Movement Building

From the Directors Desk: Educating for Regional Equity


For more than a decade, Urban Habitat has used community-based education in the service of justice for communities of color and low-income residents of the San Francisco Bay area. Since its founding in 1989, a central element of Urban Habitat’s mission has been creating an understanding of the regional forces that determine disinvestment in infrastructure, education, transportation, housing, employment and healthcare access. More recently we have moved into new territory, investigating educational methods that can empower and educate impacted communities to push traditional models of development toward more equitable outcomes.

In San Leandro, as part of a larger effort called the Great Communities Collaborative, Urban Habitat has been partnering with Congregations Organizing for Renewal (COR) to provide training and access to resources related to public policy, urban planning, transportation, and housing finance. This work is aimed at educating neighborhood residents on the benefits of building affordable housing as part of the new wave of transit-oriented development.

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Mónica Hernández : Highlander Research and Education Center


“The only way change is going to happen is from the bottom up.”

I believe that popular education starts from personal experience and builds a deliberate intentionality about trying to help people look at the conditions and issues they are dealing with on changing things and making things better.

I first heard about popular education when I was doing HIV prevention work in San Francisco with immigrant women. I started learning about some of the models that had been used in Latin America with immigrant communities, like the promotora de salud model. The premise of promotora de salud was that people in the community were the best messengers to other folks in the community. That was my introduction to popular education as a tool to help individuals learn and as a method of empowering and organizing communities.

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Kayse Jama: Center for Intercultural Organizing

Privilege and Power and White Allies

Popular education works with immigrant and refugee community leaders because it is something they can relate to based on cultural and historical background. It’s a style that we know as indigenous cultures, for example, myself as a Somali refugee. It’s based on people sharing knowledge and having open space to solve and create space where people work together. So it’s part of our culture even though we may not have the same words for it.

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Popular Education

Connecting Movements through Education

by Diana Abellera

The Mecca of popular education, the US Social Forum allowed practitioners to share techniques, challenges, and opportunities that different movements are utilizing internally to build leadership and overcome oppression. Building a movement requires people power. Building people power involves connecting individuals to –isms.  Connecting individuals to –isms opens the door to liberation, and here we have the essence of popular education.

The most effective workshop I experienced at the US Social Forum followed this path. Oakland based non-profit Leadership Excellence held a workshop entitled, “Engaging Black Youth.”  The organization’s curriculum framework debunks internalized and interpersonal oppression as a critical piece of individual leadership development.  Participants continue to work on overcoming systemic oppression through sustained support and training.  In two hours, we got a snippet of how this plays out.  First, a presentation broke down commercial hip hop roots in sexism, racism, and capitalism.  Analyzing mainstream videos and lyrics allowed participants to think critically about the underlying messages black children and youth are exposed to daily. We then processed the difference between who we are and what we do: oftentimes our actions are reactions to emotions driven by our environment, but essentially we are free and open to what awaits us in the world.  All of these exercises set us up for a 15 minute activity that would flip our worlds upside down.


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