Paulo Freire’s legacy in the Anti-Racist Media Activist Alliance

Presentation at Speaker Series at the Institute for Media and Creative Industries at the Loughborough University and Cardiff University* on February 1, 2021.

Today I present the article “Connections with Paulo Freire’s legacy in anti-racism media activist collaboration in Finland”, which I wrote together with Monica Gathuo.

In the article we reflect about the connections between Paulo Freire’s legacy and our work in the Anti-Racism Media Activist Alliance. ARMA Alliance. By anti-racism media activism, we mean creative uses of communication and media for audio-visual, textual, artistic and journalistic actions to contribute to anti-racism struggles.

When we developed ARMA Alliance in 2017, we did not connect our plans with Paulo Freire directly, but some aspects of his legacy were there: dialogue, solidarity/collaboration and praxis. We had two main questions in mind:

  1. What can we learn by doing research about and acting together with anti-racism media activist initiatives by people who suffer from racism?
  2. How can the things we learn about these initiatives become into contributions for those same struggles and beyond?

At the same time, we also developed our three key methodological principles: knowledge exchange, creative publishing and international networking. In the article, we focus on our work in Finland, but we are also doing work together with Criola, one of Brazil’s most traditional not-for-profit organization by and for Black women in Rio de Janeiro.

During the peer-review process, reviewers claimed there was not much engagement with Freire’s work. That was true. As we reworked the text, we explored different connections between Freire’s legacy and ARMA Alliance.

First, we thought about Freire’s work on the oppressor – oppressed relationship.

We reflected about our positions as Black people in contexts of dominant whiteness. At the same time, we reflected about our privileges in contrast with many underprivileged BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) social groups.

It is paradoxical: we suffer from the oppression of systemic racism, but we also risk acting as oppressors if we misuse the little social and institutional power we. From Freire, we learned to remain vigilant not to reproduce racist and oppressive behaviour.

We also reflected about Freire’s idea of conscientization in a mutual way. 

In our activities, we organize lecture courses, workshops, and open conversations, for example. These processes of knowledge exchange between academics and activists contribute to our common struggles against racism.

Again, we have to be vigilant. We cannot arrogantly assume one knowledge is better than the other is. Freire’s writings on the ethics of conscientization are, above all, a humbling reminder of the importance of mutual respect.

Finally, we have worked to enact Freire’s theory-and-action praxis through collaboration.

Among us (including Andiara Pereira, who worked with us in Brazil), we conducted a collaborative interview process. Together, we developed the interview guides and, as much as possible, conducted the interviews and will analyse them together.  

In our collaboration with other BIPOC people, we try to work so that everyone involved benefits from the activities we organize. Not only do we engage in terms of mutual learning, but also sharing resources and generating income.

With white people, we act to exchange knowledge and resources. We believe that by doing the work we do with ARMA Alliance, we contribute to white people’s knowledge about the meanings of anti-racism work and their increasing engagement in struggles.

You can read the article for more details. The access is free. 

For me, it became quite evident that Freire’s ideas on communication as dialogue, mutual learning, theory-and-action praxis and collaboration remain fundamental.

For this reason, Freire should not merely be a faint influence in collaborative work, but a central reference in our efforts for the collective action for solidarity, mutual learning, justice, respect and progressive social change.

* I would like to thank the editors of the special issue – Ana Suzina, Thomas Tufte and César Jiménez-Martínez – and the editorial team at Revista Commons. As we all know very well, academia has increasingly suffered from neoliberal individualism and competition. The problematic side of it is that such an environment might harm how we relate to each other. Therefore, thank you all for materializing solidarity, collectivity and social justice in the work you do. Thank you also to Dr. Cássia Ayres, with whom I had the honour of sharing important ideas during our Speaker Series’ session.