Freedom University Georgia (FUGA) is “a modern-day freedom school based in Atlanta.” They meet the needs of undocumented students who are denied access to Georgia’s top public universities and to in-state tuition. FUGA offers college-level classes, SAT prep classes, and leadership training. The director and student leaders of FUGA, Mileidi Salinas, Dr. Laura Emiko Soltis, Arizbeth Sanchez, and Rafael Aragon, met with me for a conversation on June 16, 2017. We discussed their work as learners who share the roles of teachers and students in the work of living into Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948):
1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human
personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and
fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
Note that this article says “everyone” not “citizens.” The students of FUGA are undocumented because of a broken and unjust immigration system. They are part of “everyone.”
Human rights are universal, inalienable, and indivisible and interdependent. FUGA takes an activist stance to hold the state of Georgia accountable, while they call out the state legislature and the Board of Regents of the university system as human rights abusers.
In their document, “A New Appeal for Human Rights” (May 16, 2017), members of FUGA respond to the Georgia state legislature’s passing of HB 37, the nation’s first “Anti-Sanctuary Campus Bill.” Along with the right to education, they address the rights of non-discrimination, housing, voting, religious freedom, workers’ rights, and healthcare. This document, available on their website, provides the most current context of undocumented students in Georgia, and highlights the urgency of democratic education in the midst of many roadblocks.
In this podcast in Parts 1 and 2 they talk about shared power and speaking truth to power, leadership (especially when faced with the consistent attempts to erase their voices), movement building and strategy setting, non-violent direct action and civil disobedience, along with subsequent arrests. And they respond to a recent (May 22, 2017) article by Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker in Part 2 in a bonus track. In another bonus track, Arizbeth, Rafael and Mileidi graciously share their poetry with us. The students in Freedom University are taking risks, modeling liberatory education, connecting to other struggles through coalition building, and facing the impossible possibilities with wisdom and courage.