Monthly Archives

February 2013


Office of Diversity Partners with Minnesota African American Museum to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of “Freedom’s Eve”

"Emancipation Proclamation," Harper's Weekly, January 24, 1863, by Thomas Nast

“Emancipation Proclamation,” Harper’s Weekly, January 24, 1863, by Thomas Nast

The UST Law Office of Diversity partnered with the Minnesota African American Museum (MAAM) to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and “Freedom’s Eve.”

On December 31, 1862, the African American community, slave and freed, gathered together in anticipation of the realization of their future freedom, hence the name -Freedom’s Eve. They were waiting for the clock to strike midnight in order to seize the promise of freedom outlined in the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln declared that on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1863 all slaves would forever be free in the rebellion states. Only 3.1 million of the country’s four million slaves were declared free from the bondages of oppression with the issuance of this decree. As the African American community prepared to embark on this journey to freedom- the tradition of celebrating Freedom’s Eve became a custom and cultural ritual.

Freedom’s Eve is a celebratory occasion inspired by the Watch Night Service tradition. The history of the Watch Night Service tradition can be traced back to the Moravians, Christian denomination from the Czech Republic during the mid-1700s. It was later adopted by the founder of the Methodist church, John Wesley. Each year on New Year’s Eve, members of the Methodist faith community gathered together to reflect on the previous year with a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving for God’s grace. In 1770, the first Watch Services were held in America at the St. George’s Methodist Church. Two slaves, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, were a part of this congregation and they later left the church after experiencing racial discrimination. Today, they are renowned as the founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.). The A.M.E. Church tradition subsequently inspired the celebration of Freedom’s Eve as African Americans gathered together to celebrate the progression of freedom’s journey.

Frederick Douglass, A.M.E. member and pioneer abolitionist, shares the jubilant sentiments of this occasion when he declared, “We shout for joy that we live to record this righteous decree.” This was indeed a time to rejoice within the African American community. For many, the prayers of their ancestors had finally come to fruition as they reached towards a future of freedom and liberty.

For others, Freedom’s Eve was a call to action, a moral imperative to fight for the full realization of freedom for their brothers and sisters united in the struggle. The Emancipation Proclamation did not abolish slavery nor free slaves but served as a catalyst for change because many slaves decided to seize their own freedom. 200,000 freed slaves joined the Union Army and left their mark on history. 103 of these soldiers were from Minnesota. These men fought for the realization of freedom for hundreds of thousands of African-Americans in several border states that had not seceded in the South. African Americans throughout the United States had become united in the struggle to preserve freedom, liberty and justice for all as the foundational pillars of our Nation’s identity. Their victory was manifested with the Union winning the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery on December 18, 1865.

The UST Law Office of Diversity (Dr. Artika Tyner and Ms. Beatriz Espinoza) published a guide titled “A Brief Guide to Watch Night Services with Respect to The Emancipation Proclamation and The Civil War” that outlines the history of the Watch Night services, Freedom’s Eve, and the fight to end slavery. This guide was used by the MAAM to inform and educate the community with historically and culturally accurate accounts of the Civil War and Emancipation history.


Governor Dayton commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

University of St. Thomas School of Law Director of Diversity, Dr. Artika Tyner, speaking at Governor Dayton’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

University of St. Thomas School of Law Director of Diversity, Dr. Artika Tyner, speaking at Governor Dayton’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

The Minnesota African American Museum’s (MAAM) Emancipation Proclamation committee convened a Minnesota commemoration on December 20 in the Governor’s Reception Room at the Minnesota State Capitol. At the commemoration, Gov. Dayton proclaimed January 1, 2013 as “Emancipation Proclamation Remembrance Day,” as it marks the 150th anniversary of the issuance of Lincoln’s proclamation. University of St. Thomas School of Law Director of Diversity Dr. Artika Tyner herself served on the MAAM’s Emancipation Proclamation committee and was present at Gov. Dayton’s commemoration to join in the celebration.

Dr. Tyner spoke about the role that African American churches played in the fight for freedom and the Emancipation Proclamation. The night before Lincoln’s proclamation went into effect, December 31, 1863, the African American community gathered in churches, counting down the minutes until midnight. They were prepared to seize the promise of freedom and many joined the Union Army to fight for freedom. This night is known as “Freedom’s Eve” and the services the churches held came to be known as “Watch Night services.” Similar celebrations are still held in churches on New Year’s Eve to date, demonstrating the significance that this tradition continues to hold in our communities.

