“My studies at Macalester have been crucial to becoming a better, more confident organizer,” Banat says. “They’ve broadened my understanding of my community and helped me to see the bigger picture.”
Before Sami Banat ’24 (St. Paul) stepped onto Macalester’s campus, he was already a seasoned organizer. “I tell people I was organizing before I knew what organizing was,” he says. In middle school, he led organizations to engage fellow students on issues such as climate justice and queer rights. In high school, he interned on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and realized that he enjoyed the energy of a campaign office and the opportunity to engage with neighbors and the community. He worked on state and national campaigns and founded the Minnesota High School Democrats.
As Banat continued his campaign work, though, he became more passionate about working at the local level. As he made decisions about where he wanted to go for college, he decided to stay within the communities he’d been working with for years. “Growing up in St. Paul, I knew that Macalester was a beacon of high community engagement,” he says.
After beginning his studies at Macalester, he continued advocating for political and social causes. When St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter formed the Community-First Public Safety Commission in 2020 to reenvision emergency response in the city, he appointed Banat as one of the 48 members of the team, which also included Macalester President Suzanne M. Rivera. Banat used this opportunity to mobilize Macalester students around the issue, putting together a panel with Rivera to involve students with the commission’s work. Within the commission, he spearheaded the effort to recommend ending pretextual traffic stops by police—which allow officers to stop a driver for a traffic violation in order to investigate a suspected, unrelated criminal offense—in response to the police shooting of Daunte Wright in April 2021. While these recommendations went beyond the scope of the commission’s original purpose, they were passed into the final report submitted to the Mayor and City Council.
This year, Banat is working on implementing these policies with the Mayor’s Office. And on campus, he’s digging into newly declared majors in political science and classical Mediterranean and Middle East—he sees a synergy between the two subjects, with classics providing a foundational understanding of political science, as well as helping him engage with his identity in new ways. “My studies at Macalester have been crucial to becoming a better, more confident organizer,” Banat says. “They’ve broadened my understanding of my community and helped me to see the bigger picture.”
For people who want to get involved with local organizing, Banat’s advice is simple: “It can always seem intimidating, but especially at the local level, just showing up can be incredibly rewarding.” –Rachel Rostad ’15
January 3 2022Back to top