Communiversity is a program offered by The People’s Institute that invites community members, students, and scholars to learn, serve, and organize together. While teaching at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Dr. Jim Dunn, Co-founder of The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB), taught classes that included students and residents from the community. Dr. Dunn believed the brilliance of people in the community would only enhance the learning and teaching environment of the university. Bringing community into the university was a value of his and continues to be an important principle of The People’s Institute and PISAB’s Communiversty. People historically left out, when organized, have always been those who have changed the course of history. We have seen this over time and it continues today.
On November 14, 1960, four six years old girls and their families were placed on the front lines to open school doors they were locked out of due to the racial segregation in education. This was six years after separate black and white schools were ruled unconstitutional in Brown vs Board of Education ruling. On that day, there were three girls, Leona Tate, Gail Etienne and Tessie Prevost, enrolled in McDonogh No. 19 School at 5909 St. Claude Avenue. By 9:25 am, the two public elementary schools in the Deep South were integrated. In 2009, Leona Tate established the Leona Tate Foundation for Change to help purchase McDonogh 19, the school she, along with Tessie Prevost and Gail Etienne, integrated. Today, she and her partners, Alembic Community Developers, are readying the historic landmark building to reopen in Spring 2021 as the Tate, Etienne, and Prevost (TEP) Center. The TEP Center is a mixed-use development dedicated to the history of New Orleans Public School Desegregation, Civil Rights, and Black Life. Her mission for The TEP Center is to create a safe space and community hub where the public can learn, support, and train for anti-racist organizing and social restorative justice.
The People’s Institute is the anchor partner with the Leona Tate Foundation and The TEP Center. The TEP Center will be the home of Communiversity. There, we will create a learning environment which provides a comprehensive approach to building humanistic and anti-racist leadership that is multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-generational. The Anti-Racist Communiversity will provide ongoing development for people seeking to share lessons in anti-racist organizing. It will also be a place people can study, do research, and produce a knowledge base. Communiversity will provide a platform for people from a variety of occupations, sectors, professions and identities access to learning opportunities and training. This includes local community residents in NOLA and beyond. People from all over the country and the world committed to racial justice and anti-racist organizing would be welcomed to share and learn about addressing systemic racism in their communities, institutions and places of work and play. For over forty years, The People’s Institute has conducted the Undoing Racism Workshops®. At Communiversity, the workshop and more will be offered virtually, and in-person at the appropriate time.