In Comunidades: Más allá del aula, I have an activity about certain actions one can do to address the problem of affordable housing (p. 120). Each item in the activity presents a problem and a possible solution. Students' task is to decide if the solution involves charity, volunteerism or activism.
That difference is something that most of my students haven't thought much about. By doing academic service learning, students' volunteer work is at least connected to their academic learning, providing them insights into the larger cultural and policy issues that impact the realities they observe in the community. Sharing and comparing their experiences in the classroom helps students make sense of their volunteer work. Furthermore, many of the prompts for reflective essays included in Comunidades ask students to conclude with a paragraph about what actions they can take to address the larger issue at hand.
Still, teaching students about activism is not the primary goal of the course. It's difficult enough to cram into one semester all that they need to work effectively in the community just in terms of language skills, cultural know-how and professional behaviors.
But a few students are already activists when they enter the class. And a few more are certainly ready to take the next step at the end of the semester. But then they move on to their next set of courses. Or they graduate.
That's why I'm so excited to see that Aaron Johnson-Ortiz is offering an "Activist Laboratory" at the University YMCA. This is what I would have loved to had available to me when I was a student! And I hope that it will appeal to some of my students now. Read the description below, and be sure to sign up if you're interested. I think this is a very exciting opportunity.
ACT LAB is a 6-workshop
AL1 - Community and ActivismFriday, February 4, 2011, 5PM-7PM
Through hands-on exercises, participants will challenge themselves with questions like: What is your leadership style (your strengths and challenges)? When working with others, what do you bring to the table, and how do you improve group dynamics? How do you envision the world you want to live in? How do you see your role in bringing that world into being?
AL2 - Solidarity and Mediation
Friday, February 18, 2011, 5PM-7PM
This session will focus on coalition-building and solidarity between different groups. The first half of the workshop will be an Interfaith Dialogue training, which promotes finding common ground between faith groups. The second half is called Solidarity Organizing, which will help participants think critically about their role as activists, and especially their relative positions of privilege when working with oppressed communities in terms of race, gender, sexuality, and/or class.
AL3 - Another Planet is Possible
Friday, March 4, 2011, 5PM-7PM
We will visit to the 5th and Hill site, and talk with local residents and organizers associated with Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC). 5th and Hill is a toxic site in the African-American community in North Champaign, and residents and activists will share their stories and then talk about intersecting issues (What do the toxic remains of a local coal processing plant say about fossil fuel consumption and sustainability globally? What does the environmental damage say about race relations and economic inequality locally, nationally and internationally?).
AL4 - Theater of the Oppressed
Friday, April 1, 2011, 5PM-7PM
This session will focus on interactive and performative art forms as activism. Participants are expected to utilize their full selves and bodies in the session. "Theater of the Oppressed" is a theatrical form developed by the Brazilian director Augusto Boal that utilizes role playing and actor-audience interaction to aid in community dialogue and conflict mediation.
AL5 - Media and Mobilization
Saturday, April 9, 2011, 3PM-5PM
(Held at the Independent Media Center) The session will include a tour of the Independent Media Center, and several of its working groups, and will include a radio training at W-RFU (Radio Free Urbana).
AL6 - Education as Activism, Activism as Education
April 22, 2011, 5PM-8PM
This session will take a look at inequality and social justice organizing in education. Their will be a dialogue on racial, political, and economic inequality in K-12 education, followed by a workshop on collective bargaining and union organizing in a university context. At the end, we will have time for reflections and dialogue about the series.