Following a months-long development process, UFE and Equipo Maíz launched a new training curriculum – “Racism in the Mind, Skin, and the Action” – earlier this year.  A resource for learning and reflection about anti-Blackness in Latinx communities, the curriculum debuted in an epic month of trainings and workshops in each of UFE’s geographic hubs: North Carolina, Boston, and Alabama. We are now ready to bring it to a wider audience.

Jeannette Huezo, UFE’s Executive Director and Senior Popular Educator, recently sat down with a UFE staffer to reflect on the motivation for this project and what it’s all about.

Tell me about the partnership between UFE and Equipo Maíz.

Equipo Maíz is a group of Salvadoran popular educators, legendary for their political education about globalization, neoliberalism, war, gender inequity, the history of El Salvador, and more. Like UFE, Equipo Maíz is asking, "Who makes the rules?" "Who benefits?" "Who loses?" Their work is about conscientización – developing a critical consciousness of one’s reality, and beginning to understand how to take action with others to change it.

Like UFE, Equipo Maíz is asking, "Who makes the rules?" "Who benefits?" "Who loses?"

How did it happen that UFE wanted to develop a new workshop on anti-Blackness in Latinx communities?

It came out of our work in the US South. 

In North Carolina, UFE’s Inclusive Economy Program staff coordinates a coalition – Raising Wages NC (RWNC) – of low-wage worker-led groups and professional advocacy organizations. They’re coming together to build strong relationships and ultimately raise the minimum wage in NC. 

RWNC member groups, especially base-building groups, were seeing Black and Latinx workers carrying so much of the essential workload through the pandemic. They began to understand in a new way that strong relationships between organized Black and Latinx workers are essential to successfully build worker power in the state and to fight for legislation to raise the minimum wage above the federal level, directly affecting both communities.

RWNC members started asking for UFE’s support for Black-Brown solidarity work. Right away, we said, “What’s the best way to tackle? Learning our history. That’s the roots.”

RWNC members started asking for UFE’s support for Black-Brown solidarity work. Right away, we said, “What’s the best way to tackle? Learning our history. That’s the roots.” We began to facilitate conversations between Black and immigrant RWNC members, to share their personal and family histories. In those discussions, they were surfacing commonalities in their struggles as workers in North Carolina. 

As a facilitator, I began to want a popular education resource tailored for these conversations. I knew personally as a Latina how pervasive anti-Blackness can be among Latinos, and the kinds of colorism I was taught as a child and that I see commonly reinforced in my community. I approached Equipo Maíz and they were very excited to co-develop a training. We got some money for it and got to work.

How did you develop the content for the training?

The Equipo Maíz educators and I started sharing ideas. We wanted to create space for participants to understand how we have been socialized as immigrants, as Latinos, to see Black people. So as a curriculum development group we started to ask ourselves about the lessons we had been taught, like “Don’t be in the sun for long,” “Use an umbrella,” “Use this cream, or you will become Black.” We recognized that we had been taught since we were kids to think “Black is bad.” We started to explore what activities we could develop to help participants in a training unpack those experiences. Ultimately, we wanted to create space for reflection about how we may be perpetuating racism.

We knew we wanted to listen to and learn stories of Black people in the US — why they came here, how they came here, and for what they came here. And throughout it was important to have a focus on understanding difference, especially gender. Black men and Black women have many differences in their economic experiences.

What do you do in the training?

In the training we facilitate a conversation about what racism looks like, how we see the manifestations of racism all around us. We look at it in terms of five pillars where racism and anti-Blackness is being reinforced in Latino communities — in the school, the church, the justice system, the media, and the family. Like all of UFE’s work, “Racism in the Mind, Skin, and the Action” is a resource for facilitating action-oriented political education. The system has been made in this way. Why? Who benefits? Who loses? How can we make change?

We use audio and video to share information and invite reflection. We put in an audio with someone explaining how slavery started, who were the players. It was very hard to listen to. We showed a video of kids aged 5–7 who were shown two dolls, one white one Black, and how they described Black as bad and ugly. It was a very powerful series of activities.

Like all of UFE’s work, “Racism in the Mind, Skin, and the Action” is a resource for facilitating action-oriented political education. The system has been made in this way. Why? Who benefits? Who loses? How can we make change?

At the end, we finish with a debate. We make 3 groups of participants. One group is to take the point of view that racism is an individual issue and only through individual work and commitment will it be abolished. Another group is tasked to defend the perspective that collective action is necessary to make change. The third group has to argue that change is impossible, nothing is going to change, so people experiencing racism have to learn how to lift themselves up. Participants converse in these groups, and typically at the end, the conclusion is that we need individual action in a collective way.

