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The Paulo Freire Legacy McGill University The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy From the moment I learned that McGill University was creating The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy, I was very touched. On the one hand, I was pleased and happy--on the other hand, I was also concerned about the responsibility this honor implies and why I am receiving it; the greatest ever bestowed on me, along with the greatest Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, whose worldwide notoriety is undeniable. Questions came to my mind as if to cast doubt on whether or not I deserved such high homage, on whether or not I would be able to meet the expectations placed upon me by those who work so seriously to perpetuate Paulo Freire’s name in the world from Canada. I patiently allowed time to provide me with an answer, obviously not in and of itself as if time were a decision-making entity, but by arriving, little by little, in time and with time, at the foundation of my own intuitions and reflections. The first understanding I arrived at was that Paulo Freire, my husband and to me simply lovingly PAULO, did deserve to have a study and research center at a university of McGill’s stature, but that Nita did not. What might I have done to warrant such great honor? I reflected upon it some more and was then able to more clearly realize what I represented in Paulo’s life. Some friends had long told me, but not until the creation of this Project did I realize within myself, acutely and profoundly, what my presence in Paulo’s life was. I gave to him all my love, tenderness, and care. I encompassed him with my energy and my vitality; with my curiosity, and my concerns, with a younger woman’s reading of the world. The manner in which we exchanged admiration, trust, fascination, loyalty, and respect also helped him to open himself up to a new sense of satisfaction with life, and toward his relationship with the world. I am thankful to Shirley Steinberg, to Alípio Casali, and Lisete Arelaro, and very specially to Donaldo Macedo, for having noticed and understood, justly and sensibly so, even before I did myself, and for having repeated to me many times, and vehemently so, the importance, which I now very humbly recognize, of my role in provoking in Paulo the existential intent, indeed the vital desire, needed so that he could plentifully enjoy all his dimensions as a man: from his radiant taste for a happy and pleasurable life to his scientific production, made more poetic and diversified, more profoundly critical and accurate. I must agree, being a little less shy about it, that had it not been for me, quite possibly Paulo might have faded at a much younger age, and he would not have contributed as he did in the last ten years of his life, consistently and decisively, to building the Critical Pedagogy he himself had inaugurated. I must say a few more words about why I believe this Project for studies about Paulo Freire in Canada also takes my name, and in its Nita form, which up until my marriage to Paulo was a nickname, a form of endearment only used by my family and the closest of friends, Paulo among them. Therefore, this choice by McGill University, I feel, has the intent to connect me with the university in a tender, definitive, and irreversible manner. Similarly to my relationship with Paulo, a strong and loving bond both in its affective and intellective aspects, it intends to emphasize the undying dimension of our relationship of love, within the institutional relationship being established today between myself, Paulo, and McGill University with the creation of this Project. In sum, I believe that, both due to this joyous, provocative, instigating facet of mine that beneficially reached my husband and to my immeasurable efforts toward disseminating and publishing my husband’s work as his legal successor, I am inexorably linked to McGill University, and being granted such an honor alongside Paulo. Therefore, my most sincere Thank You goes out to all the men and women in this university who have worked to make this Project a reality and to all those who have come to support and lend their solidarity to myself and Paulo. I also want to thank, in a very special way, my sons, Ricardo, Eduardo, Roberto, and my daughter, Heliana, my daughter-in-law, Elsie, and my grandson, Andre. My thanks as well to Shirley Steinberg and Joe Kincheloe, mentors of The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy Project, to Donaldo Macedo, Henry Giroux, Charles Cole, Hajra Waheed, Peter McLaren, Ramón Flecha, Antonia Darder, and Peter Park, any-time, all- weather friends of Paulo’s and, through him, of mine as well. I also thank you all here today for the joy of your solidarity and your presence. I also want to express my eternal gratitude to all of McGill University’s leadership, and above all to Dean Jamshid Beheshti. At times like this, it is natural for one to think of one’s life history. Thus, as in a movie, I now run through my life and Paulo’s, lives lived in parallel even before we jointly built “our communion” made concrete within the maturity of our choice and the intensity of knowing how to live the plenitude of life, while surrounded by people who are most dear to me. I am taken back to my childhood in Recife: The Osvaldo Cruz School, which stretched out toward the front of the huge house at 1002 Dom Bosco Street where we, the Araújos lived: Aluízio, Genove, and their nine children, my brothers and sisters, my cousin Itamar and my grandfather, “Godfather Miguel.” I recall the bucolic Recife with the gas streetlights and its Carnaval, then filled with Pierrots and