“The only way change is going to happen is from the bottom up.”
I believe that popular education starts from personal experience and builds a deliberate intentionality about trying to help people look at the conditions and issues they are dealing with on changing things and making things better.
I first heard about popular education when I was doing HIV prevention work in San Francisco with immigrant women. I started learning about some of the models that had been used in Latin America with immigrant communities, like the promotora de salud model. The premise of promotora de salud was that people in the community were the best messengers to other folks in the community. That was my introduction to popular education as a tool to help individuals learn and as a method of empowering and organizing communities.
Popular education in the global South is both a methodology for education and organizing and a philosophy that builds a popular movement in order to bring about structural change.
Popular education works with immigrant and refugee community leaders because it is something they can relate to based on cultural and historical background. It’s a style that we know as indigenous cultures, for example, myself as a Somali refugee. It’s based on people sharing knowledge and having open space to solve and create space where people work together. So it’s part of our culture even though we may not have the same words for it.
Connecting Movements through Education
by Diana Abellera
The Mecca of popular education, the US Social Forum allowed practitioners to share techniques, challenges, and opportunities that different movements are utilizing internally to build leadership and overcome oppression. Building a movement requires people power. Building people power involves connecting individuals to –isms. Connecting individuals to –isms opens the door to liberation, and here we have the essence of popular education.
The most effective workshop I experienced at the US Social Forum followed this path. Oakland based non-profit Leadership Excellence held a workshop entitled, “Engaging Black Youth.” The organization’s curriculum framework debunks internalized and interpersonal oppression as a critical piece of individual leadership development. Participants continue to work on overcoming systemic oppression through sustained support and training. In two hours, we got a snippet of how this plays out. First, a presentation broke down commercial hip hop roots in sexism, racism, and capitalism. Analyzing mainstream videos and lyrics allowed participants to think critically about the underlying messages black children and youth are exposed to daily. We then processed the difference between who we are and what we do: oftentimes our actions are reactions to emotions driven by our environment, but essentially we are free and open to what awaits us in the world. All of these exercises set us up for a 15 minute activity that would flip our worlds upside down.
Volume 1, No.3: October 1990
Welcome to our third issue of Race, Poverty & the Environment. This issue is the first of our theme issues, with the topic being youth. We have tried to pull together articles and resources that explore and analyze race, poverty, and the environment as they apply to children and youth, to examine the ways that children are most vulnerable to environmental hazards, and to show ways that children are in the forefront of responding to this nation's environmental crises. We think - not immodestly - that this issue showcases the diversity of approaches to environmental problems.
At the Grassroots * As community Leaders * In "Traditional" Environmental Careers * Redefining the Movement (Volume 1, No.4: Winter 1991)
This issue is the second of our theme issues, with our focus on women of color in the environmental movement. We have submissions from all over the country--some encouraging, others not so. All the pieces are empowering to people interested in the effect women of color are having on the environmental and social justice movement, and the progress being made. We tried to solicit our material from women of color, where possible -- we felt that the most honest and direct way to get the real story was to have the people most involved share their views.
"Come Sunday morning, there's going to be a new environmental movement!"
With these words, Dr. Benjamin Chavis of the United Church of Christ charged the delegates, participants, and observers at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit with an awesome task. We, as people of color, had gathered to reclaim and define current environmental and social issues in our own words and experiences. The search for solutions would begin in earnest.
Environmental Justice for Asian and Pacific Islanders (Vol.3, No.1: Spring 1992)
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In This Issue:
1 Environmental Justice for Asians and Pacific Islanders
by Pam Tau Lee
1 Koreans for Racial Justice
by Susan K Lee
Vol.3, No.2: Summer 1992
When we first began to think about doing a special RPE issue on water, we quickly realized that this was a huge subject that had scarcely been explored from the perspectives of our culturally and geographically diverse communities. We understood that trying to organize material scattered in so many different places into a coherent framework would be a difficult job, to say the least. Determined to approach the subject in a holistic way, we began by looking at the water cycle in nature.