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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


YES! A Literacy Program’s Anti-Racist Journey

Margery Freeman, Lou C. Johnson.

Two literacy practitioners, one White and the other Black, teamed up to transform YMCA Educational Services (YES!), a large and well established adult literacy program serving the Greater New Orleans area, from a traditional “each-one-teach-one” volunteer service to a student-centered process that promotes social justice through literacy education.
The story is told in the first person by both practitioners. They describe in detail the anti-racist principles that they use to transform both the mission and practices of students and teachers, principles learned through their participation in an “Undoing Racism™/Community Organizing” process taught by The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, a national multiracial organizing institute headquartered in New Orleans.

Their analysis of the benefits and challenges of such a transformative process are continuing to this day.


Margery Freeman  (United States)
Development Consultant
The Jim Dunn Center for Anti-Racist Community Organizing
The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond

Margery Freeman was executive director of YES! From 1995 to 2001. She is an educator and community organizer who has taught in public schools, early childhood and literacy programs for over 30 years. She is recognized nationally as an advocate for equitable and fair education and for better understanding of how racism impacts the literacy field.

Lou C. Johnson  (United States)
Executive Director
YMCA Educational Services
YMCA of Greater New Orleans

Lou Johnson served as program director of YES! For four years before becoming its executive director in 2001. His effective advocacy for adult learners in local, state and national literacy venues is rooted in his experience as an American of African descent raised in the segregated Southern United States.

  • Literacy and social justice
  • Literacy and racism
  • Anti-racist adult education

(60 min Workshop, English)