Hey, folks, I’m Riahl O’Malley, he/him pronouns, from Learning to Transform. I have the great, great pleasure of introducing to you all Tate Hornof. I had the great pleasure of working with Tate on a project that you will hear more about in our conversation today. I’m really excited to get into it, talking about training and education and using it in an organizing context. So, Tate, to start us off, please introduce yourself.
My name is Tate. My pronouns are they/them, and I’m a labor organizer for CTUL in South Minneapolis.
CTUL is Centro de Trabajodores Unidos en la Lucha, Center for Workers United in Struggle, an amazing organization and worker center. Tate, I would love to hear about the work that you’ve done in organizing, and specifically, maybe you could talk a little bit about your role and then specifically, how are you using training and education in the work that you do?
Yes, so my role in CTUL is a part of the Leaders in Growth program. That is a new name that we just came up with that really supports the work that we’re doing and heading toward for future years to come…
This program really centers around leadership development of our members and labor rights education. So, as you can imagine, with leadership development and labor rights education being our focus and the Leaders in Growth program, we use training and education a lot.
Specifically, I’m leading an outreach committee in which I’m developing my members’ leadership by having them participate in outreach activities with me. And some of those outreach activities include Know Your Rights presentations and Earned Sick and Safe Time forums where we’re giving communities outside of the Twin Cities information and education about the Earned Sick and Safe Time Bill that passed and will be in effect January 1st.
I use training and education quite a bit in my work.
That’s awesome. I love the example of incorporating members in outreach.
Oftentimes it’s the organizing team that’s really doing all the tasks, but really having an opportunity to play concrete roles of leadership that lead to base building and lead to those incredible policy wins like earned and sick and safe time seems like such an effective use of training and education.
There’s also the ideological training and education piece. And I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit to that.
The example that I’m familiar with is the project that we worked on, which was a curriculum on unlearning anti-Blackness and building racial solidarity.
I’d love to hear about that or any other examples that you’ve worked on at CTUL.
Yes. So when I came to CTUL in 2021, that was something that was already kind of in motion, and it was something I found myself to be particularly passionate about.
I think that teaching communities how to combat and unlearn what they know and how they demonstrate and exhibit anti-Blackness is super powerful, especially when organizing low-wage communities of color, because often race is something that divides us rather than connects us, even though we are all oppressed under white supremacy, “all” being people of color, marginalized identities.
So I jumped right in to help finalize the curriculum when it was first being imagined, and birthed, and we executed it on Zoom as it was still so soon after 2020.
When the organizer who had started this curriculum left and the next year came along, CTUL really wanted to do that training again and I agreed because I thought that there was a lot to learn within our organization about how are we as an organization combating anti-Blackness, but also how are we building solidarity within our members and our membership base
So that’s when I started working with Learning to Transform.
To redevelop the curriculum, to strengthen it, to really take what I saw needed to be improved the first time around and deepen the analysis, reflection, and conversation around this topic and I worked with you and Indira to make that happen.
To redevelop the [Unlearning Anti-Blackness and Building Racial Solidarity] curriculum…we worked with you and Indira….to add some activities that have people engage with one another, either in large group discussions or pair share, versus having a full two and a half days of people just talking at you…
We really focused on the intentional conversations that we want people to have that draw them to this conclusion around unlearning anti-Blackness.
How can we unlearn inherent bias that we’ve been taught either by our families or by society?
How can we use that unlearning to initiate solidarity within our organization, within our communities, and within our membership base?
So we worked on that together and I think it went really well.
It also added another step that I hadn’t thought about before, which is a training for trainers where we had to create a training on how to train facilitators.
I had never done something like that before and Learning to Transform was super helpful in guiding me in 1) Why is that important? And 2) how do we do that successfully?
I think we had a really successful training for trainers that left people kind of wanting more…how are we being good facilitators so that we can also train our members to be good facilitators?
We did that together in 2022 and then I led the project this year in 2023…where we did another training for trainers and instead of for organizers at the organization this training for trainers is something that I created for members…
I took what we did with organizers and I kind of toned it down in some parts to make it accessible to members who don’t have the same experience as organizers.
And so we had, I think, four to five members of our organization who are all leaders on the different campaigns and programs co-facilitate this two-and-a-half-day-long training with me and two other organizers and it was super powerful.
It was really amazing. Everybody did a good job. And I think it was the perfect groundwork on how to continue using this tool of training, facilitation, and education around unlearning anti-Blackness to deepen the leadership of the whole membership.