Columbines, confetti, streamers, and frevo songs of innocent and romantic taste, which I now hear in the 2008 Carnaval, nostalgically reliving my childhood, at the University Radio Station created by Paulo in 1963!! I recall the rotating bridge, which made me panic at the thought of its moving while I was crossing, the amphibian airplanes letting off their passengers downtown, and Derby Square with its Sunday bands, where I started having my first dates with Raul. I recall my coming to Sao Paulo and the birth of our four children, whose lives today continue in those of Andre, Marina, and Flora. I remember my brother Paulo’s tragic death, when the family’s pain was somewhat lessened by the daily visits by then great family friend Paulo Freire. I remember the day when I made the decision to go back to school—in my youth I had completed two years of Civil and Electric Engineering—to study Education, which coincidentally allowed me to dedicate to and specialize myself in the same field of study as Paulo’s. It was the iron-handed years of the military regime then, and I read Paulo for the first time, in Spanish; I could “hear” him translate his Pedagogia do Oprimido back to Portuguese. I was in Sao Paulo; he was in Geneva! I go further back in time to find Paulo around the year of 1937; I met him for the first time then, before I was four years of age, in the halls of the memorable Osvaldo Cruz School, owned by my parents, Genove and Aluízio Pessoa de Araújo. It was a private school, but its practices favored the community’s interests, for example, through the granting of scholarships; it could indeed be considered a public-mission institution. That was how Paulo had the opportunity to go to school— and belatedly complete his secondary education—and in fact to become a teacher, then one of his greatest dreams since childhood.  Among other statements check in Paulo Freire, Política e Educação, 4th edition. São Paulo: Cortez, 2000 in “Ninguém nasce feito: é experimentando-nos no mundo que nós nos fazemos,” p. 79. About such opportunity, Paulo stated that, beyond the unique and concrete possibility he had to be schooled, “… it was there that I learned to become an intelligent person, which I believe I am.” It was at that school that, while making up for years lost out of school, Paulo learned, under the influence of my parents, to be a humanist, in addition to being intelligent and being human. Paulo Freire. Pedagogia da tolerância. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2005, p. 268. This book earned the Jabuti Prize-2006, awarded to Paulo and myself, as organizer, in the category “The Best Book on Education”, 2nd place. At the time, Paulo, an adolescent who thought of himself as unattractive and angular, timidly overcame his fear of interacting with his fellow students and teachers by singing popular songs or whistling Villa Lobos, but also by studying the Portuguese language and popular Brazilian syntax with steel determination. I recall, with joy and longing, our wedding ceremony held at my mother’s house—unfortunately, having already passed, my father was not able to experience the joy of seeing me united to his dearest former student—in Recife, in March of 1988, at the height of Paulo’s wisdom, when filled with passion and love we were formally united in a religious ceremony so as to complete one another. I remember the many trips from Sao Paulo to Jaboatão dos Guararapes, especially the last vacation we spent together, in January of 1997, at our condo, which he had bought a few years before. He seemed to tell everyone in my presence that the place was meant to trick me and gradually warm me up to the legitimate dream of returning to our context of origin. He tried to convince me by proposing longer and longer stays there, preparing us for a definitive return to his beloved Recife, even while he objectively knew that would be very difficult to do in the near future due to the work commitments we had both made in Sao Paulo. He would imagine and promise me “a gift” of a large house, in a pleasant section of the city, one to my taste and of my choice, preferably with a view to the Capibaribe River, which runs through and beautifies “our city,” and with a large backyard with mango, pitanga, carambola, and jaca trees in it so we could enjoy their aromas and flavors while resting or just thinking under the shades provided by lush and abundant treetops. I relive all that intensely. My life, his life, the characters and experiences of our simple and gentle life, one of intense communion and decisive for the being that I have been and am today and that instigates me to think about what he thought, dreamed, and practiced. Without that loving and tender bond we forged day after day, deliberately between us, and without the learning mutually afforded us by our ten years of a shared life, it would be difficult to speak about him with the affective responsibility, with a companion’s respect, with political engagement and an intellectual identity with his reading of the world, as I have done. Thus, during his life, I collaborated in three of his books. After his departure, I organized three more books with writings of his, and I had them published and translated into a few foreign languages. I organized another book about him with Freireans from around the world, some of whom are present here. I wrote about us in Chronicles of love: my life with Paulo Freire  and about his prodigious life and singular body of work in Paulo Freire: uma historia de vida.  Pedagogia da Esperança, São Paulo, Paz e Terra, 1992 ( 52 Notes, from p.201 to 245); Cartas a Cristina, São Paulo, Paz e Terra, 1994 (46 Notes, from p. 237 to 334 ); 2nd edition. