Walter Rodney through Popular Education

During the course of the Walter Rodney series Tshisimani and the Walter Rodney Revolutionary Library held two popular education “teach-ins”. Through these teach-ins we took a constituency of young, curious activists through the life and ideas of Walter Rodney. As educators we were challenged to find robust ways of discussing the many themes prevalent in Rodney’s life. For this we worked through a process of mapping and collaging. We also used summaries of the core ideas found in Chinedu Chukwudinma’s, A Rebel’s Guide to Walter Rodney.

How do you share Walter Rodney’s ideas with young people today?

Key Lessons

Walter Rodney’s writings are usually accessed by academics with a particular interest in Caribbean and Black studies. This means that many of the resources available to popularise Rodney’s ideas are pitched for individuals with high-levels of literacy and an ability to mine through dense texts. To counter this it was necessary to allow participants to read Rodney through others. Summaries were useful for doing this. Some of our participants were high-school students, others were more experienced readers. We were able to find a way to pitch to both groups within the workshops by initiating processes of collective, facilitated reading.

We divided Walter’s experiences according to the geographies he occupied throughout his life. We divided these periods into his time in Guyana as a young boy at a prestigious school, his experience of education in elite institutions in the West Indies, his time in London and his revolutionary involvement in Tanzania. These periods all mark specific experiences and ideological moments for Rodney which are useful for close reading to summarise some of the big ideas prevalent in his books.

Rodney’s identity as an activist-academic is one of the most interesting aspects of Rodney’s life. This dual identity is important for young people to engage as it speaks for a flexibility which incorporates action and thought. In the conversations emerging from the popular education space, the young participants questioned how they contribute to revolutionary thought in their activism today.

Day 2: Dr Natasha Shivji presents Rodney’s Understanding of Imperialism