The Impact of UNSIF

Since 2013, UNSIF has served 910 student-participants on the six campuses, as well as 255 additional participants at special events that were designed to increase exposure to UNSIF and to articulate its future, the Southern Movement Assembly of 2014 and the Educational and Organizing Institute in May 2015. Over the 9 semesters that University Sin Fronteras has held classes, more than15 faculty members have practiced and refined the following 2-hour classes that constitute the core curriculum: Racism & violence: Healing racial trauma; Emancipatory education & decolonizing pedagogy; Sovereignty of the body & self-determination; State violence & globalization; Health & healing (decolonizing the medical industrial complex); Black radical tradition in the U.S. South; Action, power and systemic change; Environmental racism and climate change; Labor, migration & the globalization of capital; Cultural liberation and systemic social change; Colonialism & decolonization; and The prison industrial complex and ReGeneration of formerly incarcerated movements.

Over the course of 4 years, participants across all campuses began to articulate five leadership development themes that connect with local organizing and activism: the autonomy of the body (in all of our relations); anti-racism (re-membering the body); emancipatory education (the pedagogy of liberation); historical regeneration; and decolonizing as a theory of change. These themes are described as follows:

Autonomy of the body. Dismantling racism and decolonizing our lives starts with the body (the person). Sovereignty is the opposite of the systems of oppression, therefore liberating the body is central to dismantling oppressive systems.  Making the body whole regenerates and re-members the body and starts the healing process. This decolonizing process breaks down racism, sexism, classism, ableism, etc.

Dismantle racism within our lifetime.  Remembering our bodies and communities and making them whole breaks down the colonial social construct of racism and white supremacy, and the New Confederacy, and permits healing from racial trauma and violence.

Replicating emancipatory education (liberation and freedom schools). Cultural practices are embedded in everyday work and life in every community of People of Color, Indigenous, and poor. Cultural development is based on knowledge creation and shared knowledge rooted in the practices established by these local communities. UNSIF courses serve to replicate this knowledge.

Regeneration of our shared histories.  Shared historical knowledge of movement history and liberation allows for the inclusion of every people’s knowledge not just the victor or the colonizing occupier. ReGeneration offers self-awareness and self-identity through historiographic knowledge.

Decolonizing the theory of change (and practice). The process involves answering fundamental questions such as how the decolonizing process of UNSIF dismantles the systems of racism, how we build a new social order and culture, and how decolonization leads to and build liberation.

Through the last four years of the University’s work with Project ReGeneration, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we have documented significant transformative impact.  We have established a theory of change and practices that assert the possibility and reality of dismantling racism in our lifetimes rather than a task to leave for future generations. We have changed social justice group dynamics from a didactic approach to round robin collective discussion, analysis, decision-making, and synthesis, and coordination. We have witnessed major shifts in our practice by developing collective consensus rather than voting, and we use more organic participatory methods in large group decision making with racial justice lens at the center. Emancipatory education has become critical to healing racism rather than holding “training” sessions or workshops. Situational analysis methods of planning and action, including the “Before, During and After” analytical methodology are now part of many more social movement spaces.  Shared curriculum and an archive of UNSIF courses and materials are available to all six campuses. Finally, we are proud to have established a student- to-faculty leadership development pipeline that encourages intergenerational relationships between older and younger social movement leaders and analysis sharing, specifically around historic and contemporary understandings of race and racial healing.

The future of UNSIF

We expect to expand UNSIF but only after consolidating what we have and clarifying the processes we follow. We are assisting organizations that wish to establish a campus by working with them to offer trial seminars appropriate for their contexts and by creating on-line and printed guides to our curriculum, our pedagogy, and our other practices.

The University Sin Fronteras Educational & Organizing Institute, first held in May 2015, was a three-day intense political education and decolonizing process, where all of the six campuses were represented by the anchor organization director, the campus coordinator, and a student-participant from each campus, and the UNSIF staff and board of directors.  Thirty-five people came together to synthesize the experience of the University Sin Fronteras 2013-15.  The institute also provided for adjunct faculty training.  Campus coordinators were able to cross-pollinate the work locally and gauge where they are in the mix.  The institute was led in a people’s movement assembly methodology of shared knowledge and collective theory and action (People’s Movement Assembly).  Given the success in re-energizing the campuses and strengthening the overall organization of UNSIF, we anticipate an annual institute.

UNSIF founded in Puerto Rico the Caribbean Institute on Social Movements (CISM), to promote emancipatory and decolonizing education and shared knowledge spaces in the Caribbean basin to connect as the Gran Caribbean to the South (US) and to the Gulf Coast including Mexico and Venezuela and up through the Antillean islands of the Caribbean. The mission is to build connections between the South and the Caribbean and Mexico.  A liberation/decolonizing Puerto Rico Tour is planned for September 19-25, 2015, focusing on Grito de Lares day which is Puerto Rico independence day.

By the end of 2015, UNSIF expects to create an Emancipatory Teacher Training School (ETTS) to meet the need of developing emancipatory educational teachers to imbed themselves in grassroots social movement organizations in order to grow liberation schools in many communities.  Emancipatory Teachers will be developed through the UNSIF institute for emancipatory teachers and liberation schools.

In short, the participants, faculty, and staff of UNSIF seek to recreate the university as a site of true and permanent liberation from all oppressions, one campus and one anchor organization at a time.