Art by Elizabeth Che.
Our first emergency online class due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter in place orders in New York City fell on the day of group one’s team-taught class. The students were given the option to either try their best at re-figuring the activities to be done either synchronously or asynchronously for the upcoming class they could go on a later date and have more time to think it through. With the understanding that they would be given grace and respect for attempting a feat with such a quick turn around, they decided to continue on as planned.
Our online half of the semester was structured so the first hour of class was on Google Docs, completing writing prompts co-currently and doing activities. During the second hour we would discuss via web call. Students could video or call in, participate in the chat if they were able, or continue putting information in the Google Doc.
Best Practices & Info for First Online Class
- Questions and comments can either be given in g-chat or in the Google Doc comments.
- All student Gmail accounts will be added directly to the Google Doc, rather than having them participate anonymously. This makes commenting clearer and conversations more structured.
- The web call invitation will be listed at the top of the Google Doc. agenda each class.
- When you join the video chat, please make sure your mic is muted if you are not currently speaking (this way we don’t all hear your ambient noise). It is the symbol on the bottom left with the microphone.
- Note: Charts on Google docs. pose some difficulties, if you are trying to organize your ideas consider using bullet points instead.
Group 1 Facilitators: Nik Valdez, Anjelica Enaje, Francisco, Lucien Baskin
Students should be online by 2pm, signed into their google account and on the document by that time.
2:00–2:30 OPENING EXERCISE: Poster response: each person provides one response (word, phrase, quotation, thoughts, etc.) per assigned material. We encourage talking to each other about your responses throughout this exercise. On the google doc, find each reading/resource in their own "box" under the title “ACTIVITY 1” below. At the end, we can have a discussion about what moved people to respond in the way they did. *Students ended up using the comments tool instead of the google chat feature and we did have audio, but didn’t use it until we transitioned to the “video call” portion of the class.
2:30–3:00 5 minutes to write out a short summary and then post it on the shared doc under the “ACTIVITY 2” header. We encourage people to write the way they would speak instead of doing the "academic speak" translation that often happens with writing.
3:00–3:30 Re-worked Quilting activity: each person writes, draws, or responds in some way (on paper) to the readings, activities, and assignments. The responses will then be taped to the wall in a quilt-like pattern, meant to encapsulate the class’s experience of the material and the concept of decolonization. So for the online version of this activity, we have a few options. Google drive has a "google draw" document which is easily accessible and easily used. People can do their drawing either there or on MS Paint and insert a screenshot of the drawing into the shared doc, beneath the header “ACTIVITY 3”. If there are people in the class who aren't totally comfortable with technology, just draw on paper, snap a picture, and text it to: xxxxxx-6314 so we can insert it for you. (Or you can insert the image yourself if you feel comfortable.) * Note: This activity was made into an optional post-class activity, as the prior discussions were robust and extended past time.
3:30–3:50 Recaps, insights, see what emerges. If we don't have audio, we could end the class with a short writing exercise, with questions that encourage everyone to 1) interrogate our own practices and identify the ways that we all perpetuate or contribute to the colonial project, and 2) have each individual identify strategies they will use, ideally inspired/informed by the materials we had them read/listen to, in their pedagogy practice.
3:50–4:00 Response to online class format: suggestions, concerns, fine-tuning, etc.
- Ten Theses on Coloniality and Decoloniality, Nelson Maldonado-Torres. We thought we would assign each person in the class 1 thesis to focus on and really grasp, but still encourage them to read as much as they can.
- Practicing Pinayist Pedagogy, Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales & Jocyl Sacramento
- Tongues of Their Mothers, Makhosazana Xaba
- Pedagogy of the Decolonizing, a TEDX talk given by Quetzala Carson
- The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, Fred Moten & Steve Harney
Response to Readings (Thought/Word/Phrase/Quote/Image etc. Each person should have 4 total responses, 1 per reading, when you’re done). *Selected responses will be reproduced below.
Tongues of their Mothers / Xaba
“Considering the various ways in which colonial powers fragment and distort the colonized subject, I found this particular line to not only be empowering, but also deeply hopeful: ‘It will borrow from every single poem ever written about her, / conjuring up her wholeness: her voice, dreams, emotions and thoughts.’”
