Our October 2020 podcast features fearless and visionary co-directors of Project South, Emery Wright and Steph Guillod. Founded in 1986 as the Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide and based in Atlanta, GA, Project South is firmly rooted in the dynamism and creativity of the Black freedom tradition. It is a center for political education, grassroots organizing, legal and rights support, and movement support and solidarity.
Steph and Emery tell us about the history of Project South, how they came to their work, and how the work of grassroots education and movement building intersect in the organization. We hear about some of the current areas of focus for Project South, including a youth organizer-training program being held remotely at the time of recording and community-based free COVID-19 testing. From here, we deepen our conversation about methods and theoriest of community organizing and radical pedagogy. We talk about what it means to establish — and to keep — trust in the context of raced, gendered, classed power that cross-cuts movement organizations.
In Act 2 of our April podcast, Shirley Steinberg talks further about the Freirean foundations of her education theory and practice. She calls on teachers and students to live out righteous indignation in our educational systems and how to create resistance and change. “We have to be in stealth,” says Steinberg, and shed light on how our institutions have failed us. Steinberg finds it important to listen to students, and to engage with youth culture, in order to lead collegially with them.
“Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” Karl Marx
In Part Two Randy Stoecker
takes us further into his understanding of community-based research as critical
pedagogy. He offers a challenge to the “careerism” approach that is plaguing
many institutions of higher education. Using participatory action research and
community-based research models, Stoecker gives examples of the work his
students are doing on the margins of higher education—with/in community
organizations. He shows how a “campaign model” of democracy, of goal setting by
and with community groups, provides the base for concrete social change. The
model of leadership here is group-centered rather than hierarchical, making the
lines between margin and center porous. It is in these margins that Stoecker
finds hope—for the future of higher education, and for society.
Stoecker shares his vision
for the future of civic engagement in higher education:
“This, then, is our vision: a future in which campus-community research partnerships are prolific, deep, sustained, reciprocal, and actively committed—in myriad ways, in every corner of the United States—to transforming communities and realizing a more just society. It is a future in which colleges and universities have finally become places where teaching and learning are vigorous and vital, scholarship is valued for its relevance as well as for its rigor, and the ends of knowledge truly are the benefit and use of life. We hope you will join us in working to achieve it.” (Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement, p. 241).