A School for the People: The Fifth Anniversary of the Saturday Free School
The Saturday Free School is committed to the political and ideological education of the people. In this regard we are more than a school, we are an instrument of the people. We seek ideological clarity, theoretical sophistication and a practice of principled unity. We investigate the logics of social movements, and methods of radical and revolutionary organizing.
Located at the Historic Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia, our work is among the poor and working classes. The Saturday Free School is an organization of organizers and a school for organizers. Its historical antecedents and inspiration are the Freedom Schools organized by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi and Alabama during the Voting Rights Movement, the Black Panther Party’s Freedom Schools, the anti-fascist Free German Universities in the 1920’s, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in Cuba and the Bolivarian Circles in Venezuela.
We have organizing conferences and symposiums. Among them, “Pam Africa Our Revolutionary Daughter of the Dust: Her Life and Work”, April, 2012: “W.E.B Du Bois, Africana Studies and the Human Future” April, 2013: “Maroon the Implacable: The Collected Writing of Russell Maroon Shoatz” April, 2013: “Black Liberation and Problems of the 21st Century: A Conference to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’” October, 2013: “The Black Radical Tradition in Our Time” January, 2016: “Revolutionary Science for Radical Times: Engaging Logics, Knowledge and Action” December 2016: “Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution: Our Common Future” January, 2017.
Founded in March 2012 at Temple University we attempted at that time to create an ongoing dialogue and relationship between Temple students, particularly in African American Studies, and the Black and poor communities surrounding Temple. For the students it was the start of a type of service learning. We were connected to a student organization called the Radical Philosophy Circle. After a year we moved to the Church of the Advocate, bringing us closer to the people. We have since benefited from the generosity of the Church; together the Church and the Free School have sponsored conferences and other activities.
The Free School studies and engages in conversation with a wide body of thinkers and schools of thought, including Frantz Fanon, Mumia Abu Jamal, Mao Zedong, D.D. Kosambi, Assata Shakur, Hortense Spillers, Richard Wright, Aime Cesaire, William Shakespeare, Immanuel Kant, G.W.F Hegel, Huey P Newton, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Antonio Gramsci, Karl Marx, V.I Lenin, George Jackson, Grace Lee Boggs, Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Jean Paul Sartre and Toni Morrison. However, our theoretical and ideological anchorage is in the thinking and practice of W.E.B Du Bois and James Baldwin, two of the most important thinkers of the modern epoch. Each in distinct ways went where the human intellect had not previously gone, advancing new and profound ways of understanding the white supremacist social system, colonialism and modern capitalism. Each was an activist and radical; each was anti white supremacy, anti-imperialist, anti-war and for socialism as an alternative to capitalist exploitation and oppression.
The Free School is committed to the search for truth and we believe that reason, democratic discourse, science and struggle make the attainment of truth possible. We locate the search for truth within the aspirations and struggles of the people.
Universities, due to their deep ties to the neoliberal capitalist order fail to create knowledge for the people, or knowledge to liberate the people. They exploit their employees, gentrify poor and working class communities and have become ideological surrogates for the 1%. To produce knowledge to liberate people, we see the need for spaces outside of these institutions. We uphold the idea that theory must be connected to struggle and to transforming the world. We insist that to know the world we must be engaged in the struggle to transform it. We are internationalist and believe in intercivilizational unity. We draw, moreover, upon the many pedagogies of the oppressed.
We build upon the Black Radical Tradition, the rich body of thought, practice, scholarship, art, literature, music and poetry that emerged from the fight for Black and human liberation. As well, we embrace the heritages of the Asian, African and Latin American anti-colonial thought and practice, as well as the radical and proletarian wing of the European Enlightenment. The Haitian, French, Russian, Chinese and Cuban Revolutions situate our work within the world revolutionary process.
The celebration of our fifth year is dedicated to looking forward. In this moment of a general crisis of the system and of ideological and political uncertainty; hence, the ideological and political education of the people is paramount. And as part of the process of radical social change the people must be equipped with knowledge of their situation, it causes, who benefits from their plight and what can be done to free them and produce a better life for them and their children. Like Frantz Fanon we believe that spontaneous action is a starting point for people’s movements, but not an end point. For the people to become the agents of their liberation they must be armed with ideas, theories and worldviews that reflect their experiences and with organizing strategies and tactics that reflect their interests. We are both realist and optimists. The people’s capacity to free themselves inspires our optimism.
At last, we dedicate this conference to the heroic legacy of Comandante Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban Revolution. His revolutionary example will forever inspire us as we go forward to meet new challenges.