“In each stanza, males are referred to as being in relation to the female protagonist of the stanza (‘her nephew,’ ‘her brother,’ ‘her husband,’ etc.) — so often, it is the other way around.”
“That she isn’t ready to tell the stories of her mother and ancestors yet — the kind of vulnerability of revealing, even when it’s a liberatory or radical practice.”
“Poetry as a form of reclaiming mother tongue and ancestry is a way to honor the women who came before us.”
Pedagogy of the Decolonizing / Carson (TEDx Talk)
“This talk made me think about Loretta Ross’ work on calling in and calling out, particularly how people think about positionality and relationships in movement building.”
“I loved that she started the talk in her native tongue and that she was mindful of how one can create violence with our responses to violence.”
“When colonizers come on contact they decide this is the worth of the people… and that becomes embedded in all the institutions that create that nation state”
“A displaced urban person indigenous person who is displaced in someone else’s urban territory.” (3:05-3:11)
“From her presentation, the way she spoke showed how much she was passionate about what decolonization meant for her, coming from an Indigenous background/heritage and the movement itself. There also seemed to be some kind of restraint on how much she wanted to share this information with the audience… something I have noticed in other speakers who want to give a portrait of what this work means for them but struggle to find the language that could be conveyed to those who may not fully understand decolonization’s importance, relevance, and relationship to everyone.”
Practicing Pinayist Pedagogy / Tintiangco-Cubales & Sacramento
“The ‘cyclical process of praxis’ (Freire)— so helpful to see how this process works in practice!”
“A really great example of education as liberatory— reminded me of bell hooks’s experience in elementary school, when education was a path to freedom as much as construction of the self.”
“Spaces of Pinayist pedagogy become places of healing for both Pinayist teacher and student.”
“One thing that struck me about this piece was the discussion of care as central to radical pedagogy. Reading this as classes are being cancelled or moved online, I was struck by the ways in which our education system so rarely takes into account the needs of students and workers as humans. I keep coming back to how Kandice Chuh discusses students in her classroom.”
“This piece reminded me strongly of the NPR article I read a few years ago dealing with the Inuit people and how they refuse to use corporal punishment. Ultimately, it was their commitment to retaining their traditional ways and continuing their connection to their collective past.”
“I want my classes to be a catalyst for students to change their lives.”
Anjelica: Definition of Pinayism (from the aforementioned “Pinayism” article Tintiangco wrote before this one):
“Pinayism is beyond looking at gender politics as the major focus [like in feminism and womanism]. Pinayism aims to look at the complexity of the intersections where race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, spirituality/religion, educational status, age, place of birth, Diasporic migration, citizenship, and love cross. Although Pinayism is localized in the United States, the effects of colonization, internationalism, globalization, and transplantation of Pinays in diaspora must be part of the conversation.” — Tintiangco, “Pinayism” from Pinay Power: Theorizing the Filipina/American Experience
ACTIVITY 2: Thesis Summary (take 5 minutes to write out a summary of “your” thesis from “Outline of Ten These on Coloniality and Decoloniality” by Nelson Maldonado Torres— write the way you would explain it to someone who isn’t in our class and isn’t familiar with the topic!)
Thesis 1 A Catch 22: If you cannot speak about not being able to speak because it makes your listeners uncomfortable, how will you ever be heard? There is much more to be said here, but this really struck me as a key take-away from Thesis 1.
Thesis 2: There is a difference between the terms colonialism and coloniality, decolonization and decoloniality. Sometimes these words are used interchangeably but it is easier to understand when we use coloniality to refer to the discourse created from socio-political dimensions and hierarchies and decoloniality when we refer to the breakdown of those established practices and ideas accepted by the majority. Colonialism and decolonization are terms rooted in the historical context and makes conversations seem out of synch when we use these terms to talk about current activism. Colonialism and decolonization are usually depicted as past realities or historical episodes. In contrast, coloniality and decoloniality refer to the logic, metaphysics, ontology, and matrix of power created by massive processes of colonization and decolonization.
