Fulbright Forward - A Diversity Podcast

Disrupting the Master Narrative of U.S. English Teaching Abroad with Jonathan Peraza

June 25, 2021 FulbrightD&I
Fulbright Forward - A Diversity Podcast
Disrupting the Master Narrative of U.S. English Teaching Abroad with Jonathan Peraza
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Fulbright Forward, Fulbright Americas Diversity and Inclusion Liaison speaks with U.S. ETA alum to Guatemala, Jonathan Peraza Campos about the critical need to redefine and reimagine how folks from the United States conduct English teaching abroad, in particular within Latin America and the Caribbean. As Jonathan shares in the episode, this is about disrupting perceptions that the United States is a white, wealthy, and perfect English-speaking country by exposing [students] to the multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual diversity and history of the U.S.”  Through this discussion we reflect on how Jonathan navigated his ETA-ship, how he implemented a critical English-teaching praxis with his students, and what any of us can do to move us towards a more politically conscious English teaching world where the full humanity of our students and ourselves is celebrated, and exclusionary narratives are questioned and dismantled.

Jonathan Peraza Campos, a U.S. Salvadoran/Guatemalan educator, organizer, abolitionist thinker, and Central American scholar whose work focuses on organizing around racial, immigrant, and educational justice, on providing a critical and multifaceted education to Latinx youth throughout the Atlanta metro area, and to building bridges built on solidarity and connection between communities in Central America and U.S. Central Americans. To learn more about Jonathan and the work in which he is involved, check out the links below:

Links to work by scholars and activists mentioned in the episode:







Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

In her text race Empire, and English Language Teaching scholar Dr. Suhanthie Motha when discussing the future of English teaching writes, "traditional narratives about the promises of English are not unproblematically true. We need to instead offer multiple readings of what happens when English is learned, of what happened to an individual when she or he learns English, of what happened to the world when entire populations learn English, and to more cohesively connect these understandings about English to the effects of racism, empire, and students' political action and agency. Is it enough for schools to merely teach children language, to initiate them into the forms of English that will further them economically and equip them to make a living, disregarding the development of their first languages? Or do students need more?" As she and many scholars argue, we must teach English in a critical manner, one that recognizes English's economic and social benefits, and also one that acknowledges the political power English possesses in a global frame, in particular, the role that English has had in securing the geopolitical power of countries like the United States. What however, does this form of teaching look like in practice? And what do we need in order to realize a critical English teaching ethos? Welcome to another episode of Fulbright Forward, a Diversity Podcast. My name is Jeremy Gombin-Sperling, the Fulbright Diversity and Inclusion Liaison for the Western Hemisphere programs. Today's episode of the podcast is number four from the Western Hemisphere region, and the first of a few episodes focused on unpacking English and language teaching. Today's episode features ETA alum to Guatemala Jonathan Peraza Campos, a U.S. Salvadoran-Guatemalan educator, organizer, abolitionist thinker, and Central American scholar whose work focuses on organizing around racial, immigrant and educational justice, on providing a critical and multifaceted education to Latinx youth throughout the Atlanta metro area, and to building bridges built on solidarity and connection between communities in Central America and U.S. Central Americans. On today's episode, Jonathan helps us explore the need to redefine and reimagine U.S. English teaching abroad, as he puts it, "to disrupt perceptions that the United States is a white, wealthy and perfect English speaking country by exposing them to the multiracial, multicultural and multilingual diversity in history of the U.S." Through this discussion, we reflect on how Jonathan navigated his ETA-ship as a gay, first-generation, male Fulbrighter with heritage in the country in which he taught, how we implemented a critical English teaching practices with the students, and what any of us can do to move us towards a more politically conscious English teaching world, where the full humanity of our students in ourselves is celebrated, and exclusionary narratives are questioned and dismantled. Jonathan, thank you so much for being part of the podcast, we really appreciate you being here.

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

Thank you for having me, really excited to be here.

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

This episode is really about learning more about you, yourself, your background, and more about your experience as an ETA in Guatemala and the kind of everything that's been part of the experience for you. So, before we dive into any details about your experience on the grant, please tell us more about who you are.

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

My name is Jonathan Peraza Campos and I am based in Atlanta, but my heart belongs to Central America and the U.S. South. I am a first generation college graduate. I'm from a working class immigrant family, raised by a single mother from El Salvador, but my roots are from El Salvador and Guatemala. So I'm very proudly Central American. And I've been an educator for the past few years. I've been in research, as you know, trained as an academic, doing research and teaching and organizing more than anything. I'm in the struggle. I'm in the struggle for abolition, for anti-racism for anti-imperialism. Everything that I am channeled into my work because the personal is, of course, political. And that looks like educational work for me, as well as research work. I'm involved in various projects, to organize Latinx in the south and for racial and immigrant justice, educational justice. But I'm very connected to the Central American community in the U.S. and transnationally. Because we're building, I'm really invested in building a global and U.S. South that are interconnected with each other, across borders and across struggles. And all of the work that I do is kind of channeling into that kind of mentality and that politic.

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

Thank you so much for sharing that and just giving us a little bit more of a sense of who you are. And also really like kind of the political analysis that sounds like you're applying to all the work that you're doing and how you're thinking about the world. You know, my next question is really about what sort of led you to the Fulbright experience to pursue the ETA post in Guatemala. And I'm also curious, and you may also touch on this in a moment, like how in applying to become an ETA, how also this sort of consciousness analysis of the world was also developing.

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

So I was a student, an undergraduate student at Emory University in Decatur, Georgia, where I was a Sociology major. And you know, but I was also doing a lot of like Ethnic Studies work, a lot of like African American Studies Latino St-, well, I was studying Latino Studies and Central American Studies independently because Emory has yet to create a program. But we're fighting for that still. But I mean, my analysis comes from abolitionist work from Black Studies from Latin American and Central American Studies. And I'm an organizer involved in leftist, you know, organizing. We want a different world, and so that's really the analysis that I come from. But I got to applying to a Fulbright because I had two, um, two folks at Emory, Dr. Megan Friddle, and Dr. Liz Alexander, who worked in the National Scholarships and Fellowships program at Emory and later employed me after I got the Fulbright to help others apply to um, Fulbright. But they were watching out for me, because they saw my potential. And they saw that somebody like me from my backgrounds, right, like a gay first-generation Latino, who, you know, very few of us get to get into Fulbright, right, very few of us get these opportunities. And so they, they saw my talents and my value, and they wanted me to approach this opportunity. And that's how I ended up applying. And they helped prepare me and helped just develop my applications. And so I really, you know, I have a lot of political stances that kind of contradict what Fulbright stands for, which I definitely want to talk about. But I am a scholar of Central American Studies and Latino Studies and migration and racism in the continent. And so, you know, I got to read all these books, watch all these movies, read all these articles, and just my own family history and stories and formed my analysis and my, my knowledge as a Central American Studies scholar, but there's no better way to become a scholar of a region and other people than being in the region and with the people. And also kind of, I had a self interest in that, you know, I grew up Salvadoran with my mom, but my father, who I did not grow up with is Guatemalan, but, and I don't claim my father, but I claim my culture. And I wanted to learn about that side of myself that I was not exposed to, and go into Guatemala on the U.S. government's dollar was a good way to do that. You know, all these white kids from rich families get to go to my homeland, you know, whenever they want, like, I wanted the opportunity to go see my homeland. That's what led me to apply to this. And you know, it's had a lot of benefits as well as downfalls with it.

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

Can you share a little bit more about just like, the kind of logistics right, like, where you went, when you were in Guatemala? Like what the school was, like, just kind of you can illustrate the image of maybe the first day or just or just, you know, where you were doing your work.

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

So um, I was based in Coban, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, which is like the middle like a North Central kind of part of Guate. Umm, it's, you know, a mountainous region, pretty rural, outside of Guatemala City, which is like the urban center of Guatemala, but I got to, you know, I was based there for most of my time there. And it was, you know, a quiet, slow paced town, very beautiful, very peaceful, and it was great. It was a great experience. It's a very Indigenous town also. So you see the ways that, you know, the indigenous and Latino cultures kind of mix and the ways that you knowlooks how it feels. It was honestly boggling to see Indigenous people just walking around in their own land, while the U.S. has reservations for our Indigenous peoples, right? Like they're landlocked by the U.S. government. And we don't see Indigenous peoples in the U.S. like we do in Guatemala. So that was a very boggling experience for sure, to see the ways that Indigenous life has carried on in the way that it has, not without its own problems, of course, but it was very different for sure, and that part of Guate. But I got to see Guate. I got to travel. That was one of my privileges as a U.S. Embassy representative. Like I got to see more of the country than Guatemalans themselves, I got to travel and give conf-, give be at conferences, give presentations to Teachers of English and Social Studies, you know, about how to teach U.S. culture in a critical and diverse way, in an inclusive way. And you know I, there are beautiful people that work in the U.S. Embassy, who are Guatemalan. There are people who have benefited from the programs, the U.S. Embassy programs that I worked for, the access programs, you know, beautiful people, amazing educators. I learned so much from like 16 year old educators who are trained by these programs, like the best teachers I've ever met. And they taught me a lot on how to be a much better educator. So you know, I got to really see Guate and live in like, share space and be in community with people in Coban, especially but across Guate, and that was beautiful. I came in as in like an outsider. But I was an insider-outsider at the same time because I'm a native Spanish speaker I grew up speaking Spanish, right. A lot of my Salvadoran and Latino culture that I grew up with in the US, translated very easily into the Guatemalan context. We eat a lot of the similar foods. So I mean, the food was great. Like I love Guatemalan food, like it's very similar to Salvadoran food. I did not feel like a stranger. I felt like I was coming to visit like some aunties for like a year. That's what it really felt like, and it was great. It was great. But it was you know, apart from being beautiful for those reasons, it was also really painful. Because I'm a Central American Studies scholar. I know my history. I know the history of U.S. imperialism, and intervevention in the region, and how, you know, the government devastated our countries intervened in our countries for its own geopolitical economic interests. And so I had a lot of guilt throughout the entire year that led to depression. Honestly, I was very depressed and hel-, held a lot of guilt most of the year, because although I was having this great experience of living in Guatemala, getting to know the history and culture at a much, much closer context, right, I also knew that I was a part of the soft power of the U.S. Empire with, you know, the ETA program, and so forth. But I also needed to see my homeland for myself. And this was an opportunity to do so. And I was living a very privileged life. The stipends that I would get, you know, I was seeing more money than my family ever saw in their life as a U.S., as a ETA fellow. And it was very interesting to be like an insider-outsider like to come in with the privilege and the power of U.S. empire, but also being a gay Central American in a homophobic country, like Guatemala. Like I had to go back into the closet for my own safety, which is a very difficult experience. And it really was sobering, because I'm used to being gay as hell in Atlanta, but being gay in Guate is, you know, it's, it's a, it's a hazard. But I got to build community with queer and trans folks when I was down there too. And that was beautiful as well to just be gay Guatemala and being gay, Guatemalan circles and and trans Guatemalan circles. I'm really, I really aimed at approaching language teaching from a critical approach by teaching about not English, but Global Englishes. These are the, this is the history of the English language. This is why we speak it in the U.S., why it's spoken in Jamaica and African countries, in Southeast Asia. Alright, like these are why they're official languages or like common languages in these countries. There's a history of colonialism, of enslavement, of genocide, that brought these languages all over the world, and is one of the reasons this language is being hypervalued in the Guatemalan context. Language learning and learning other cultures is beautiful. It is, but we have to understand why one language and one culture is being put on a pedestal over others, where people prefer to learn English, rather than one of the 22 or 24 um different indigenous languages in your own country. Right? The fact that English a foreign language is being hypervalued in this context is a problem and we have to talk about, I think about it. I taught about Black Lives Matter, and a lot of my indigenous kids, right, who understand anti-Indigenous racism, in Guatemala really resonated with Black Lives Matter, because they found connections, right? So I was very intentional about teaching an antiracist, critical history of the U.S. Oflike, this is what was done to Black and Brown and Asian and Indigenous peoples in the U.S., but this is also how we fought back. What connections do you see in your context in your culture, right? And so you know, you have to find ways to embed pedagogies and curricular, curricular choices that subvert the American narrative, the master narrative, we call it in, you know, curriculum studies. There is a master narrative. And ETAs have a habit of exporting, you know, the master narrative to, you know, as ETAs to their English language program. Like, don't treat Black History Month, like the flavor of the month in February. Teach Black History all the time, teach Asian American history all the time, teach Latino and Indigenous history all the time. You know, I teach everybody. Teach everybody's culture, because we are all part of the fabric of what the U.S. is. And so it is it becomes the choice of the educator of the ETA, to decide, am I going to perpetuate the master narrative? Or am I going to give these kids the tools to be critical and conscious of different identities, of how complex and diverse the U.S. really is. And I don't think that Fulbright is malicious, but part of a system is the sometimes we don't know that we are perpetuating these things. We don't know what we don't know sometimes. And I think that's a big part of what ETAs bring with them.

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

One thing I'm also thinking about with English teaching, as well, is something I've struggled with at times, too, is, you know, both how to construct the critical community for conversation, and sometimes facing the reality of, oh! Because of the economic realities in which we live, there are folks who are in some ways saying they need this or may actually need this English for the potential of having access to resources. And so I'm curious for yourself, what was balancin-, if that if that was something that either crossed your path or occurred for you while abroad? How did you navigate that?

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

That's, that's and that's real, right? Like, folks were attracted to these U.S. Embassy programs. I taught them English because it does have material outcomes that improve their wages, improve their occu-, their job opportunities, their pay opportunities, right? Like they need these things for their own survival. And you can't shame somebody for like, hav-, living with that reality. Right? That's just the reality that folks live in. That's the reality that all of my kids lived in, um, in Guatemala like they needed this extra leg up in a country where there are scarce jobs for people that you know, don't have an education right? Like you- it's really hard to get a job in Guatemala, it's really hard to you know, but call centers are booming. The call center industry is really booming in Guatemala right that is a job opportunity that a lot of people can go into. And you know, the Access programs have great opportunities to teach students who had advanced English how to get involved in the tourism industry with practical training along with their English education. And so, you know, I don't think that it's a matter of either or. I think that we have to do all those things, to you know, give these kids a leg up, to give these folks you know, to help them use English to maximize their professional and their educational opportunities, which is a goal, the goal of the access programs. But you know, just a reference into my some of my professors and role models like Dr. Gholdy Muhammad and Dr. Bettina Love, like, we have to be teachers who also are abolitionists, and also our anti racists, we can still achieve academic success, which in the context of the Fulbright ETA program is English language development, we can still do that, and like help children reach that, that, those goals right from a, to better material outcomes. Well, we can also teach in a way that enhances criticality, right? A critical sense of power and oppression, and also identity development. And so you know, it's not an either/or it's are you willing to put in the work to give children a full holistic humanizing education? And I think that, that's something that we really need to look to. Look to black women look, to minoritized people who have been developing theories and education about what a humanizing and critical education for everybody's humanity, everybody's liberation looks like, because English language programs severely need this kind of intervention.

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

No, absolutely. I mean, I think, I think especially, you know, with the platform that English teaching programs have by being essentially what I'll kind of label a desired commodity, and because of the sort of the global power structure, in which it operates, there is sort of this platform already to be doing this kind of critical work. How do we bring in critical thought and perspective as folks who are owning our U.S. power, in a way that's not imposition? How do we sort of ensure that we are building both a community of knowledge that welcomes the perspectives and ideas around areas around liberatory thinking and process and practice and pedagogy from the folks we're working with, rather than, in some cases, potentially reproducing a similar form of "this is from the US it's good," even if it may be from a more kind of critical liberatory perspective? Does that make sense to the question?

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

I think so. I think I understand what you're saying. I mean, I think that a big part of that is recognizing that you are not an expert, right? You are there to learn just as much as you are there to teach. And you should be very intentional about creating a curriculum that gives the learners you are engaging within the country, with opportunities to teach you as much as you were there to teach them. Right, you have to acknowledge that you are not there to, you know, and this is pulling from critical educational theories, right from Paulo Freire, and bell hooks, right? Like, you're, you're not there to deposit knowledge into anybody's empty head, like, there is already knowledge living there that you have to incorporate into the educational space. They have so much to teach you and you are there to listen to them as much as they are there to listen to you to see what you have to share. And together we produce knowledg. Together, we produce a new educational setting, right, we create a third space to use, you know, theoretical terms, right? Where our different worlds come together and mash together in ways that we you know, to pull from the Zapatista saying, like a world where many worlds can fit. I think that there is a very important need for the ETA program to really re-evaluate and restructure, radically restructure their teacher training. We had a great teacher training when we went to our orientation in Texas, but you know, beyond that teach us, you know, educational models about popular education, right? How do we come into a space and teach in a way where we also allow our students to become teachers to us? How do we learn to create curriculum and lesson plans, where we can mesh all of our knowledge together and not just come in with, you know, my U.S. English language knowledge that you are going to learn because you need this for your benefit? That is imperialism. That is imperialism, you know, build community with others who are in the same page as you cause community is important in this work. It cannot be just a me individual, like trying to change the system. It's like all of us, right? We all have to be on the same page, we all have to be in dialogue with each other, we all have to learn from each other and like, bring our knowledges together, you know, with other ETAs and with the folks that we're teaching and learning from in our sites, right? We have to be very intentional and critical in how we approach these things. Because if we're not teaching a humanizing education, then what we are doing is a dehumanizing education. And who wants to be who wants to be somebody that dehumanizes other people whether they intend to or not?

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

But one thing I guess I'm also hearing which I feel like is important is is sort of this question of what I'm going to kind of label vulnerability, I think in my own experience of both trying to challenge myself, like, you know, navigating space as a queer, as a queer Jewish person, while also, you know, understanding my whiteness abroad in different places, has also meant having to, you know, access my vulnerability. And I think what you shared is like, understand what you don't know. And seek to know. I'm curious for you, if it comes into play, how does even your own experiences with, with learning vulnerability or sharing vulnerability or that with others come into this piece that you just share it around, building this community of practice?

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

Oof, vulnerability is hard.

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

It's tough.

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

It's hard, like as a man, and as a man with a lot of trauma from like, the civil wars that my family endured, right? The U.S. funded civil wars that my family endured. Being a gay man in a homophobic world, like, oof, vulnerability is hard. I'm still learning it to be honest. It's a lot of unlearning, you know, that men and cis people and you know, we have to do and just people that have trauma, right, like unlearning, and relearning how to heal and know ourselves and be vulnerable. It is important, right? It is important work. And that's part of a humanizing education too, right, centering emotions and centering healing. And you know, I'm still a student of this process. But I mean, I definitely felt that vulnerability. And, because, you know, I definitely encountered like, I was in a very interesting space where people saw me and they saw a Guatemalan a Central American, but once they heard me speak in Spanish, they're like, Huh, you're not from here, huh? Right. And you know, and it was even invalidating sometimes. It was understandable. But it was invalidating right? Or people will tell me Oh, you sound Mexican. And it's like, ya know, like, I grew up around Mexicans, like, I didn't grow up around many Central Americans. Like, you know, as people got to know me, and people heard me use my slang and people saw the way that I ate their foods like, and enjoy them just as much as they did, they're like, okay, like, he's, he's definitely one of us. He's different, but he's one of us. I think they're really navigating that contradictory space of being a Central American from the U.S. Empire like that put me in a vulnerable position where I really had to reevaluate myself. And I really had to sit with my privilege as somebody from the empire. I had to sit with my class privilege getting money from the U.S. empire living a relatively lavish life. In Guatemala, I had to sit with my privilege of being a white Guatemalan, because there were racial dynamics that I had to navigate, you know. Like, and when I speak about whiteness, like I'm also talking about myself, because after gringos that work in what they like, I'm the next person in the in the ladder, you know what I mean? Like, like, a really white skinned, light skinned Guatemala speak Spanish. I'm not indigenous. You know, I was a white Guatemalan, or white, Central American, teaching English. And, you know, speaking Spanish to Indigenous people of Guatemala, who are oppressed by people who come from my positionality, who are from Guatemala, right? Like, they're my students were also under the boot of colonial racism, from people who look like me, who come from my positionality in Guatemala. So like, and I'm grateful for this experience. Because in being vulnerable in that way, like, I had to just bring my complexities together into one room, and be like, "Alright, y'all, like, check yourself." You know, like constantly because I'm a man in a patriarchal society. I am a imperial, imperialist-adjacent as a Fulbrighter. I am a, you know, somebody from the U.S. an, an English speaking, like, you know, well bilingual, right, like having but being like bilingual, in my upbringing, like, that comes with a set of privileges of its own, right? Being a college-educated person from the U.S., that is another set of privileges, right? So like, I think there's a lot of vulnerability and acknowledging, okay, like, this is who I am. And this is how I move around the world. And I have to be honest about it, but also understanding like, you know, this is, these are my weak points. Like, as a gay person, like, I'm physically vulnerable, I am psychologically vulnerable in this homophobic society where like, trans folks are lynched by gangs, you know, like in El Salvador and Guatemala. Like, I could not, I could not have grown up a healthy gay man in my mother's country, or in my father's country, the way that I did in the U.S., right? And I had to live in the closet, you know, where I had to, like, tread the line very carefully, because it was a different context where, you know, violence looks different, maybe not looks different, but I was more susceptible to violence in a certain way in that context, right? So there's a lot of vulnerabilities that come with being a marginalized person, but there's a vulnerability that has to happen if you are in a position of power, like I was, like, Fulbrighters are, we are, coming into a site, right? And we have to sit with that and acknowledge that and figure out how do we share power? How do we distribute our power as much as we can? It's not going to be possible in its entirety, but we can do what we can to subvert and disrupt the ways we acquire privilege and power through Fullbright through imperialism through whoever we are and whatever power we bring into, like the spaces that we're working in. And so this is a PSA for white folks, right, who gets to go to our countries, like. Be aware of how much space you take up and be aware of the privilege it is to not have to feel that dread of feeling like you're hurting your own people. You get to think of yourself as a missionary, maybe you get to think of yourself as benefiting another community, while we are coming back to our communities in order to build bridges for our collective liberation. That is the mindset that many of us come with or to just find ourselves, understand ourselves. Like our experience as people of diasporas and people from immigrant families is coming back to our homelands to know ourselves.

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

So when I just want to say I really appreciate that answer, I think one of my intentions and asking questions also recognizing that any moment, especially in a conversation of vulnerability, it could also welcome the possibility of reliving any piece of trauma. So I just kind of want to like, both add and name that and appreciate you sharing what you shared. And I think also, the piece that often folks have when it comes to confronting privilege is moving beyond the confrontation, it going beyond just saying, Oh, I know I have privilege, now what? It sounds like a lot of your work, it feels like it's been a lot of that well, well, here's what! Because sitting in that moment of kind of a frozen, this is not benefiting anyone in that moment.

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

Exactly.

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

I know project that you've mentioned already a little bit and kind of alluded to, I believe the name of the project is called the Multicultural U.S. (US), applying Ethnic Studies and Global Englishes, international English, English language education. I would just like to know more about like, what inspired this project, sort of what the goals of this project have been, and I guess I'm curious to, if any pieces of that project have kind of come back with you into your work where you are now.

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

I very much try to carry the essence of what I was teaching and how I was teaching into this project, the Multicultural U.S., the Multicultural us, which was kind of like a curriculum book that I started. And I like recruited other folks of color and other critical folks that were invested in disrupting the master narrative, right, teaching about the multicultural U.S., us. And we do that through ethnic studies, we do that through global englishes. Right? We have to learn from critical language scholars, right? We have to learn about raciolinguistics, we have to learn about sociolinguistics, we have to learn about, you know, the history of Black folks of Asian American folks of Latinx folks, of Central Americans, of, of Indigenous peoples across the continent, right, Middle Easterners, we have to learn about everybody. And, a lot, and you can easily do that, while you're also teaching English, it's just a matter of intentionality. And using the models and theories that work. And so this project aims to bring it all together, right? You have to teach culture and history along with language, because language does not exist in a vacuum. Language is a product of history and culture and is ever-evolving because of, you know, developments in our histories and cultures, right? And while it had been started. And while I had recruited a group of just amazing women of color, and friends that, you know, were ready to throw down and help develop that with me, because it just became too much of a project for myself. And you know they really took it over, and I'm glad because I just didn't have capacity after my grant ended, and I was back in the U.S. So they took it over. But because of the pandemic, and because Fulbright contracts were cut, were cut early, right, a lot of folks just ended up coming back home, it just didn't come to fruition. But just the essence of this project is very much carried on in my work. I'm going to go back to Guatemala, I'm going to go back to El Salvador. You know, I'm gonna go back into the global south and bring in, you know, my perspectives and hybridize them with local critical perspectives of the folks at these sites so that we can we can create a new education, a new way of you know-- teaching English isn't inherently bad, right? Teaching learning English isn't inherently bad, you know? Doing International Education isn't inherently bad, but when it's connected to the, to the string- There are strings attached to the ways that we're doing it. And we have to be critical of that, we have to acknowledge the reality of that. And with that, right, like, we have to create resources, like the multicultural U.S.. And so, you know, while this project didn't come to fruition, the essence of it lives on in the folks that were contributing to it, and in my work, and the goal is to make sure that, you know, the work that is of this essence, is, you know, created everywhere that you know, Fulbright exists or, you know, anywhere that international education exists

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

For folks in the English speaking world, because I think sometimes education is kind of an idea is always seen as like, inherently positive. And what I hear you saying is ultimately, something we all need to deal with, which is, harm is harm, whether intentional or intentional. And it's not just about individual action, it's about the systems in which even that teaching happens. You know, so I always try end these Fullbright Forward podcasts with sort of two questions or a few closing questions and everything. Is there anything just in particular, that you just want to make sure the audience takes away from our conversation?

