Category Archives: popular education

Speaking Truth to Power: Part Two of A Conversation with Gordon Whitman

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018

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).

Organizing for a Just World: Part One of A Conversation with Gordon Whitman

Gordon Whitman

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/

Jerome Scott: Organizing for the future

Jerome Scott

For the May 2019 podcast we welcome Jerome Scott, co-founder of Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide (f. 1986). Jerome visited my REL/EDU 385: Religion, Education, and Activism class in April and told his story of what led him to become an activist/scholar educator. He shared about his work in voting rights, worker and immigrant justice, coalition building, education, and movement support. Jerome’s main work has involved linking scholar activists with activist scholars in grassroots communities. And fitting for this time of high school and college/university graduations, he laid out his hopes for building the “beloved community” in the future.

Jerome has done so much social change work; here are links to more resources and the organizations he helped/helps lead as a model for the work of transformative change at the grassroots level.

Jerome Scott with the REL/EDU 385: Religion, Education and Activism class at Agnes Scott College

Project South:

https://projectsouth.org/

Democracy Convention:

https://www.democracyconvention.org/

Jerome is the co-recipient, with Dr. Walda Katz-Fishman, of the American Sociological Associations 2004 Award for the Public Understanding of Sociology:

http://www.asanet.org/news-and-events/member-awards/public-understanding-sociology-asa-award/jerome-scott-and-walda-katz-fishman-award-statement

Jerome serves on Move to Amend’s National Leadership Team:

https://movetoamend.org/move-amend-reports-us-social-forum-jerome-scott

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance:

http://ggjalliance.org/

League of Revolutionaries for a New America:

http://lrna.org/

What to read to get started:

Walda Katz-Fishman and Jerome Scott, “Another United States Is Happening: Building Today’s Movement from the Bottom Up. The U.S. Social Forum and Beyond. Pp. 57-70 in The World and U.S. Social Forums: A Better World Is Possible and Necessary, eds. Judith Blau and Marina Karides. Brill 2008.

Intro and other interstitial music is by Lance Eric Haugan (theme music with Aviva and the Flying Penguins)

Otro music by Paul Myhre , “Zoe’s Moonrise–Year 1” (Myhre, 2019); available on ReverbnNation.com

Workers Unite! Organizing for change, with ben speight, Part 2

In Part 2 Ben Speight talks about the practices of “combing our forces” in the fight for worker justice. These current times require ever more coalition building and organized resistance to the status quo. Ben uses examples from his own decades of union organizing to show that “the people united will never be divided!”

Ben Speight with students from REL/EDU 385: Religion, Education, and Activism

Theme music by Aviva and the Flying Penguins and Lance Eric Haugan.

End music on both Parts 1 and 2 by Paul Myhre, “Prayer for New Zealand” (2019) on reverbnation.com.

Workers unite!: Organizing for change Part 1: Ben Speight on unions and people power

Ben Speight teaching union organizing

This March 2019 podcast is for anyone who teaches/studies social movements, movement building, labor history, union organizing, non-violent activism, social justice teaching, and direct action for social change! Hear Teamster Local 728 Organizing Director Ben Speight give an overview of union organizing and connections to our current times. He visited my REL/EDU 385: Religion, Education, and Activism class in February 2019 to plug us into the history of workers and why unions are still relevant more than ever.

Teaching Sustainability: Focus on Fair Food and Ecojustice with Rev. Noelle Damico

Rev. Noelle Damico

Rev. Noelle Damico (United Church of Christ) is an activist educator and movement builder with the Alliance for Fair Food.[http://www.allianceforfairfood.org/]. She coordinated the 2 million member Presbyterian Church USA’s involvement in the Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s Campaign for Fair Food [https://ciw-online.org/], among many other food justicecampaigns. This podcast takes place in an actual class setting, my Religion and Ecology class at Agnes Scott College, a historic women’s liberal arts college in Decatur, GA. Noelle joined us via Skype in our unit on connecting issues of economic justice to the larger topic of sustainability.

What is often missing in mainstream discussions of the organic food movement is workers. Noelle takes us through the founding of the Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s campaign and the “sea-change” it brought, and continues to bring, in the food system, to create a system that works for all people. Issues of safety, forced labor, human trafficking, gender violence, poverty wages, wage theft, and worker abuse are all parts of the history of injustices that CIW addresses.

A worker-driven social responsibility model begins at the work site, determined by the workers who become organizers and change-agents through marches, education tours, hunger strikes, boycotts, and other direct actions. Joining CIW are faith leaders and students as partners. One outcome on university campuses has been the cutting of contracts with Taco Bell on over 25 campuses. The current Boycott Wendy’s campaign [http://www.boycott-wendys.org/] seeks to continue to move companies beyond their “corporate responsibility codes” to real food justice. The CIW campaign has shown that changing the conditions in the field is at the root of a sustainable food future.

Pedagogy is an action verb here. On my campus the tomatoes in our dining hall are part of the fair food system; Aramark was (reluctantly but eventually) one of the signers. But our Aramark dining staff continue, through their own worker-driven campaign, to fight for fair wages and a workplace that offers respect and human dignity (through their union, SEIU). Though unionized, their struggle is difficult. Thus, fair farm and campus food workers are connected.

As part of the class students engage in a practicum with the campus Office of Sustainability in a variety of areas (climate change events, organic farming, National Audubon wildlife site, bees, and also economic justice with the campus Living Wage Campaign). One student working with the campaign joined the Aramark union steward and me on the WRFG Labor Forum, as well as our Economic Justice Teach-In. She also assisted with our “love poster” action in the dining hall for the staff—big posters we are hanging each week, signed with notes of appreciation and affection by community members, for each dining services staff member.

Theme music for Nothing Never Happens is by Aviva and the Flying Penguins and Lance Eric Haugan. Additional music is by Paul Myhre: “Dreams of Winter Sans Guitar (2019).”

My audio engineers are: Reagin Turner, China Wilson, and Megan Simmons. I can be reached at tpippin@agnesscott.edu.

Resources for Irwin Leopando Podcast

Buber, Martin. I and Thou. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. Touchstone, 1971.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. Rowan & Littlefield, 2000.

Kirylo, James D. Paulo Freire: The Man from Recife. Peter Lang, 2011.

Kirylo, James D.and Drick Boyd. Paulo Freire: His Faith, Spirituality, and Theology. BrillSense, 2017.

Shor, Ira. When Students Have Power: Negotiating Authority in a Critical Pedagogy. University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Teaching as “Vocation”: Part Two of a Conversation with Irwin Leopando

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: 

https://www.reverbnation.com/paulomyhre

Freire and Faith: Part One of a Conversation with Irwin Leopando

Irwin Leopando is Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College, (CUNY) in Queens, NY. He is the author of the book we discuss in this podcast, A Pedagogy of Faith: The Theological Vision of Paulo Freire (Bloomsbury, 2017). Leopando came to study Paulo Freire (1921-1997) in graduate school classes with his dissertation director, Ira Shor. Leopando’s interest in dialogical pedagogy extends into his own teaching of English composition. Also as one who grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, Leopando shares this faith affiliation with Freire.

In Part One of this podcast Leopando talks about his first encounters with Freire in Shor’s classes through Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Leopando became curious in how Freire’s Roman Catholic faith and his own experience of childhood poverty influenced his activism and his pedagogy in the political and social context of Brazil. Liberation theology and the Christian-Marxist dialogue were major influences on Freire’s thought. Democracy requires the literacy of the poor. And a democratic classroom requires the drive to help the learner grow into their own agency.

Education for Global Citizenship: An Interview with Carlos Alberto Torres: Part 2:

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.