Thesis 3: I read this thing and it argues that in the 15th century certain countries in Europe started invading other countries and taking their resources, and also settling in them. This is often called “colonialism.” As this was happening, the Europeans also started to think of themselves as a different kind of person than the people in the places they were colonizing. The Europeans thought of themselves as very smart, as knowing exactly how the world worked, what should be done, how people should talk, how people should think. In a nutshell, the Europeans thought of themselves as “Modern” and they thought of everything else that was happening in the world as backwards and inferior. So, basically: colonialism - the settling in other people’s land and taking their resources and modernism - the way that Europeans thought about themselves and the world - was happening simultaneously. A major problem is that a huge part of “Modernism” is thinking that all of the world’s inhabitants fit on a scale from being very human to being not very human. So the European colonizers thought that they themselves were fully human, and the people in the lands that they were settling as less than human. This way of looking at the world’s inhabitants - as being more or less human - was a new thing. At the time - it made it much easier for European colonizers to kill off and enslave people they thought of as less than human. So it was a total disaster at the time - leading to genocide of indigenous people and slavery. And once this way of looking at the world got started - most of the institutions that European colonizers built - from schools, to governments, to magazines - had this way of looking at things at their core. So: a world started to be created that really believed that some people are very human and other people aren’t. And this world made life pretty good for anyone considered “very human” and very bad for anyone considered “less than human”. This legacy - of colonizing and of modernity - is still with us and forms the basis of most of the stuff in the world we live in.
Thesis 4: How practices from colonial times become so widespread that they are almost invisible today. These include the feeling of entitlement of groups to do harm in ways that violate and take freedom from others. The freedoms that are taken are those of peace of mind, to experience pleasure and leisure and freedom from fear of losing dignity, possessions, etc.
Thesis 5: Crucial to this thesis is the means by which colonial powers work to oppress the consciousness of a colonized people, redefining how they think about not only the colonizer, but also their peers and themselves. As a result, the subjective experience of these oppressed cultures becomes one defined by “perpetual or endless war,” restricting how they attain and distribute knowledge among one another, often in an effort to quell rebellions or uprisings. Colonized peoples are manipulated into policing their own thoughts, specifically in a way that accords with the values of their oppressors. Colonial violence against the minds of these oppressed peoples therefore comes in many forms, such as how they conceive of space (e.g. their native land & its resources) and time (e.g. their native heritage / historical memory).
Eduardo: I think this thesis is about how power is ever and necessarily taken up by each one of us in our acts of being-knowing-doing. In other words, power relations and inequality are sustained and carried through by our acts as individuals-as-social-actors. Thus, our knowledge and identities are implicated in de/colonial struggles “Human identity and activity (subjectivity) also produce and unfold within contexts that have precise workings of power, notions of being, and conceptions of knowledge.”
Thesis 6: Have you ever thought of how much of you is based on what happened in the place you were born long before you were born? How much those events determine how others see you and treat you without even though they never heard a word from you? And even when you make an utterance, it doesn’t matter because the belief and emotion that is formed in that person about you endures and overpowers any influence the truth could ever inspire. Now, imagine you having the love to find a way to connect with that person even though they wounded you. Imagine you have the rage to fight for a better way that all people could feel the love you desire for yourself and for others. That is the attitude you need to have to decolonialize, and make the turn for the better.
Thesis 7: Here, we’re focusing on the power in unity and the strength in the collective voice against the systematic violence visited upon those of the marginalized people - who are “othered” in the current power structures within colonialism. The force of the resistance is directly proportional and inspired by the severity of the violent oppression and threat.
Thesis 8: Decolonial aesthetics - tied to erotics, the spiritual, and embodiment reorient people to time, space, and being - the stakes are that pervasive. Art proliferating decolonial aesthetics has the power to undermine the order of society.
Thesis 9 (absent).
Thesis 10: Thesis ten uses a term from a famous theorist, Franz Fanon “damné” from his text translated as As The Wretched of the Earth, and the damné refer to a person who is positioned at the intersection place of colonial, racist, and economic power, meaning that the government, state, society and population have positioned this person as lesser, and have thwarted their power, well-being, labor and sometimes agency for their own gains. Using this word, the tenth thesis focuses on building coalitions and communities to be in struggle with and becoming a subject that is “speaking, writing, and creative,” this work and struggle is always happening in the present and is then never completed, it is an -ing word in process not an -ed word happening in the past. It is not something that is pure, and it is not a totalizing answer, but is one of many keys that we must use and actions that we must take and experiment with.