Whether it’s my leaders, campaign construction campaigns leaders, downtown campaign leaders, all of the leaders are involved in growing their leadership in an organizational-wide priority and value, which is building solidarity and combating anti-Blackness.
I love that you’ve taken those tools, you’ve reapplied them, and using those principles of leadership development so that it doesn’t even always need to be the organizer who is the facilitator of these conversations.
With the right set of tools, with the right practice, with the right feedback, members can be very well-equipped to lead these conversations.
I want to hear a little bit more about that. I mean, you called the process beautiful of doing it again in 2023 with members, this training of trainers with members, what was beautiful about it? What benefits did you see from that project?
“Instead of being defensive as facilitators, we have to get curious.”
Yeah, one beautiful thing is some of these members have never facilitated before. They’ve maybe done public speaking very few times. They have probably never taught somebody else a topic that can be as complicated as unlearning anti-Blackness, and complicated in the sense that there’s a lot of context that needs to be understood on why it’s important to have conversations about anti-Blackness in the first place.
They had to 1) have already taken the training before so that we knew they had a foundation of what the goal was, which is like building racial solidarity and 2) have an understanding of anti-Blackness. But then to be able to take that knowledge that they gained from taking the training and teach other members like themselves.
And it was a beautiful process to watch because some of the facilitators I would see going through the curriculum and being like, oh, I remember this part of the training. I know exactly how I want to do this.
Or I had an organizer on my team facilitate this training who was actually on sabbatical the year that we did it in person. So she had no experience with the curriculum and was facilitating it and it was super cool to see members tell her, the organizer, like, “Oh, no, this happens this way. This is why we talk about it this way.” This is kind of the goal.
And to feel and see the fruits of labor, even though it sounds pretty cliche, but that’s what it felt like, is when they say, “the student becomes the teacher.” That was what I saw, and that was what was beautiful.
The work that Learning to Transform and I did in 2022 set up a successful transition for members to be able to go and facilitate the year after.
I’m really hard on myself for things, especially when I have a goal. And even if I don’t feel like I 100% reach the goal of the training in terms of the genuine, deepened understanding of what it means to unlearn anti-Blackness, people are still gathering a lot of information from what we’ve done and carrying it with them to the point where they want to teach it to others. That to me, is powerful and beautiful.
Absolutely. Wow. I love that you spoke to some of the challenges–I’ve got this goal, I want it to go well because I think trainers and educator types, facilitator types, we often are really picky about how to go about facilitating these conversations because there’s so much that can go wrong, frankly.
When you’re surfacing oppressive attitudes and behaviors, when it’s not just a talking head, all of a sudden you get to hear what people think, and sometimes it’s not what you would hope they would think or the perspective that you would hope that they would have.
So to trust in other facilitators who, like you said, may not have the experience of facilitating these conversations and addressing these conversations and attitudes around anti-Blackness, to step into that role as a facilitator, I’m wondering if you could speak to just any of the challenges that emerged, and then how did you address those challenges with the rest of the coordinating team?
So you hit like a nail on the head. You often learn what people think, and that is a challenge, especially around unlearning anti-Blackness, because often what people think, it’s not very nice.
We want to encourage those thoughts because that’s what we’re trying to unlearn. That’s where we’re trying to shift the narrative.
So I think in preparation just explaining that uncomfortable things are going to be said and it’s going to feel icky and scary sometimes, especially when there’s tension and that is an opportunity for learning.
That’s a challenge in itself for any facilitator is having to hear maybe a comment that isn’t PC, politically correct, or maybe isn’t kind of going in the direction of what your goal of a conversation is, but being able to stay in the facilitator mindset.
Something that I used often was instead of being defensive as facilitators, we have to get curious. Because if we want people to see things in a particular way, we need to get to the root of why they’re reflecting this way or had these ideals in the first place.
So even in the midst of tension and conflict, we have to be able to be skilled enough and confident enough in our knowledge of this curriculum to take that and use it to identify, oh, this is why you think this way? Because for this particular topic, it’s usually a result of white supremacist thinking.
And even as people of color, we’re not exempt from thinking like our oppressor. That’s kind of what they want us to do, is to align ourselves with them but never attain the level of the status that they’re at. And that’s something that comes up often in this curriculum.
So how do we take that when it shows up and use it as an opportunity to say, hey, I hear and see your experience and we can now, from what we’ve learned, especially because we talk about racial capitalism a lot, like as workers, from what we’ve learned about racial capitalism, don’t you see how your thinking is playing into this narrative and use that?
