by Diana Folla
During the Fall 2013 semester, CUSLAR launched the Paulo Freire Engaged Practitioners Program and welcomed its first guest, Judite Stronzake of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST). During her stay, Stronzake engaged with students, faculty and U.S. social movement organizers on various issues such as food sovereignty, land rights and Brazilian politics.
Stronzake has been involved with the MST since its founding in 1984 and is part of the national leadership team.
She is also the regional coordinator for political education, or formação, for La Vía Campesina in Latin America. Her month-long tour in the U.S. included time in Ithaca, Syracuse, New York City and Philadelphia.
Food sovereignty, Brazilian politics and the ‘new global dictatorships’
Stronzake’s visit comes at a momentous time in Brazilian politics, following the massive protests of millions six months ago. Her discussions aligned with the protestors’ demands for an end to corruption and economic inequality, as well as better healthcare and public education.
Stronzake’s talks provided insight into struggles that the MST and peasants worldwide face today. She spoke extensively about the “new global dictatorships,” comprised of transnational corporations, agribusiness, and global financial capital, which now dominate how food is produced and distributed. While her experience with the MST has been focused on the education and organization of landless peasants, Stronzake framed the struggles of the movement within the broader context of deep socioeconomic inequality in Brazil. She also positioned these challenges within the rural-urban relationship, discussing how the absence of agrarian reform has led to many structural problems in society.
Stronzake noted that as a result, the MST, La Vía Campesina and peasants worldwide are fighting against more than agribusiness and corporations. They are fighting for the sociopolitical conditions for true food sovereignty.
In NYC: at the University of the Poor
Following her stay in Ithaca, Stronzake spoke with leaders at the University of the Poor in New York City, a network dedicated to developing leaders committed to the unity of the poor and dispossessed to build a movement to end poverty.
Stronzake’s visit allowed for discussion about the global nature of the current economic crisis and the role of social movements in solving problems like poverty and hunger.
Freire study group
A key element of the Freire program was the Freire Study Group, which convened regularly at the New Roots Charter School in Ithaca and attracted a diverse group, including students and professors from Cornell and Ithaca College and local community leaders.
Kirby Edmonds of the Dorothy Cotton Institute described the study group as a “place to discuss overall strategy,” adding that it provided a “good chance to analyze our own situation, to ask how our reality here is different.”
The discussions were shaped by readings from various scholars, including Freire himself. These readings placed the sociopolitical and economic situation of the United States in juxtaposition with that of Latin America.
Stronzake attended two sessions, where she discussed the pedagogical philosophy of the MST and her experience as a movement educator.
Future collaboration and exchange
Through events with Stronzake, the Freire Program helped to build relationships among students, academics and community members in various academic institutions, community organizations and international movements. The month-long program fostered significant discussions and laid the groundwork for future collaboration with the MST and La Vía Campesina and established a space for dialogue to address the systemic inequalities we face as a society today.
Paulo Freire Engaged Practitioners Program
Inspired by the pedagogy of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, the Freire Program seeks to engage members in discussion surrounding issues of human rights, education, international development, political economy and related subjects. It promotes dialogue on these critical issues by hosting speakers and events, and by building relationships with Latin American scholars and human rights leaders.
For more on Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement, visit mstbrazil.org. To find out more about the next events of CUSLAR’s Freire Program, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.