Committing to the identity, philosophy, theory and practice of popular education is critical for CPC’s work. For many years, CPC had been viewed as an expert in the region, providing technical assistance to grassroots groups largely with a neutral lens. CPC’s shift to popular education meant drastically changing the nature and dynamics of the relationships that CPC held, to no longer be seen or act as expert, but to be in mutual relationships that could transform the work that we were doing. It also meant being explicit about our power analysis and vision of collective liberation.
This shift of power and practice has allowed our organization to grow away from a traditional non-profit model into a movement building identity. To us that means that people who are most harmed by structural inequities need to be centered in the decisions of our organization.
We recognize that as a movement building organization we must continue to commit to capacity building in and with our communities. CPC’s Circles nurture skillsets needed to bring about community change, prioritizing community members that have often been excluded from non-profit capacity building opportunities.
It has also meant finding a balance between working towards an organizational vision for the long haul, while remaining flexible and responsive to communities’ realities as they shift and are impacted by crisis. In centering the communities most affected by structural inequities, particularly Latinx immigrant and Black communities, community crises can easily thwart an organization’s plans, particularly when staff experience crises within their own families and communities. As an organization, we continue to navigate the careful balance between responding to a crisis moment and recognizing the moment as potential for movement.
For example, following the shooting of Jerry Williams by an Asheville police officer, and in the aftermath of a community divided and in conflict, CPC responded by holding a monthly healing space to heal and restore damaged relationships. In this way, our work is not only determined by CPC staff, but also by the needs of the community. Staff supports the work to ensure that it is moving towards our long term vision, following our strategies, and reflective of our values as an organization, while not becoming so rigid that we are irrelevant to our communities.