Social Justice Activism: An Intergenerational Conversation

Posted by on February 6, 2004

Social Justice Activism: An Intergenerational Conversation
Where: Highlander Research and Education Center
New Market, Tennessee

When: March 28-30, 2004

Cost: $125.00/person, food, lodging and the retreat

Sponsored by: Beans and Rice, Inc.
UMass Alliance for Community Transformation (UACT)
Educators for Community Engagement

Retreat size: The retreat is capped at 20 attendees on a first come basis. However, preference is given for intergenerational teams.

Facilitators: Nelda Pearson
Art Keene

Music: Guy and Candie Carawan

Come to Highlander, the cradle of activism in the South, to explore with us the strategies, pitfalls, and rewards of doing social justice work. You are invited to put together a team of faculty, and /or staff, and students who are interested in becoming involved or are currently involved in social justice work and activism. We share our stories and explore our experiences.

Our work tells us that the most powerful retreats have been those which are intergenerational and bring together stakeholders from different venues, such as the community and the academic world. This reflects the experience of student activists in the Civil Rights Movement. As Bernice Johnson Reagan states in You?ve Got to Move, students and young people are in a unique position to initiate change and push the envelope. At the same time they need “grandparents” to function as anchors, to challenge their thinking, to help them to critique and analyze their actions. This is echoed by Candie Carawan, a long time social justice worker and the retired Director of Education at Highlander. While at Fisk in the late 1950s, Candie was one of the student activists who went to Highlander. She states the students where quite self satisfied until Myles Horton challenged them to think through their goals, strategies, and motivations. This she sees as a big turning point in her own development and in the student piece of the Civil Rights Movement. SNCC grew out of this workshop. Echoing these intergenerational conversations, we wish to explore how at this time partnerships across generations and among stakeholders can bring about possibilities of a strengthened and renewed social justice movement.

Several years ago we (Nelda and Art) came to Highlander with our student collaborators and the time we spent there was really helpful in sorting out the work that we wanted to do and needed to do in order to create our organizations. Coming to Highlander together as faculty/staff and students helped us to better realize the common ground for our collaboration and also clarify our vision and our strategies. We found retreat from the conventional and constraining environments of our campuses/communities and daily schedules quite helpful in our efforts to create unconventional organizations.

Art Keene is a Professor of Anthropology at UMASS Amherst, the current Chair of Educators for Community Engagement, and founder and director of the student/faculty partnership, UMass Alliance for Community Transformation (UACT) at the University of Massachusetts. He also co-founded and co-chairs, the UMass Citizen Scholars Program, a two-year, scholarship supported, service-based leadership program.

Nelda Pearson is a Professor of Sociology at Radford University, a past Chair of Educators for Community Engagement, and founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit Beans and Rice, Inc. ( that provides community development and learning centers for low to moderate income adults and children and the Hispanic community in SW Virginia. She has worked with the Farm Women?s Movement in Canada, the Inupiat and First Nation concerns in the Circumpolar North, and with several development projects in Central Appalachia.

Guy Carawan Long time staff member at Highlander and life long activist, Guy was instrumental in bringing We Shall Overcome to the Civil Rights Movement. Guy has many stories of his social justice activities which include our heroes
and heroines.

Candie Carawan: The long time Director of Education at Highlander, Candie began her activism as a student during the Civil Rights Movement and continues a life of activism with Guy, especially around combining social justice work with cultural work.

Joyce Dukes: A long time staff member at Highlander and assistant to Myles Horton, Joyce was the director of SALT and currently organizes the work camps for CORA.

Monica Appleby: One of the founders of Federation of Communities in Service (FOCIS) in the 1960s and its first President, Monica has had a lifetime of social justice work with her husband Michael. Part of Bread and Roses puppet theatre, organizers of Arts for Social Change, among the founders of the River Farm, and activists in South Africa with Michael, Monica also worker for World SHARE and founded The New Enterprises Fund, a microenterprise lending fund of which she is Exective Director. With Helen Lewis she is co-author of Mountain Sisters, a history of FOCIS and social justice work in Central Appalachia
Helen Lewis: Long time activist and community developed in Central Appalachia and the “mother” of Appalachian Studies , Helen has documented oppression and resistance in the mountains in several volumes including Colonialism in Appalachia, It Comes form the People, and Mountain Sisters. Helen is among the founders of the River Farm, an intentional community devoted to social justice work.

To obtain an application, email Nelda Pearson at

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