For the Movement: Community Education Supporting Multiracial Organizing

For the Movement: Community Education Supporting Multiracial Organizing

Equity & Excellence in Education
Volume 38, Issue 2, 2005
pages 145-154
DOI: 10.1080/10665680590935124

Eric Hamako
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The multiracial people’s movement in the United States has expanded significantly in the last 10 years (Douglass, 2003). Historically, community-based education programs have supported social movements in the United States (Collins & Yeskel, 2000; Sarachild, 1974/1978), yet little has been written about how educational programs might serve the social and political movements of mixed-race people. This case study describes two community-based multiracial education programs by and for mixed-race people and suggests ways that each supports multiracial community organizing. The conclusion offers recommendations for shaping future multiracial education programs for multiracial people.

The 2000 United States Census revealed numerous demography surprises, among them, that there are seven million multiracial people—almost 3% of the total U.S. population (Jones & Smith, 2001). Never before had the Census allowed multiracial people to check one or more boxes to indicate their multiple racial heritages. The Census results also indicate clearly that multiraciality is an issue relevant to educators, as almost half of the multiracial population are of school age (Lopez, 2003). While the U.S. Census Bureau has found ways to account for multiracial people In allowing the option of checking one or more races, multicultural educational efforts continue to flounder when attempting to educate multiracial people or address multiracial issues in school and community settings (Williams, Nakashima, Kich, & Daniel 1996).

In institutional curricula and pedagogy, multicultural educators have given little attention to the existence and needs of multiracial people (Chiong, 1995; Glass & Wallace, 1996, Scholl, 2001; Wardle, 1996). Worse, multicultural education has sometimes distorted, invalidated, or demonized the existence of multiracial people (Wardle, 2000; Williams et. al., 1996). The small amount of literature that exists about teaching to or about multiracial people has been written primanly by and for monoracial educators, often with an inappropriate monoracial bias (Pao, Wong. & Teuben-Rowe, 1997; Schwartz, 1998), while the voices and insights of multiracial people have largely been absent. Recent community organizing and community-based education efforts by multiracial people and multiracial organizations may change this trend of silencing and marginalization. In this article, I examine some ways that community-based multiracial education may support multiracial community organizing.


Historically, community-based education has served an important role in numerous political movements. During the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, Freedom Schools supported community organizing efforts by bringing community members together, helping them name then social problems, and teaching literacy and organizing skills (Howe, 1964/1984; Rachal, 1998). Similarly, consciousness raising groups supported second wave US. feminism, bringing women together to process the systemic nature of sexism and to begin organizing to take action (Evans, 1979; Sarachild, 1974/1978). Internationally, Paolo Freire’s (1970/2003) community-based popular education pedagogy has expanded far beyond its initial application to poor peoples movements in Brazil. As a model for community education, Freirean popular education suggests a series of steps through which community organizers can help community members recognize their common experiences, codify them, analyze their root causes, and take action to resolve common problems (Ferreira & Ferreira, 1997). Community education may support community organizing by politicizing and mobilizing community members, developing analyses and a sense of purpose, and helping to steer political movement (Collins & Yeskel, 2000; Williams et al., 1996)…

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