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2002 and .À Sombra desta Mangueira, São Paulo, Olho D Água, 1995 ( 13 Notes from p. 89 to 120).  Pedagogy of indignation.. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2004; Daring to dream: toward a pedagogy of the unfinished. . Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2007; and Pedagogia da tolerância. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2005,Awarded the most important literary prize in Brazil, Jabuti Prize 2006, “The Best Education Book”, 2nd Place.  A pedagogia da libertação em Paulo Freire Paulo Freire Series (Direction). São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2001.  Chronicles of love: my life with Paulo Freire. Preface by Marta Suplicy, Introdution by Donaldo Macedo. New York; Washington, DC; Baltimore; Bern; Frankfurt Main; Berlin; Brussel; Vienna; Oxford: Lang, 2001.  Paulo Freire: uma historia de vida. Indaiatuba: Villa das Letras, 2006. Awarded the most important literary prize in Brazil, Jabuti Prize 2007, 2nd Place in the category “The Best Biography”. On this solemn occasion, therefore, I want to, I can and must, because I know him most intimately, give testimony as to who this small-bodied man is whose greatness and wholeness of character were quite uncommon and whose mere presence effected pedagogy. As I speak about his humanness, I will also be speaking about his reading of the world, thus, about the legacy of his work, in light of the extreme coherence he maintained between what he felt, observed, reflected upon, spoke, systematized, wrote, and practiced. From his mother he learned generosity and not to be afraid of living legitimate anger; from his father tolerance and respect. From my parents he learned humanism and gratitude. From his students he learned of the need for spontaneous curiosity to gradually become epistemological through loving cognitional dialogue. From a few philosophers, sociologists, and educators around the world he learned that sameness does not lead to rigorous systematized thinking, or to the creation and re-creation of knowledge, as that should be a dynamic process historically renewing itself at every moment. From his academic peers, while negating many of them, he learned that one must not discard common sense and intuition, but start out from them in order to build science and philosophy. He learned that knowledge is born out of a practice that must be illuminated by theory in a permanent and dialectic process: from practice to theory to practice. From his wives, Elza and me, he learned the need for complicity, for affection and lovingness within married life. From the African peoples he learned the importance of bodiliness and of joy, and of a duty toward and a taste for the learn-teach act from the starting point of engaged work toward transformation. Paulo also learned, from “northern whites,” from the developed world, those who were (and remain) in favor of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, and thus, against the people. By negating them, he proclaimed, in a dialectic of denunciation and annunciation, that division leads to manipulation and conquest, but that through organization, through union and the cultural synthesis of the oppressed, the possibility opens up for social transformations in favor of those men and women, the excluded, vilipended, and exploited population. Yet, it was with Recife laborers and fishermen from Pernambuco that Paulo received and embraced the greatest lessons on the act of thinking. From those men and women he learned that neither theology nor his faith and catholic religiousness, neither rationalist or idealist, functionalist or phenomenalist, personalist nor any other theories of educative-philosophical-linguistic knowledge were able to explain in its totality what he saw, felt, and understood while in contact with the indigent men and women from the swamps, the marshes of Recife, and from the beaches and the countryside of Pernambuco. It was alongside those men and women, the mere objects for manipulation, exploitation, and oppression by the dominant, that my husband humanized himself more, and understood the need to study a great deal, especially Marxism, in order to unveil the cruel and unjust reality that ravaged Brazil, but above all that Northeast region of his. It was from his experience with the population of the poor quarters of Recife and with the rural laborers from the sugar cane producing towns of Pernambuco that Paulo started out, thus, to compose his Liberation Theory. He was able to clearly understand, with that destitute and “ignorant” population, through studies in philosophy and science, and through rigorous reflection, that they had been robbed of their humanness, had their genuine nature as human beings denied them. He understood the reality in which they had been Lesser Beings, exploited, excluded, oppressed, because they lived poorly, hardly ate, had no jobs, and were not able to read the world, or even able to write or read the word—not ever their own names. Illiterate, they did not even have the right to vote, which might have afforded them minimal political participation, as such was the requirement by Brazilian law then. Paulo’s compassion toward that population and his radical understanding of the conditions they were subjected to made him be in their favor, compelled him to make them conscious of why they felt undervalued, resigned to “divine determination,” dismissed from life. Through conscientization as to their day-to-day of misery, he opened up the possibility for them to fight against that suffering, which silenced their voices as historical beings and sentenced them to being mere objects at the service of the powerful. From all such