Category Archives: radical pedagogy

Popular Education for Social Change: An Economic Justice Teach-In at Agnes Scott College

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:

The Agnes Scott Living Wage Campaign can be found on social media:


Facebook alumnae group is Agnes Scott College: Living Honorably
Facebook page is ASC Living Wage
Twitter is @livingwageasc
Instagram is @asclivingwagecampaign

Septima Clark and the Citizenship Schools: Resources for the Podcast

A brief video on Highlanders’ popular education model:

Frank Adams with Myles Horton, Seeds of Fire: The Idea of Highlander (Blair, 1975).

Katherine Charron, Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark (UNC Press, 2009).

Septima Poinsette Clark and Cynthia Stokes Brown, Ready from Within: A First Person Narrative (Red Sea Press, 1990).

John M. Glen, Highlander: No Ordinary School (University of Tennessee Press, 1996).

Faith S. Holsaert, et al., eds., Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (University of Illinois Press, 2012).

Patrisse-Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (St. Martins Press, 2018).

Grace Jordan McFadden, “Septima P. Clark and the Struggle for Human Rights.” Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers 1941-1965. Ed. Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods. Bloomington: Indiana University Press (1993), pp. 85–97.

Lynne Olson, Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830-1970 (Scribner, 2012).

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (UNC Press, 2005).

Sweet Honey in the Rock:

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, ed., How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective (Haymarket Books, 2017).

Catching the Spirit of Septima: Highlander Center update podcast (2-18-18) with Allyn Maxfield-Steele on the New Septima Clark Learning Center

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:

Chris Crass Podcast Part 1

Activist, organizer, writer and social change agent Chris Crass ( 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 ( 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.”

Stephen D. Brookfield: Resources for the Podcast

Dr. Stephen D. Brookfield’s website:

The 99ers Band website:

Brookfield, Stephen, ed. 1987. Learning Democracy: Edward Lindeman on Adult Education and Social Change. London: Routledge, Kegan & Paul.

_____. 2004. The Power of Critical Theory: Liberating Adult Learning and Teaching. New York: Jossey-Bass.

The New Yorker Article: A Conversation with Freedom U. GA Students

photo credit: Laura Emiko Soltis

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.

photo credit: Laura Emiko Soltis

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 [] 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.

Freedom University Georgia Poetry

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

The Freedom University Georgia Podcast: Part 2

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!).