Tell me about the month-long epic roll out last spring, piloting the training with groups in each of UFE’s geographic hubs?

The two Equipo Maíz trainers - Maira Monge, Facilitator and Iveth Velasco, Senior Trainer - and I spent the better part of a month together leading workshops and training with the curriculum. We started with a multi-day training in North Carolina, came to the Boston area for a series of half-day events, and finished with a multi-day training in Alabama. In each place, we were deepening our work with existing core partners.


1. The first stop was a 4-day training at the Avila Retreat Center (where UFE is a co-founder) in North Carolina. The participants were drawn from partner groups in our RaisingWages NC network, along with other partners from Minnesota and Massachusetts. This group has worked together over the past couple years to deepen their collective analysis of economic inequality, build their capacity to incorporate healing tools into their economic justice work, and to learn as Black and immigrant leaders about each other’s histories. There were 28 participants and they were ready for the content and eager to develop their analysis together. 

North Carolina participants engaging in one of the workshop activities

Taking advantage of the beautiful outdoors of the Avila Center, where UFE is a co-founder, to have a group activity

The community altar, where participants reflect and share objects of personal significance


2. In Somerville, our partner SomerViva, a municipally-affiliated immigrant engagement and power-building group, organized a 2-hour event. We brought in examples from the 5 pillars, activities that involve perspective-taking and surfacing assumptions. There were 24 participants. They asked us to return for a full training at a later time.

A SomerViva flyer promoted the event to the Somerville immigrant community


3. Also in Somerville, we led a session for the Welcome Project, an immigrant-serving organization that has a multiracial staff. With them, we tailored the content so they could explore what happens in their ESL classes, looking at who gives power and who can make decisions in interactions when you know there is racism involved. We explored how actions or decisions can be liberating or can be oppressive. 

They already had done a lot of collective learning in advance about what racism is and how we have been socialized to perpetuate it in our families and churches. The workshop helped them to go deeper and explore bigger questions about what popular education is and how it meets the needs of adult learners. The participants were reflecting: “How are we doing things? Is it in the way we are comfortable? Is it in a way that is reflecting the experience of our students?” There were 28 participants.


4. In East Boston, we met with a group of emerging and experienced popular educators draw from Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE), the Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity (CCDS), and Maverick Landing Community Services. We used the workshop content to explore a question central to popular education: “Why is it important to listen and to connect with people’s lives?”

Popular education allows us to ask, "Why is it important to listen and to connect with people’s lives?"

Together, we explored the themes of the workshop with an eye on the four basic principles of pop ed: living experience, open questions, generative themes, and transformation. There were 36 participants.

5. The grand finale was in Alabama, where we led a 3-day training for the first cohort of participants in UFE’s Grassroots Organizing School of Alabama (GOSA). UFE co-founded GOSA with the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice in January 2023. The 2023 GOSA cohort participants are all Latinx immigrants newly learning about community organizing and stepping into leadership. They began learning together this year, starting to make sense of their experience as workers in a critical way where they could understand the inequality, and starting also to build their popular education facilitation skills. 

We held the Alabama “Racism in the Mind, Skin, and the Action” training at the Legacy Museum, where the displays bring visitors into the experience of the Jim Crow South and present key events in the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century. We used those displays and their audio to tell the history, then talk about how racism manifests in the present. 

Alabama participants engaging in one of the workshop activities

Equipo Maíz trainers at the Legacy Museum


What kind of response did you get from participants?

At the end a lot of people said things like, “My goodness, I didn’t realize I am a racist. And I am dark.” Many participants said, “We never hear about the roots.”

We are creating more solidarity. A lot of people are talking about Black and Brown solidarity, meaning taking action together. Fewer are doing the deeper work beyond an action to learn about the past, not ignore it.

With this workshop, we are creating more solidarity. We are doing the deeper work, beyond an action.

What’s next?

We are continuing to adapt the materials to the needs of partners and to bring the content into our trainings and workshops. This project is meeting a tremendous need. It’s work that we know has to be done to strengthen economic justice efforts and ensure that people who are most impacted can lead. We need to understand each other’s histories, to recognize the kinds of biases we are bringing into our community organizing and their campaigns, and to start developing some shared language and practices for doing things differently.

Are you interested in using this curriculum? Please email Jeannette at [email protected], and please allow one week for a response.

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