men and women, from the most diverse peoples of the world, Paulo learned that solidarity and tolerance are the matrixes of true multiculturalism, upon which earthly Peace can be built, without arrogance, without discriminations, and without bouts of domination by the pretentious “lords of the world.” Paulo was a simple man even though he was a wise man who studied and read with all the potentiality of his epistemological curiosity, with great seriousness and feeling, devoting himself from an early age to overcoming relationships and conditions of oppression in effect. He learned to listen to scientists and to hear the people of his land. He heard them because he listened to what manual laborers, factory and rural workers and fishermen in Pernambuco wanted, knew, wished for, and felt. As he listened to them, he took it all to his heart, reflecting upon and feeling their problems, because he read with his entire body—body and mind, he read with his conscious body. His body hair would rise up, and his heart would race pumping his blood faster because he identified with the people’s pain. He would become stunned and indignant. Paulo, therefore, wrote about people’s troubles and their suffering with a legitimate anger or indignation, as he would say, but without grudges, disrespect, or exasperation. His enormous joy for living never kept him from speaking about the miseries of the world, nor his being one of the most serious and rigorous thinkers in the history of ideas and of education in the world from preserving his almost boyish ways of communicating, of conducting himself with sweetness and simplicity toward anyone indeed, to the last day of his life. Paulo’s ethical nature is to account for his exemplary behavior, for only after analyzing what he heard, read, or saw, living it all within his reflective reasoning, and within instances of anger and indignation if he repudiated the fact or deed, would he then lovingly denounce it, thusly announcing something new. For that reason, he was not always going on or grieving in elegies or vain words. He would first intuitively and sensitively learn from the facts and deeds that sentenced the majorities, or him, to the limits or depths of meanness. He gave himself the right to profoundly feel legitimate angers, as he put it, and then, he would elaborate the facts scientifically and politically in his talks always marked by ethical composure. Such is the dynamic of denunciation-annunciation in Paulo, his educator, political, ethical being. Therefore, I never saw him complaining, even when treated unjustly or misunderstood by anyone. He was able to discern and lucidly knew the reasons why someone would want to discriminate against, subject, or demean the people or to offend him, put him down, without having ever “compared” the insults and injuries and the acts of envy independently from their reasons why and whom they emanated from. At times he was mistaken, but he never regretted his magnanimousness toward people. With clarity and dignity, he would remain in his authentic and eminently ethical position of humility, even while denouncing the dominant classes with all his strength. Paulo’s state of ethical discernment provided him the foundation for creating a political epistemology driven by the concreteness of life, of deeds and facts and their webs, one substantively humanist and critical, thus, inaugurating a new conception of ethics, creating the ethics of liberation. It is this ethics in Paulo that accounts, therefore, for the unshakable love and unrestricted solidarity toward the just, the oppressed and excluded that sets the tone and provides the soul of his own person, of his theory and praxis. He abominated with all his strength the envious, the vengeful, and those who take advantage of their positions to illicitly gain in every way in every situation. He also possessed enormous compassion for men and women who don’t know how to stand firm in their positions when respectful of the decisions of others or loyal toward their comrades. Paulo was, thus, a bold man who was not afraid to hardheadedly insist, to continue on writing, speaking, and dedicating his life to the struggle against injustices that afflict men and women without a voice more, that is, that afflict those who cannot speak their word. Speaking the word, to him, means to demand what one wants, desires, needs, to take a stand for what one thinks and finds necessary for his or her life in community. It means to want and to understand that one can and must participate in the political life of one’s country rather than simply being the docile one who works and obeys without even knowing why. To speak the word is to insert oneself in society; it is to establish one’s own biography. It means to escape the condition of mere object to gain that of subject of history as well. Paulo’s struggle of nearly sixty years was, unarguably, toward making lives into human existences, toward making oppressed men and women into More Beings, that is, in fact people, socially recognized as equal and marked only by their individual differences. Paulo was “stubborn,” “persistent” not just to be a “troublemaker,” but rather out of his belief that all human beings, men and women, are born to be happy. They are born to fulfill themselves while human beings, by doing well, seriously, decently, and joyfully all that they like and want to do because it is important for their society and not just for themselves. Often times, his ethical-critical-political educational theory is misinterpreted as if it were a mere method for literacy education. His critical understanding of education, his epistemology, has a literacy education “method” built into it, it is true, but it goes