Justice work requires
reflection and resiliency. In Part Two Gordon asks the question: where does
religion stand?—on the side of the status quo or the people most effected by
injustice? He sees social change as a spiritual activity, and one that makes
religion a force of unity in justice work. This activity means showing up and building
solidarity with others over racial and economic justice. There are so many
overwhelming issues to deal with–from climate change to the rise of white
supremacist nationalism—that we are in a race against time. Winning the race is
an intergenerational, interreligious action. Gordon leaves us not with despair
at the enormity of the power imbalances and struggles, but with hope:
“The true value of the
conversations and practices in Stand Up! may
be that they help us stay human amid darkness and uncertainty. They give us
courage not only to keep fighting but to care for one another” (Stand Up!, p. 62).
This July 2019 podcast is a conversation with Gordon Whitman, senior advisor of the interfaith group Faith in Action: Building a People-Powered Movement (formerly PICO National Network; https://faithinaction.org). He has a B.A. in history and urban studies and a law degree from Harvard Law School. Gordon did his initial work in community organizing in Santiago, Chile with a grassroots health collective during the Pinochet dictatorship to work for change, and then with parents in the Philadelphia public school system. His book, Stand Up!: How to Get Involved, Speak Out, and Win in a Word on Fire Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018; https://standupbook.org/ is a handbook for grassroots organizing. Gordon provides guidance into how to share stories, map and analyze power, strategize, and work for system change.
In Part One Gordon shares his background in community organizing and strategies to motivate groups to build relationships to act together. And he shows how anti-racism work is central to movement building and social change. One example he gives is the La Red Campaign, Faith in Action’s Network of Protection for Immigrant Families: https://faithinaction.org/issue-campaign/la-red/
In Part Two Leopando continues to explore the theological influences on Freire’s thought and activism that sustained him through exile and institutional work (in government and higher education). We discuss the institutional boundaries on using a Freirean method in the college or university classroom, and I admit to being a “failed Freirean.” We talk about what it means to live into as much democracy as possible in our classrooms, and acknowledge the restraints of institutional time (the semester length), grades, the tenure process, and other academic demands. In the end, Freire calls us to accountability—to risk and to dream, and to live into our “vocation.” Tune into the podcast for a fuller definition of what Freire meant by such a theologically infused term as“vocation,” and how this vision forms the basis of his pedagogy of freedom.
Special music at the end of each segment is ”Prayer for Immigrant Children” (2018) by Paul Myhre:
In Part 2 Torres talks about the origins and work of the UCLA Paulo Freire Institute in social justice education. He discusses his many influences (Gramsci, Marx, liberation theology, Alves, Dussell, Habermas, Bourdieu, Illich, Rawls, Dewey, Gadotti, to name a few), and the new theoretical directions of his graduate students in ecopedagogies and anarchist pedagogies.
From his discipline of the sociology of education, Torres exposes the dilemmas of global citizenship, and the role institutions of higher education play in perpetuating the status quo. In a meeting with Freire soon before his death, Freire gave Torres a second mantra: “We have to confront neoliberalism as the new demon of our times.” Torres shares with us ways to head this call to equity, empowerment, and freedom.
A Podcast of Radical Musings on Social Justice, Pedagogies for Transformation, and Feminist Activism