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/
In Part Two of our conversation Chris Crass talks about what activist/popular education and movement building mean for higher education. Chris is a co-founder of the Catalyst Project: Anti-Racism for Collective Liberation (https://collectiveliberation.org/) that offers political education and organizing support. He also discusses his commitment to dismantling patriarchy and misogyny (see his essay: http://thefeministwire.com/2013/06/against-patriarchy-tools-for-men-to-further-feminist-revolution/). Systemic change brings personal transformation. In these times of attacks on equity and racial justice, Chris discusses how to find hope in resilience and resistance. First step: to educate ourselves and show up for racial and gender justice. Chris reminds us: We are the 99%.
Activist, organizer, writer and social change agent Chris Crass (http://www.chriscrass.org/) is committed to the long haul of justice work. In Part One of our conversation, Chris talks about his background, the many movement building mentors and the collective liberation of oppressed groups. He is the author of two books, Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy (PM Press, 2013) and Towards the “Other America”: Anti-Racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter (Chalice Press, 2015). In his anti-racist work he begins with the historical and structural definition of racism from The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (http://pisab.org/): racism is individual race prejudice plus structural/institutional power. Chris works to build dynamic multiracial alliances, with an intersectional framework—“working class-based, feminist, multiracial movements for collective liberation.”
In Part 2 Stephen introduces us to Eduard Lindeman (1885-1953), a pioneer in adult education who wrote one of the first books on community development (The Meaning of Adult Education, 1926; Brookfield, Learning Democracy: Eduard Lindeman on Adult Education and Social Change, 1987). Lindeman explored “life-centered learning,” believing that “education is life” and that student and teacher experiences and autobiographies mattered in the classroom. The learner is central in Lindeman’s educational theory; the starting point is always the lives of the learners and the primacy of experience. Co-operative education leads to social justice action. Stephen talks about his friendship with Myles Horton, one of the founders of the Highlander Center in Tennessee who linked education with democracy, and the biggest single influence on Stephen. He then talks about his use of aesthetics, the imagination, and storytelling/narrative in the classroom. What does he want to subvert in higher education?—the capitalist ethic. Hear Stephen talk about the dominant ideologies at work in higher education, and how as a counternarrative/action we can begin by taking students seriously as co-learners and creators.
Dr. Stephen Brookfield is the John Ireland Endowed Chair at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has been evolving as a teacher and teaching others how to evolve through critical, reflective practices for almost fifty years. He is the author of 18 books on adult learning and education, critical race theory and adult education, teaching through discussion, democratic spaces, power dynamics in the classroom, social justice teaching, and activist education. He incorporates critical theory (e.g. Gramsci, Marcuse, Habermas) and pedagogical theories (e.g. Paulo Freire, Myles Horton, Ira Shor, John Dewey, Eduard Lindeman) in his writing.
In Part 1 Stephen talks about his background and what drew him into teaching. He models what it means to be a critically reflective teacher—in Freire’s words, authoritative, not authoritarian. He continually searches for what’s new, what is yet to be realized—and that awareness involves a critique of power in the classroom. “There is no such thing as a power-free classroom,” he writes. Everything, including naming, reifies power dynamics. “Efforts to introduce more student-centered, empowering activities sometimes, in a teasing contradiction, underscore teachers’ power,” he has written, and faculty have to know and reflect on their own social locations and privileges as they challenge white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and capitalism.
In these two podcast segments, T.J. explores the current context for trans*educators, the genderism, or forced labeling, the siloing of student affairs staff and faculty, and the possibility of collaborations and working across institutional boundaries. T.J. embodies, in his teaching, workshops, and scholarship, what it means to be intersectional. He shows why faculty in higher education need to build coalitions with student affairs staff. From bell hooks’ statement, “Theory is not inherently healing, liberatory, or revolutionary,” T.J. argues that we need to find and make places of co-learning and co-creating. T.J. asks us to consider: To whom are we accountable? In Part 2 Dr. T.J. Jourian talks about models of campus collaboration for justice, the growing critical mass of transgender scholars who are creating their own agenda and scholarship. He reminds us that “the gender expansive world is a given” and we all need to step up and into the challenges this brings to mainstream pedagogy and curriculum.
One of the items in my “Classroom Agreements” (or ground rules) in every class I teach is: “We will allow each other to make mistakes.” T.J. urges us to take risks, make mistakes, ask for help—but after we have done our homework (see your assignment below). For those of us committed to co-creating democratic spaces in our classes, transpedagogies are necessary, pushing the boundaries to new liberatory possibilities.
