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The
Community
Psychologist

Volume 54, Number 3 Summer 2021

Council for Cultural, Ethnic, and Racial Affairs

Edited by Jesica Siham Fernández, Santa Clara University and Geraldine (Geri) Palmer, Adler University, Community Wellness Institute

Putting Our Intentions to Praxis: A Preview into the GJCPP Special Issue on Racial Justice and Anti-Racist Practice

Written by Jesica Siham Fernández, jsfernandez@scu.edu, Santa Clara University and Geraldine (Geri) Palmer, gpalmer080@gmail.com, Adler University, Community Wellness Institute

One of my favorite words, and one that my students know I use frequently is PRAXIS. Praxis, in my mind, is a radical word! First, it has an X, which is rare to find in most words. Second, it’s short, catchy and translatable -- easily flows between English and Spanish, and even Spanglish. Third, it means putting knowledge into action, theory into practice; walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Praxis means prACTice: to act with intentionality and consistency. In other words, as Black Panther Party founding member Fred Hampton unapologetically stated in a 1969 speech, later entitled and published in You Can Murder a Liberator, but You Can’t Murder Liberation

"We sayin’ something like this -- we saying that theory’s cool, but theory with no practice ain’t shit. You got to have both of them -- the two go together. We have a theory about feeding kids free. What’d we do? We put it into practice. That’s how people learn."

Praxis -- in line with Fred’s call to action -- is the word that I strive to embody, enact and engage as an educator, who is grounded in a pedagogy al estilo bell hooks. 

Renowned feminist educator-scholar-activist, heart-centered writer, bell hooks describes teaching is a practice of freedom. A practice that seeks to transgress boundaries of power, difference and marginalization toward radical, liberatory ways of knowing and being. In Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994), bell hooks writes:

"The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy. For years it has been a place where education has been undermined by teachers and students alike who seek to use it as a platform for opportunistic concerns rather than as a place to learn. … Urging all of us to open our minds and hearts so that we can know beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable, so that we can think and rethink, so that we can create new visions. I celebrate teaching that enables transgressions -- a movement against and beyond boundaries. It is a movement which makes education the practice of freedom." (p. 12)

Thus, grounded in the words of both Fred Hampton and bell hooks, I strive to approach teaching-learning as an ongoing, active and intentional praxis of reciprocal humanizing recognitions that can help pave paths of transformation, and possibilities for decoloniality and community wellbeing with and in radical connection with others. To do so, I am continuously asking myself these questions: How am I practicing what I’m preaching-teaching-researching -- or decolonizing my ways of knowing, being and relating to others, especially students and communities? How am I putting into practice the radical relational care, sociopolitical action, and critically-curious compassion -- my conciencia con compromiso (consciousness with commitment) in what I do and pursue? Basically: How is my decolonial feminist anti-racist praxis showing up in my research, practice and pedagogy? Specifically, in my interactions with students and community collaborators, in the “work” that is a labor of love that I engage inside and outside of the academy? 

These are the questions that several of our contributing authors to the special issue on Racial Justice and Anti-racist Practice, co-edited by the Council on Cultural, Ethnic and Racial Affairs (CERA) co-chairs Dr. Geri Palmer, Dr. Dominique Thomas and I, observed scholar-activists, teacher-scholars, practitioners and budding community psychologists engage. Because of the variety of experiences and reflections offered by our contributing authors, as well as the multidisciplinarity of their scholarship and writings, we are most excited to see the forthcoming publication of the two-part installation of this special issue in the Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice (GJCPP). In what follows we offer a preview of what the special issue will feature, contextualizing this project and process within a much longer history of CERA’s commitment racial justice, as well as support and advocacy for affirming and uplifting community psychologists and practitioners of color, specifically Black, Indigenous, Asian American and Latinx. And, of most relevance to these -- but all times -- our concerted efforts to challenge and deconstruct structures, discourses and practices that preserve whiteness and Western/Eurocentric logics as the norm in community psychology. 

The two-part installation of this special issue in GJCPP began in May 2019, and over the past two years we have observed the continuation of racial violence and white supremacy manifest in varied ways both within and outside academia, including our discipline and professional organizations. While it has taken us an anticipated time to see this special issue come to fruition, we are thrilled to soon be sharing it with you -- our community partners, students, and colleagues. The motivations and circumstances that animated this special issue are informed by our disciplinary experiences, intersecting positionalities, and embodied subjectivities as critical community psychologists of Color. Therefore, we have crafted this special issue out of a deep commitment that is guided by the love, dignity and respect we hold for ourselves, our communities, and the BIPOC community psychologists, and others with intersecting identities at present and who came before us, who have contributed to the discipline. Despite its imperfections, community psychology is, for some of us, our disciplinary home. And, it is one that we wish to transform and improve! 

We encourage all who come across our special issue to consider the guiding questions posed in the opening of this reflection. We invite readers to consider the papers we feature in relation to their embodied subjectivities, positionalities, academic or professional training, and their practice -- a praxis of every day resisting/existing. The sociopolitical context and hegemonic discourses, characterized by a rise in systemic violence rooted in white supremacy and racism, and heightened racist nativism at the intersections of power and difference, compel us as community psychologists to engage with the present moment. As scholars, practitioners, educators and organizers, we question the presence of institutionalized racism and whiteness within the spaces and places wherein we engage our praxis, and where our communities are located, which often inform how our knowledge is co-constructed and co-produced. 

We are turning the lens inward and outward to consider and truly describe what anti-racism and racial justice is, and must be in community psychology. And it is our deep, radical hope that the two-part special issue will be received with a curiosity to reflect, learn and feel that which is written about, challenged and resisted, as well as refused and imagined. We invite readers to consider how the articles we highlight can serve as resources or tools to foster the critical compassion for us to bridge and engage in difficult dialogues about whiteness, white supremacy, racialized violence and colonial power not just within our institutions, community settings, and spaces of practice, but most of all within ourselves, the discipline and SCRA.  

As an educator, I am affirmed by the praxis -- the projects, values, ethics and intentions, as well as ways of knowing, being and connecting -- featured by all of our invited contributing authors to the special issue. By praxis, I do not only mean the scholarly-activism they engage in, but most of all what they do, and how they do it, and most of all why they do what they do in line with an anti-racist and racial justice praxis. Together, each of these papers provide examples of how community psychologists, and allied professionals and practitioners, are putting into practice what Grace Lee Boggs wrote in Living for Change (1998):

"To make a revolution, people must not only struggle against existing institutions. They must make a philosophical, spiritual leap and become more 'human' human beings. In order to change, transform the world, they must change, transform themselves." (p. 153)

Now, my dear reader -- How are you putting intro praxis racial justice and anti-racist values, ethics, and actions beyond words, deeds and hashtags?

References

Boggs, G. L. (1998). Living for change: An autobiography. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Foner, P. S. (1970). The Black Panthers Speak. Philadelphia, PA; J. B. Lippincott Company. 

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress - Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.