In Part 2 of our podcast on ecopedagogies, Laurel Kearns and Tim Van Meter take us through several concrete pedagogical practices in ecoliteracy and ecopedagogy. They discuss the use of autogeographies in their classrooms to enable students to examine their place in the world. And they take us through the interdisciplinary pedagogical practices and commitments both inside and outside the classroom in the work of ecojustice. They show the interconnections of earth, self, community, and justice in their classrooms and their engagement in larger social change movements.
In this first of hopefully many podcasts on the topic of ecopedagogies, I am joined by Prof. Laurel Kearns of Sociology and Religion and Environmental Studies at Drew Theological School and the Graduate Division of Religion at Drew University and Prof. Tim Van Meter, Alford Chair of Christian Education and Youth Ministry and Coordinator of the Cross-Cultural Program at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. They are both part of The Green Seminary Initiative, and teach courses in religion and ecology. We discuss the roots and origins of ecological theory, environmental justice and place-based education, resilience theory, contested spaces and points of tension in environmental studies and religion, along with several main areas: food (organic farming; food justice), animals, climate change, urban vs. rural, consumption/waste, role of religious groups in environmental justice (and faith-based initiatives), links to action and pubic policy work, and imagining the future. In other words, Laurel and Tim set the larger context of ecological pedagogies for us and give offer inspiration and ideas for an eco-inclusive classroom and curriculum.
In Part 2 Colleen and Willie bring us to the challenges of our current time with specific strategies for educating about systemic poverty. They show us an intersectional approach and offer tools for meeting people where they are. An engaged scholarship is at the root of their activist work. They end on a note of hope, as encouragement and challenge to engage in the work of social change.
At the fiftieth anniversary of the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike, the Poor People’s Movement, and the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I invited two activist-scholars involved in the New Poor People’s Movement to talk about popular education and movement building for social change. In Part 1, Willie and Colleen talk about the legacy of the sanitation workers’ strike and the Poor People’s Movement, and how they defined leadership and power and “found a way out of no way” in a politically charged 1968.
From the Kairos Center website:
“Willie Baptist is a formerly homeless father of three who came out of the Watts uprisings and the Black Student Movement. He has 50 years of experience educating and organizing amongst the poor and dispossessed including working as a lead organizer with the United Steelworkers, as an educator and organizer with the National Union of the Homeless and its educational arm, the Annie Smart Leadership Development Institute, as the Education Director of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union for 10 years, and as a lead organizer and educator for the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, as well as many other networks. He is a Board member of the National Welfare Rights Union, the United Workers of Maryland, Picture the Homeless in New York and on the Advisory Committee for the Wildfire Project. Willie is the author of numerous books, articles, and pamphlets including Pedagogy of the Poor, A New and Unsettling Force: Re-Igniting Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign, It’s Not Enough to Be Angry, Lessons from the Poor Organizing the Poor: 5 Main Ingredients and the 6 Panther P’s. Willie presently serves as the Poverty Initiative Scholar-in-Residence and Co-Coordinator of Poverty Scholarship and Leadership Development for the Kairos Center.”
“Colleen Wessel-McCoy has been involved with the Poverty Initiative since 2004 and currently works as Co-Coordinator of Poverty Scholarship and Leadership Development, with Willie Baptist. Originally from Marietta, Georgia, Colleen received her undergraduate degree in religion and social justice from Agnes Scott College. She was part of the inaugural year of the Interfaith Service House and worked for several years as a tenant organizer in Chicago. She and John Wessel-McCoy have two children, Myles and Josephine. She has a MDiv from Union Theological Seminary and earned her Ph.D. in May 2017 in Christian Social Ethics with a dissertation on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision for the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 and its lessons for building a social movement to end poverty today.” Colleen also helped develop the Religion and Social Justice major at Agnes Scott College, along with being the first major in this program.
In Part 1 Willie and Colleen tell the story of the work of the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Part of the mission statement of the Center, based on the Greek word for “the right and opportune time,” is:
“We believe we are living in a kairos moment: A moment of great change and transition, where the old ways of doing things are breaking down, new ones are trying to emerge, and decisive action is demanded.”
In Part 2 of the podcast Professors Case and Rios talk about student and institutional resistance and challenges, along with concrete curricular and teach suggestions for a culturally relevant pedagogy.
This podcast focuses on intersectional pedagogies, and what the consideration of multiple socially-constructed identities and social locations bring to the learning journey. The conversation is with two leaders in the field, Profs. Kim Case and Desdamona Rios of the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Issues of privilege, power, and social justice are all made clearer in the intersections.
Intersectionality is “a complex analysis of both privileged and oppressed social identities that simultaneously interact to create systemic inequities, and therefore lived experiences of prejudice and discrimination, privilege, and opportunities, and perspectives from particular social locations” (Case, Intersectional Pedagogy).
Kim A. Case, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) and director of the Applied Social Issues graduate degree. Prof. Case teaches courses She has won multiple teaching and service awards. Her two co-edited books, Deconstructing Privilege: Teaching and Learning as Allies in the Classroom (Routledge, 2013) and Intersectional Pedagogy: Complicating Identity and Social Justice (Routledge, 2017), bring intersectional theories into pedagogical practices. Kim shows us the practical implications and transformative possibilities of prioritizing intersectional issues of race, class, gender, sexuality and the rest in the college classroom.
Desdamona Rios, Ph.D. is associate professor of Psychology at UHCL. She has a joint doctorate in Women’s Studies and Psychology from the University of Michigan. Her research focus is on narrative identities and promise for Latinx American high school students and LGBTQ college students. Prof. Rios has articles in both of Kim’s edited books; in Deconstructing Privilege: “Recognizing Privilege by Reducing Invisibility: The Global Feminisms Project as a Pedagogical Tool” (with Abigail J. Stewart). In Intersectional Pedagogy she has co-written two articles: “Decentering Student ‘Uniqueness’ in Lessons about Intersectionality” (with M. Bowling and J. Harris) and “Infusing Intersectionality: Complicating the Psychology of Women Course.”
I’ve invited both scholar-activists to guide us through the complicated and vital issues of intersectional theories and practices in the classroom. They discuss issues of student-centered learning environments, the importance of self care, taking risks in the classroom, the current political moment, and social action.
This audio podcast is a concrete example of popular education for movement building and social change. As defined by the Highlander Research and Education Center: “Popular Education is a participatory process that combines people’s experiences to develop collective analysis and strategies for action for positive social change.”
This campaign has been “a long haul”, and we are continuing to “make the road while walking” (Myles Horton’s terms). The struggle for a true living wage is complex. For example, our dining hall staff are divided into Agnes Scott employees (Laborer’s International Union, with Facilities staff) and Aramark (four years unionized with SEIU). Aramark staff have four months a year with no work or pay as seasonal school employees in Georgia. For another example, our outsourced landscaping staff have zero sick days and greatly reduced vacation time with the new company. So there is a continued urgency to do this justice work. In addition to working on undoing structural oppression, the campaign has over the past 25 years founded an employee emergency fund and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses. Hourly staff and students are the core leaders of the movement, and any significant change is from their coalition work, along with support from community partners.
How do we educate at an institution that has as its mission statement: “AGNES SCOTT COLLEGE educates women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times”? We in the living wage campaign take this mission seriously and stand with our colleagues to work for a just campus. In the words of one custodian: “I choose to stand and make a difference.”
On Feb. 16, 2018 (Founders’ Day at Agnes Scott) the Agnes Scott College Living Wage Campaign held an Economic Justice Teach-In to raise awareness, educate, and movement build. The Living Wage Campaign has three major focus points: just wages, institutional respect, and democratic workplace. We are a coalition of hourly staff, students, a few salaried staff and faculty, and fabulous community partners (Atlanta Jobs with Justice, the Teamsters, WRFG (Radio Free Georgia) Labor Forum, Project South, Atlanta 9-to-5, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, and Faculty Forward).
Alumna and former ASC living wage campaign organizer Jillian Wells (2010) served as emcee for the hour and a half event. Another alumna activist, Helen Cox (2010), joined us and offered historical perspective. Dr. Nathan Grigsby, music director for the Joyful Noise Gospel Choir at ASC, brought two soloists to add music to our event. Zion Martin sang “You Are Good Medley” by Todd Galberth, and Victoria Wallace sang, “Rise Up” by Audra Day. Neil Sardana of Atlanta Jobs with Justice spoke, as well as Anne Olson (Human Rights Atlanta), student activists Emma Fischer and Kristina Kimball, and hourly staff.
For the full video of the teach-in click here:
At the event we celebrated the work of past activists: Della Spurley-Bell and Carrie Wells, co-founders of the first and oldest unionized facilities staff in the U.S. South. Hear the story of the union founding here (retired custodians Della Spurley-Bell and Maggie Ivy):
The first Living Wage video was made in 2007 by ASC alumna Mia Mingus, who worked at the time at SPARK: Reproductive Justice Now:
A few days before the teach-in, Della Spurley-Bell and Tina Pippin appeared on the WRFG Labor Forum and were interviewed by Diane Mathiowetz and Paul McLannan. A summary of the history and issues of the campaign are here:
Videos from our alumnae, faculty, and community supporters are here:
Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele was recently in Atlanta and I met with him to learn about the plans for the new Septima Clark Learning Center that will be built at the Highlander Research Center in New Market, TN, where he works as co-director with Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson.
Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) was an educator and civil rights activist, and served as director of workshops and the Citizenship Schools Program at Highlander. In 1961 the citizenship schools moved over to the SCLC and Septima became its director of education and teaching. Septima’s cousin, Bernice Robinson, attended a Highlander workshop in 1955 with Esau Jenkins and helped to start citizenship schools in Septima’s hometown of Charleston. Septima’s teaching philosophy was to teach people to teach other people, which forms the heart of popular education pedagogy at Highlander. The new learning center will honor her legacy by providing space, materials, and spirit for movement builders into the future.
Opening theme music is by Aviva and the Flying Penguins and performed by Aviva and Lance Erik Haugan. Music for the ending credits is “Rise Up” by Audra Day, performed by Agnes Scott College student Victoria Martin of the Joyful Noise Gospel Choir and accompanied by Dr. Nathan H. Grigsby, James T. and Ella Rather Kirk Artist Affiliate and Director of Joyful Noise, at the occasion of the Teach-In for Economic Justice at Agnes Scott on Feb. 16, 2018.
This interview took place at East Pole Coffee in Atlanta, GA: http://eastpole.coffee/
In this second part of the podcast Profs. Westfield and Lockhart-Gilroy go deeper in their discussion of embodied teaching and learning, utilizing womanist epistemologies. Critical race theory provides a framework for understanding the dynamics of race in the classroom. They describe their classrooms as multisensory—honoring the whole selves in the space to make places for the imagination, and the creative mind and body. They leave us with an exploration of what a truly revolutionary womanist pedagogy entails.
The music for part 2 is from “Prayer for Syria” by Paul Myhre, associate director of the Wabash Center for Teaching Theology and Religious Studies. You can find his music at https://www.reverbnation.com/paulomyhre
Womanist pedagogies is a way of teaching that connects stories and bodies and lived experience in the classroom. In part one of this podcast, I talk with Dr. Nancy Lynne Westfield and Dr. Annie Lockhart-Gilroy of Drew University Theology School about the origins of womanist pedagogies—the forebearers and the definition—and the practices in the classroom. Scholars in multiple academic disciplines adopt the term “womanist” from Alice Walker’s definition in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens. The focus of the discussion here is in religious education and theological studies. The discussion centers around the “wisdom-speak of the wisdom-kin,” the necessity of kitchen table conversations and the spaces of the ordinary, and the audacity of naming oneself.
Dr. Annie Lockhart-Gilroy (left) is Assistant Professor of Christian Education and a Louisville Post-Doctoral Fellow at Drew Theology School. She teaches classes in Christian Education and Practical Theology. Her forthcoming book is entitled, Transforming Cities: Nurturing the Sanctified Imagination of Urban Youth.
Dr. Nancy Lynne Westfield (right) is Professor of Religious Education and director of the Public Theology Initiative at Drew University Theology School in Madison, N.J. She is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, a frequent contributor to HuffPost, and a blogger for the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. She speaks first on the podcast.
The theme music for part 1 is written by Aviva and the Flying Penguins and performed by Aviva and Lance Erik Haugan. You can find more of Lance’s music at https://soundcloud.com/lance-haugan. Additional interstices music is from “Prayer for Syria” by Paul Myhre, associate director of the Wabash Center for Teaching Theology and Religious Studies. His music is available at https://www.reverbnation.com/paulomyhre/