Trainers and participants in GOSA Cohort #1!
The Grassroots Organizing School of Alabama (GOSA), co-created and co-led by the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ) and United for a Fair Economy (UFE), held our first two Training of Trainers (TOTs) on February 24–26, 2023 at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and March 18th at the ACIJ office.
GOSA is bringing UFE’s popular economics education toolkit — custom curricula on economic inequality and racial injustice, facilitation skills, healing for liberation practices, and language justice tools— to Alabama to develop a strong group of organizers that are ready to be activated. Our intent with GOSA is to resource projects – especially projects to build Black and Brown solidarity, and to advance worker rights and fair pay – with organizers who have the analysis and skills to hit the ground running.
UFE’s founding lead partner, the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ) is a grassroots, statewide network of individuals and organizations that works to advance and defend the rights of immigrants in Alabama. They are using grassroots organizing, alliance-building with immigrants of diverse nationalities, and civic participation / voter engagement to advocate for immigration reform and other just policies.
The first two GOSA Trainings of Trainers
The 15 members of our first cohort took part in our weekend introduction to popular education training. They came from central and northern Alabama, most of them rising organizers with member groups of ACIJ. The majority were immigrant women, predominantly from Mexico. The event was in Spanish. Participants shared their personal experiences and reflected together on the systems and structures that have created stark income and wealth inequality in their communities and in the US as a whole. They practiced facilitating activities and conversations from The Growing Divide, UFE’s core curriculum, designed to engage adult learners in using data to support and validate their experiences in living with income and wealth inequality..
That first training also included content on African American history, reflecting our focus on Black and Brown solidarity. We hosted it intentionally at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where participants went on a tour and took part in an activity to learn about the struggles of the Black community during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. They viewed exhibits that bring to life the conditions of segregated schooling, the violence wielded against Black communities, and the organized resistance and fights for human rights. Together, UFE and ACIJ staff and participants learned more about systems of racial injustice from enslavement to mass incarceration.
On March 18, this cohort reconvened for a one-day follow up TOT. As described by UFE Popular Educator and Executive Director Jeannette Huezo, it was “an intense day of learning, practice, experience, support, and solidarity.” Participants dove more deeply into popular education methodology, practiced facilitating activities, and supported each other to reflect and grow.
UFE has a core strategy of working with low wage workers to build the movement for economic justice in the US. Our Inclusive Economies Project has had a presence in North Carolina, ranked among the worst states for workers, for seven years. We are expanding to meet the needs of local organizers in Alabama, another state where economic inequities are especially steep and workers have less protections and rights, and where there are many structural and political obstacles to advancing change. In addition, we have been building relationships with locally-rooted organizations in Alabama, and community leaders there identified popular education training and leadership developments as needs to build the movement for economic justice in Alabama.
Resourcing our movements
All GOSA popular educator and leadership development training is provided at no cost, including lodging and food. Many participants receive stipends to cover lost wages, child care, and travel expenses. We will host five GOSA trainings in 2023 and participants will receive official recognition for participating in the trainings.
In Alabama we see a huge organizing opportunity for Black and Brown workers to build solidarity and power to make changes that will greatly benefit all low-wage workers. UFE is so excited to launch this new partnership and initiative in Alabama, we look forward to building and weaving relationships and supporting the incredible organizers on the ground in Alabama that are working for justice and solidarity despite challenging political circumstances.
In addition to our work with the rising organizers who participate in the GOSA training series, UFE is supporting ACIJ and the GOSA network on using data to support their organizing work. We did an in-person training, and are continuing with weekly data trainings and check-ins in Spanish and in English, on a database tool built to support movement work.
Help us grow the momentum
We are grateful to The LIFT Fund’s Southern Workers Opportunity Fund, for support of the GOSA project. They provided us with the anchor funding to get the project off the ground over the next three years. We have raised one-third of project costs so far, and would love your support to close the gap on the remaining expenses!