T.J. also offers a definition of leadership that is “leaderfull”, incorporating the voices of the masses on the margins. He leaves us with the question, based in reflexivity: “Who are your co-conspirators in the work? Are you a co-conspirator too?”
For those who teach in K-12 and higher education: do you have classes/courses that do not include trans voices?
In Part 1 of our conversation with Dr. T.J. Jourian on transpedagogies, we discuss his mentors and influences, including activist Grace Lee Boggs (see his educator’s statement on his website: http://www.tjjourian.net/ )
In this conversation with Dr. T.J. Jourian, we discuss the emerging field of transpedagogies. Jourian has a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Loyola University Chicago (2017) with a dissertation entitled, “My Masculinity Is a Little Love Poem to Myself”: Trans*masculine College Students’ Conceptualizations of Masculinity.” T.J. is also the co-creator of the Journal of Critical Scholarship on Higher Education and Student Affairs. He has written extensively in intersectional teaching and justice-centered curriculum and pedagogy.
On his website T.J. offers a definition: “Trans*formational pedagogy foregrounds trans people in achieving the democratic and emancipatory principles of higher education.” Trans* is a method, based in constructivist educational theory, to expose binary thinking and imagine a new dynamic model in gender and sexuality studies. Transpedagogies go beyond mimesis—the mirroring of heteronormativity—to explore the evolving nature of sexual orientation and gender identity. T.J. describes a justice-centered approach to curriculum and pedagogy that all teachers/faculty need to study and incorporate.
T.J. talks about “artivism”—creative activism, the silo-ing of student affairs staff and faculty and ways to cross that divide, and how faculty can address their own excuses for trans-exclusion in their syllabi, aka, the “there is no room” excuse—and setting new, more inclusive priorities in whatever discipline. It’s important to learn to be vulnerable about possibly messing up (and many of us will mess up), and to have students construct learning with us. How do we include pronouns but also move into deeper, structural issues?
In this 12 minute bonus segment Arizbeth and Rafael respond to The New Yorker article by Jonathan Blitzer from May 22, 2017: “An Underground College for Undocumented Immigrants.” Rafael ends the segment with his poem, “The Monarch Martyr.” In this photo you see Freedom U. students at a University of Georgia class right before their arrest. The butterfly wings idea originated from artist activist David Solnit, a puppeteer who has used his art in social movements for over thirty years (e.g. the World Trade Protests in Seattle in 1999). He uses art in protest and revolution, and the Freedom U. students adapted his creative strategy for their courageous acts of resistance.
How to support Freedom University Georgia? Donations to this grassroots sanctuary movement go a long way to making their dreams of educational equality a reality. Professors volunteer, but funds are needed for classroom space, books, college tours, and pizzas. If you live in metro Atlanta, there are volunteer opportunities, such as being a driver. If you are connected with a college or university, make sure you have policies to support and provide opportunities for students like the ones on this podcast. Check out their website [www.freedomuniversitygeorgia.com/donate] and Facebook page [Freedom U. Georgia] for current updates and connections. Nothing Never Happens will keep in touch with these new friends and will post updates too.
In this bonus segment Freedom University Georgia students show us how the use of the arts informs and propels their movement toward educational equality. They give us insights into their journey across borders.
They share nine poems with us:
“Sandman,” “The Life of a Crayon,” and “Maybe” — Mileidi Salinas
“A Monster” –Arizbeth Sanchez
“Engines of the Wild, Wild West” — Rafael Aragon
“Nameful” — Arizbeth
“El Señor de los Salmos” — Rafael link to the translation
“Letter to My Younger Self” — Arizbeth
“Astronomy” — Rafael
In Part 2 our guests from Freedom University Georgia (FUGA) talk about their definition of leadership–from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ model of “we are all leaders”–through students as “co-conspirators” in their educational experience. Their questioning of the master narrative of current U.S. immigration policy has led them to collective action, with the Georgia Board of Regents and the state legislature. For all the leaders in FUGA, the university is practice for a better world.
As they have found their voices, the media often revises or erases their voices. FUGA speaks truth to power, and those outside can never fully understand the context. In addition, the idea of a democratic classroom is open to sabotage, for those beholden (whether they acknowledge it or not) to the master narrative of traditional banking education (in its various forms) have to find a fatal flaw in the utopian experiment, even if they have to invent a flaw.
It is my hope that this podcast provides some space for these voices to be more fully heard, and the butterflies to soar (see Part 4 for more on butterflies!).
A Podcast of Radical Musings on Social Justice, Pedagogies for Transformation, and Feminist Activism