Popular education is transformational.
Popular education is more critical than ever in our current political moment. Our Black, Indigenous, Brown, immigrant, LGBTQ+, low-income, and working class communities face significant changes in their material conditions as a result of the Covid crisis. Without a process to critically reflect on these experiences, many community members will only engage to meet their most immediate needs; our ability to stake out a visionary claim on the future and to build lasting relationships to achieve it will be lost. Popular education offers a way to build this type of long-term vision into our organizing work, even in the midst of a crisis.
Popular education is foundational to move issue-based organizing to long-term movement building. It lies at the roots of values and visions that challenge the status quo of capitalism, racism, supremacy, and misogyny over peoples, other-than-humans, and the earth. It sparked radical cultural and political change led by peoples in the southern hemisphere. In the US, it is rooted in the Black Southern Organizing Tradition and other movements for change (i.e. the Farmworkers’ Movement) that have shifted our understanding of what is possible.
Too often, organizers confuse popular education with political education or art activism. "Top down" political education by organizers can be just as dehumanizing and oppressive as the lessons taught by our dominant institutions. Understanding the liberatory aspects of popular education practice is a necessary part of the organizers' toolkit. Organizers need to know how to:
Transforming Vision, Power, and Leadership: