Genesis of Intergroup Resources
In 2005 activist anthropologist Angela Stuesse, then a Community Outreach and Education Coordinator for the Mississippi Poultry Worker Center MPOWER, sought materials for bridge-building and political education with the majority African American and Latin@ immigrant worker leaders in the area’s chicken processing plants. She was surprised how few resources she could gather on the topic. Cobbling together what little she had found, she led MPOWER’s effort to create and pilot a series of workshops titled Solidarity/Solidaridad: Building Cross-Cultural Understanding for Poultry Worker Justice.
Around the same time, the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity embarked on a project supported by Public Interest Projects that researched the dynamics of African American-immigrant alliance formation. Looking at case studies of cross-organizational coalitions between Black- and immigrant-led groups around the country, they highlighted the challenges and opportunities that characterize collaborative efforts between these communities in the United States. This key insight emerged from the work: Even when the focus of the cross-racial alliance is on policy advocacy and change, learning experiences that increase understanding of each group’s culture, history, and worldview are critical to alliance-building. Without them, even well-intentioned efforts are likely to founder on the shoals of misunderstanding and mistrust. But with them, groups may begin to see one another in a new light, identifying commonalities of experience upon which to build the power necessary to affect change.
In 2009, when Dr. Stuesse joined the Kirwan Institute as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, these intersecting interests came to light and soon gave life to a collaborative research project titled, Rooting Intergroup Relations: A Curricular “Mapping” of the Field. Guided by an Advisory Committee of organizers and popular educators, throughout 2010 and 2011 the research team conducted interviews with 75 community organizations, worker centers, unions, and independent activists across the United States. Responding to the needs identified in their prior work, the team sought to identify and analyze programs and materials groups have used to engage communities of color in critical analysis of globalization, immigration, race, and power with the goal of finding “common ground” and intentionally building relationships across differences of race, ethnicity, and nationality.
The research that produced Intergroup Resources was funded and carried out by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, which works to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed. The project was also supported by the University of South Florida’s Department of Anthropology and Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The project’s primary objective was to make the materials found and the lessons learned broadly available to organizations/communities embarking on “intergroup relations” work. Intergroup Resources was created to meet this goal.