Other speakers at Gov. Dayton’s commemoration included Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright, historian David Riehle, Judge LaJune Lange, Governor Al Quie, Steve Hunegs, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Rev. Russell, Lou Bellamy and Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon, who read Lincoln’s proclamation, which declared 3.1 million enslaved people free on January 1, 1863. The Founder and Executive Director of the MAAM, Roxanne Givens, was also acknowledged at this event for her leadership and vision for educating the community on the history of the Emancipation Proclamation. The event was an important historical reflection and celebration about the history of our nation and the struggles we have overcome. We are very proud to have Dr. Tyner participate in shedding light on such a significant milestone. Governor Dayton’s official proclamation can be viewed online at

Artika 2

Community, Service, Student Activities, Student Perspective

Winter Hats from the Admissions Office

Nicki L., Current 1L UST Law Student, Guest Blogger

During the Spring of my senior year of college, many of the law schools that I had applied for sent me various small gifts and hand written notes.  The University of St. Thomas- School of Law sent me the most unique gift: a hat. I knew that hats are essential to any winter wardrobe, but I did not know when I would ever wear this particular hat.

Nicki and Allison at the Fall Public Service Day

Allison and Nicki at the Fall Public Service Day

I, along with other law students, finally got our chance to wear the famous 1L hats during Fall Public Service Day.  At UST Law, students are required to complete 50 hours of public service.  I believe this is one of the most socially minded and essential graduation requirements.  The Public Service Board at UST Law helps students by organizing public service opportunities.  

In the Fall, we volunteered with Great River Greening by planting trees.  It was an enjoyable experience to get outside, plant some trees, and beautify the surrounding community.  This Spring, students are working with Habitat for Humanity for Public Service Day.  Maybe we will get the chance to wear our 1L hats once again!

Student Activities, Student Perspective

Opportunity to observe a motion to dismiss hearing

School of Law Detail Close-UpsAlex Ginsberg, J.D. Candidate 2014

Have you ever wanted to see a motion to dismiss hearing, but didn’t know where to go to observe one? On the evening of Tuesday, February 19th, you will have your chance to see an intellectual slugfest by University of St. Thomas School of Law 2 and 3Ls in the Frey Moot Courtroom of the Law School. Professor Collett’s Constitutional Litigation course is in the process of bringing a number of hypothetical cases through the filing stages all the way to trial, and one team has filed a motion to dismiss.

The case involves a hypothetical statute enacted by the Minnesota legislature, which construes the word “person” under Minnesota law to include unborn children, specifically stating that the life of each human being begins at conception. The Defendant in the case has moved to dismiss the claim brought for lack of standing, stating that the federal courts do not have jurisdiction because there is no injury to an existing legal interest.

The hearing will include oral argument by both teams, and should last no more than an hour. This is a great way for students, both current and prospective, to see what it takes to bring a case to trial, including the practical nature of upper level courses at UST Law.

So come one, come all! I will make myself available shortly before the hearing, and will stick around as late as people would like after its conclusion to answer any questions those observing may have.

Anyone wishing to attend can email me with any questions, and I will make available electronic copies of both the Defendant’s memorandum for their motion to dismiss, as well as the plaintiff’s response in opposition of the motion if anyone would like a bit of background as to what will be occurring.

Diversity, Student Perspective

Malcolm X: Celebrating a civil rights icon

Daniel Hickey, J.D. Candidate, 2013

Malcolm X: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

Malcolm X


The schools, media, and other institutions do not like to discuss the influence El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz – or Malcolm X – had on the civil rights movement. While Shabazz and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. both shared the goal of ending racial discrimination in the US, they had very different strategies on how to attain this goal. Dr. King believed in the principle of civil disobedience and obtaining the goal of racial equality through exclusively non-violent means. Shabazz on the other hand believed in taking a more aggressive approach – achieving equality by “any means necessary”.

This is why Dr. King is portrayed as a hero – which he was – and Shabazz is characterized as a man who preached black supremacy and violence. Due to this perception, it is important to clarify Shabazz’s role in the civil rights movement. Not all his actions were defensible, but there are positive aspects of his character that are rarely discussed. My purpose is not to convince you that Shabazz’s life should be celebrated like Dr. King’s; rather it is to make you realize his role in the civil rights movement deserves our recognition.