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

We don't need allies. We need co-conspirators. That is one of my biggest like pieces of advice because no people with privilege across privilege are not just white folks. But across privilege always ask how can I use my privilege. Maybe you need to give up your privilege, and you need to work with people to abolish and eliminate the structures that give you your privilege? We have to abolish privilege. Nobody should have any upper hand over another, so that's one piece of advice. Another concluding thought with that is I want to share a quote from Christopher Emdin, the scholar who wrote the book For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too, he has a quote that I shared at the enrichment seminar that I share with all teachers that I'm working with. And it goes, "the way that a teacher teaches can be traced directly to the way that the teacher has been taught. The time will come when teachers must ask themselves, if they follow the mold, or blaze a new trail. There are serious risks that come with this decision. It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to damage to the system or the student."

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

And really, I guess, like, you know, if you want to get any updates, like what sort of what currently, are there things you currently are doing that still? Yeah, what do you kind of currently engaged with and everything as you've now after completing the ETA-ship, and now I guess, also considering a year of pandemic and, and, and, you know, what, what looks like in some cases, you know, some changes to come perhaps.

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

Oof well I'm busy, I do a lot. But I mean, I, I'm building educational programs in metro Atlanta, where I live, but also for the greater Southeast. I'm very big about teaching, Latines and global South people, our histories, right, of oppression and resistance. I teach political education to youth. I'm very invested in the youth organizing and migrant racial justice, educational justice, organizing. So I'm an abolitionist educator, and so I'm training teachers how to be how to work organized with their students and with the families that they work with, to build the education system that we all deserve, right? I'm organizing a lot, I'm also struck trying to start a Latino Studies apartments in the South, because we don't, we have very few. So I'm trying to start Latino Studies programs in the South and trying to create just grassroots programs to teach political education, cultural education, especially during the pandemic. Like our kids are falling behind. Our kids are being disenfranchised by virtual learning, a lot of them right? And so finding ways around that and doing mutual aid work, trying to refine the way that we do mutual aid, to really be about building power with people, and having people's basic needs met during the pandemic, corona-capitalism crisis. So really organizing around mutual aid, building education for us by us. I'm still working with Central American news. I'm concluding my master's program at Georgia State University in Social Foundations of Education. So you know, I'm doing a lot of research work, a lot of organizing work, a lot of educational work. Because, you know, I'm building the world that I want us all to live in. I'm very invested in that. I'm invested in collective liberation. And these are just the few ways that I'm trying to make that happen, right, building power with us, for us, by us.

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate this.

Jonathan Peraza Campos:

Thank you so much. It was a great conversation.

Jeremy Ryan Gombin-Sperling:

And thank you so much for listening to this episode of Fulbright Forward. Remember that you can subscribe to Fulbright Forward through your favorite podcast app like Apple podcasts or Spotify, as well as follow the podcast on Instagram at @fulbrightdiversitycoordinator. The kind of critical reflection Jonathan and I discussed this episode is not always an easy process. As a white U.S. man who got his start in teaching English abroad at times it has been difficult realizing where I may have caused more harm than I thought with a lesson plan or an idea, or in grappling with the privileged opportunities being a U.S. citizen and English speaker have granted me. The point here is not about shame but rather accountability. Owning our errors, opening ourselves up to learn new ways of being and unlearn old ones, and welcoming critical conversations on the realities of oppressive histories and actions are all needed in the work towards a critical praxis. And we must remember critical theories abolition work, these are not tools of destruction. They are pathways of creation and abundance that make more spaces physically and figuratively for all people, especially those marginalized by systems of oppression, to realize our interconnectedness and our collective power. And while the themes of today's conversations were on the English language classroom, we can imagine and need this work in all areas of what we do. As Jonathan noted, this kind of change is not an overnight process, but it is within our grasp, if we are willing. Again, I'm Jeremy Gombin-Sperling Fulbright America's diversity inclusion liaison. Be well stay safe, and until next time.