far beyond that and encompasses other areas of knowledge, interpreting human existence in and with he world in an absolutely peculiar dialectic fashion. Through his theory, Paulo revolutionized the world, without weapons, with courage and boldness, with coherence and complicity, with political ethics and love; it is a Liberating Theory aimed at human beings’ autonomy. His theory brought humanist-liberating power to education, to the act of educating the forum of politicalness, problematics, and dialogicalness, and to politics it brought a new ethical-pedagogical character, as those qualities were not recognized before. Marked by the ethics of life, his theory negates the ethics of markets, of easy and illicit gain, which is characteristic of those who practice the dictums of neoliberalism and of economic globalization. It is a critical and liberating theory because it proposes thinking and acting toward the transformation of societies; it is hopeful because, while believing in human inconclusion and in collective participation toward the building of a better world, it foresees the utopia of a more just and human society. It is dialogically loving because it does not prescribe and does not determine but, rather, establishes a horizontal relationship in the search for knowledge and for well-liking between subjectivities and the objectivity of what is to be unveiled and known. It is humble because it does not intend itself as the only true theory at the service of men and women and tolerant because it values and respects differences. It is engendering of conscientization, geared toward the autonomy of subjects, because its citizenly tactics has democracy as its greater strategy. In sum, Paulo’s theoretical thought exposes all his greatness, wholeness, and dignity of an existentialized human being. Paulo’s greatest dream, therefore, was the reinvention of societies toward the prevalence of justice and equality in them, thus making them truly democratic societies. That is, it aims at our building a more ethical, more human world. Just as Martin Luther King, he also pronounced, with his conscious body, with his work, and with his example, “I have a dream… I have a possible dream, that of humanizing ourselves, in communion, of men and women freeing ourselves from the unjust bondage that has made us Lesser Beings. I have a dream… I have a possible dream, that of all of us men and women becoming More Beings, in a permanent process of liberation.” In other words, Paulo created a theory of knowledge from draining theoretical studies, from his prophetic intelligence, drenched by his experiences as a man who fully lived his Recifeanness, his unrestricted and profound love for his homeland, for his “context of origin,” but above all from his sensibility soaked in compassion and solidarity toward the Marias, Manuels, Joses, Severinas, and Severinos from the hills and the marshes of Recife, the fishermen, and the sugar-cane plantation workers of Pernambuco. Thusly, fighting fearlessly from the starting point of his Recifeanness, but never stuck in it, with courage and a belief in the other, he made himself a citizen of the world, a well known man, admired, respected, studied, and cited all over the world, by scholars from the most varied areas of knowledge. From Recife to Montreal, from Santiago to La Paz, from Havana to Geneva, from New York to Beijing, from Tokyo to Massachusetts, from Jakarta to Barcelona, from Sao Paulo to Seoul, from Kiev to Bilbao—Paulo is considered the thinker of Brazil who, having thought from the starting point of his dearest city, Recife, where he was born in 1921, reached the world. It is necessary to say, and I do so with pride, but without pretension or arrogance, that my husband, alongside Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is considered the greatest pedagogian in the history of education and of the ideas of humanity, according to statements by liberation philosopher Enrique Dussel. This homage, as I see it, commemorates this man’s immortality—Paulo Freire—who thought, fought, and dreamed tirelessly, throughout his life, in favor of the utopia of transforming the world, through collaboration and communion, into a more beautiful and fraternal society, one more just, more egalitarian, and more solidary, a world of Peace and equity and a more democratic one. I cry his absence and exalt and rejoice in his fruitful life, marked as it was by tenderness, courtesy, and the patience for listening. I commend his joyfulness, humility, simplicity, generosity, and respect for all men and women, regardless of nationality, religion, language, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or culture, his easygoing and hopeful nature, his wisdom for dialoguing and creating. I admire him for his enormous capacity for being tolerant toward the different and lenient about the frailties of others, for having been wise about the difficulties of life, for never having lamented or complained about the problems that affected him. I also admire him for his awareness of his own knowledge at the service of transformation, of understanding as to the incessant remaking of history through possible actions in the present, and for having fought against today’s impossibilities to make them into the possible dreams of tomorrow. I praise him for having realized that the world is possibility rather than historic determinism and that impatient patience is one of the most important revolutionary virtues, for having loved indiscriminately, and for having shown extraordinary courage to love! Nita Ana Maria Araújo Freire. Jaboatão dos Guararapes, Carnaval Sunday, 2008. Montreal, March 13, 2008.
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