It was challenging to get people to that level of, one, feeling comfortable to challenge their peers, but two, feeling comfortable in their own knowledge of why certain things should be challenged in the first place. Because if you go in to challenge somebody but you aren’t really sure yourself, it’s probably not going to be successful. So what are some ways to help them really feel empowered and rooted in the knowledge and experience that they have? The experience being the fact that they took the training before and the knowledge being that now they’re having a behind-the-scenes look of the curriculum, so they have all the answers. So how can we get them feeling empowered enough to use them when we get into these difficult situations?
I love that. I love the value of curiosity as a facilitator. And that’s a really great example too, of inviting that participation, inviting them to share their perspective, their experience, and then also introducing content, the concept of racial capitalism. And, when appropriate, that challenge that you named. Right, like, here’s the experience you offered. Where does that show up in what you just shared or what you just shared? I think it’s such a powerful way to move through some of those oppressive attitudes and behaviors in a constructive way that helps everyone get to someplace new.
So for those who maybe aren’t as comfortable in a facilitator or trainer role, particularly in that sort of participatory environment. Maybe they’re talking at folks and they might be nervous to turn over the conversation to people for a number of reasons, including the challenges you named.
What advice would you give someone who is working on building that practice as a facilitative trainer or educator?
“I think working with [Learning to Transform] helped really shape me as a facilitator in terms of me recognizing that I do have the skills to do this.”
Yeah, that’s a great question, and it’s one that I have been reflecting on.
For me, I think part of it is instinct for me personally, and it’s because of my experience and my own marginalized identities of having to navigate how to talk to people and how to get people to care about things that affect me.
When you have an identity such as mine, and you live in a world that is very much the opposite of that in a lot of ways, it’s really hard to explain why your perspective is important and matters.
But when you find out how to communicate with people and use the opportunity to be curious to deepen understanding, things turn out a lot better than if you weren’t curious.
So I guess the advice that I would give would probably be, 1) trust your instinct, 2) be patient, and 3) lean into discomfort. Because that is often where your most fruitful conversations are going to sit.
And it’s going to feel really weird and icky at first. But oftentimes once you get out of that cloud of murky, you see the bright shining sun, and at least that’s how it feels when you’re sitting in something so gritty.
But then there’s an aha moment from having conversations. If you stick with the conversation, an AHA moment can emerge and then you see the clouds start to dissipate. And I think that’s the word, dissipate and the light starting to come in. But that takes practice and patience and just the ability to be able to lean into it. So I hope that’s helpful. I think that counts as advice.
Absolutely. Than you. I’m also wondering if there are other resources or practices that have helped you become a better trainer facilitator.
“But I think my experience with Learning to Transform, on improving, creating, designing curriculum, that has just boosted my confidence. I could probably facilitate anything…it just feels limitless now.”
So I think a lot of my ability to facilitate and train came from high school, If I’m being honest.
I did a number of clubs and one of those clubs was the college ambassador program which gave top-ranked kids in high school the opportunity to learn things about college, to go and visit college sites, to learn about the application process, really getting the background information that I thought should be accessible to all students.
I didn’t think that it was fair in a Chicago Public School, that we’re only getting these handful of top-ranked students this information and access to this. And through that, I was like, why don’t we create presentations to share with the rest of the students in our class?
I’ve always been good with people, and so it’s always been pretty easy for me to talk in front of others and the more that I did it, the less nervous I got.
Being an active listener is super useful skill as a facilitator, too, because it helps one understand what people are saying and where they’re coming from.
But then I think, lastly, Learning to Transform. I think the experience with you and Indira in 2022, really affirmed that I had all of the skills, right?
I think working with you two really shaped me as a facilitator in terms of me recognizing that I do have the skills to do this.
Technically, I don’t just have the experience, but I actually have some skills, and I need to be utilizing them more.
Ever since then, I just had a confidence about facilitation and training that has improved how I facilitate and train, because I can use my experience in this and my experience with you two to consider myself a leader.
And I think that’s the key to how I can continue to be successful is just reaffirming. Like, I have the skills. I know how to do this. There’s always room for improvement. But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t already a leader so be a leader, Tate.
I think that in 2022 is really when I started feeling that and had the confidence to, I don’t know, take on any training task.
Now I’m like, oh, we need a Know Your Rights agenda–let me develop it for you. Let me train my committee members on how to facilitate it.
But I think really, my experience with Learning to Transform, on improving, creating, designing curriculum, that has just boosted my confidence. I could probably facilitate anything. I mean, like, in my own language, of course, but in general, it just feels limitless now.