Around this time six years ago I was looking for a good book to read. I came across The Autobiography of Malcolm X and started a nightly schedule of reading 20 or so pages of it. I first learned that Malcolm Little had, to say the very least, a difficult childhood. When he was six years old, Little’s father was found dead by a streetcar railway track. No one was ever convicted of his murder, Continue Reading


UST Law Office of Diversity hosts public policy lecture

Dr. Artika Tyner
Director of Diversity
Community Justice Project: Clinical Law Faculty

Alexandra Fitzsimmons, Legislative Affairs and Advocacy Director of Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota

Alexandra Fitzsimmons, Legislative Affairs and Advocacy Director of Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota

On October 30th, the University of St. Thomas School of Law Office of Diversity held an informative lecture on tools and strategies used in a career in public policy. We were privileged to have Alexandra Fitzsimmons, Legislative Affairs and Advocacy Director from the Children’s Defense Fund in Minnesota, speak about her experiences in shaping public policy for CDF.

Ms. Fitzsimmons emphasized the importance of developing your own skill set in order to be effective in the field of public policy. Specifically, she spoke of the importance of critical thinking, negotiation, and public speaking skills in order to effectuate change, particularly with partisan issues. By changing the framework of the conversation using success stories and focusing on the importance of incremental change, she is able to take a bipartisan approach that allows for support from key stakeholders.

Ms. Fitzsimmons also focused on the importance of having a comprehensive strategic plan when effecting change in public policy.  She highlighted the importance of making sure that the necessary people are involved from the beginning of your plan, and being intentional about the relationships you form in the process. Another important aspect of successful policy change that Ms. Fitzsimmons mentioned was timing. Selecting the appropriate time to introduce a bill and deciding which legislator will be the voice for the issue are fundamental to successful policy initiatives.

In applying these principles to her work with the Children’s Defense Fund, Ms. Fitzsimmons focused on her experiences with the state legislature, particularly with MFIP (Minnesota Family Investment Program). She began by describing a report on MFIP written by the Children’s Defense Fund, in which she was able to take a bipartisan approach to the issue by framing it about children instead of welfare in general. By focusing on the impact MFIP has on children, she was able to bring the issue to the attention of members of both political parties, which is essential in successful policymaking.

Ms. Fitzsimmons ended her presentation by emphasizing the importance of bringing legislators back to the cause that you are lobbying for, in her case, children. If proposed legislation does not mention children, she is constantly looking for ways that it could possibly impact children, and bringing that to the attention of the legislature as well. She stressed that those interested in public policy should explore what issues and causes energize them, and always keep that at the forefront of their work.

For more information about how you can support the work of the Children’s Defense Fund-MN, please visit CDF-MN’s website:

Mission in Action

Mission in Action: A calling to integrate faith and reason and continue a search for truth

Marie (Reigstad) Ellis ’10, Lobbyist and Advocate, Catholic Charities Office for Social Justice
Director, UST Law Alumni Board, 2012 & 2013
Member, UST Law Annual Giving Committee, 2011 to present

The University of St. Thomas School of Law, as a Catholic law school, is dedicated to integrating faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice.

Marie Reigstad Ellis, '10

Marie Reigstad Ellis, ’10

I could take the easy way out and write a blog post about how I live the mission through my job. After all, I work as a lobbyist and advocate for Catholic Charities Office for Social Justice. This article could write itself.

But, the mission of the UST School of Law encompasses more than our occupations. Each of the graduates, faculty and staff of the School of Law interprets this mission differently. For me, it is a calling to integrating faith and reason.

During my 1L year, my cohort and I were the guinea pigs for a new class called “Foundations of Justice,” taught by Professor (now Dean) Vischer. We were assigned to read Somersett’s Case, an English case involving an American slave brought to England. I was called on to present the facts of the case.

After my perfect articulation of the facts, Professor Vischer asked a startling question: “Marie: Why is slavery wrong?”

I stammered, “Uh…because…it is. I mean, what? Everyone knows it’s wrong.”

He asked again.

I got pretty flustered. I assumed the assignment was to read and understand the facts of the case then regurgitate them in class. Instead, I was caught trying to explain the deeper, moral and seemingly self-evident questions of why slavery is wrong. I was utterly unprepared.

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