, a line infamous for separating North and South St. Louisans by race and class. For the conference, I had the honor of representing the city of St. Louis-circuit attorney, Ms. Kim Gardner. Articles, videos, and podcasts unraveled her story for me. She became the St. Louis circuit attorney in 2017–the first African-American woman to serve in the position. Before becoming circuit attorney, she was a state representative of Missouri’s 77th district, and prior to that, a registered nurse. But most pertinent to this conference, she is a north St. Louis native. 

             Unlike traditional MUN conferences, a huge advantage of GSLMUN was the close access to our representatives. Through my conversation with Ms. Gardner, I was able to get a clearer understanding of both her policies and her personal views towards the Delmar Divide. 

           As a registered nurse who grew up north of Delmar, Ms. Gardner has a unique approach to crime and segregation. In our interview, I learned she treats both problems as variant viruses that need to be eradicated. Speaking from the circuit attorney’s office, she notably used words like “ecology” or “ecosystem” to describe these overlapping issues, and specifically, her opinion is: “The criminal justice system is kind of like an emergency room–we see every broken system of the Delmar Divide, lack of access, lack of opportunity.”

          Ms. Gardner’s language influenced my word choice during the conference. In my speeches, I made consistent efforts to eliminate narrow thinking around crime, and instead emphasize crime as an interconnected, public health issue. Significantly, Ms. Gardner said, “When anyone is sentenced for anything, judges will ask about the broken systems that put the person in the place they are.”  So like judges, my fellow delegates and I explored several systems in order to find our verdict on these matters. 

          Though GSLMUN’s focus was not directly linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we were able to find many solutions related to SDG 1, no poverty, SDG 10, reduced inequalities, SDG 13, climate action, and SDG 16, peace, justice, and strong institutions. A particular solution we explored acknowledged segregation’s effects on poverty, crime, and air pollution by encouraging the rejuvenation of disadvantaged communities through architect-police-community partnerships. This was partially inspired by Ms. Gardner’s neighborhood ownership models and diversion programs, which were designed to provide individuals and neighborhoods with the tools they need to address inequality. We figured this partnership would allow all relevant stakeholders to have a say in infrastructure developments in their communities and produce a more sustainable lifestyle for the inhabitants.

         Ultimately, GSLMUN emphasized direct communication with local officials to get their viewpoints and learn from their tenure. “You can get a whole other level of perspective and understanding from hearing from them directly rather than looking at a website,” says Story Kummer (‘25), who represented Councilwoman of District 1 Rita Days.  

        Moreover, fellow GSLMUN participant, Ester Pottebaum (‘23) who represented County Chief of Police, Mary Barton, suggests that we all have a responsibility to understand the perspective of those who have gone before us because “once we know how these topics CAN be handled, we can then develop our own idea of how improvement can materialize and change can begin.”