Highlander Center Pre-Conference Workshop

Wednesday, October 18, 10:00am-4:00pm.

(Separate registration is required, as space is limited.)

Join Highlander Center for a dive into popular education, organizing, movement history and current challenges and opportunities in this workshop. Highlander Center is a popular education center in Tennessee that has been a pivotal gathering place for labor, civil rights, environmental justice, education, immigrant rights, and youth organizing throughout its 85 year history. Started in 1932, in the depths of the Depression in rural Grundy County, Highlander has focused its work in the Southern and Appalachian United States, supporting leaders and groups to come together, share ideas and strategies at the center and return back to their communities to better organize to change their situation. Join Susan Williams and Esmeralda Baltazar from the Highlander Center Education Team for a participatory workshop exploring Highlander’s history and methodologies. Participants will explore historical movements and share more about current organizing efforts in these challenging times for our education institutions, communities and society.



Esmeralda Baltazar

Esme first came to Highlander through the Southern Grassroots Economies Project and then Seeds of Fire youth program.  She joined the staff in early April of 2014. She came from her home community of San Antonio, where she worked with Fuerza Unida, a Latina-led organization supporting the organizing of women workers and their families. In Chicago, she-co founded The Crib Collective, a youth-led organization that became a center for artistic expression and cross cultural alliances. She is an accomplished visual artist and holds an MA in Educational Leadership, Politics and Advocacy from New York University. At Highlander, she leads the Seeds of Fire Youth program, supports educational work on cooperative economics, and encourages groups to incorporate cultural organizing in their strategic efforts.

Susan Williams

Susan Williams has worked for over 35 years as a community organizer, a popular educator, a participatory researcher and librarian/archivist in East Tennessee.  She  organized with Save Our Cumberland Mountains and the Tennessee Industrial Renewal Network, and now works on the Education Team at Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee, focusing on a new Economics and Governance curriculum for communities.    She coordinates Highlander’s library, bookstore and archive and is a 2012 graduate of the University of Tennessee School of Information Sciences Masters program.



Pre-Conference Happy Hour at Millennium Hotel Bar

Wednesday, October 18, 5:30-9:00.

We can’t wait to see you!  Join us at an informal meet-and-greet with the conference planning committee and conference attendees.  Conference registration will be open.  Cash bar and menu with happy hour prices.


Networking Cocktail Hour & Early Evening Performance: “The Prison Story Project : On the Row”

… with a post-performance discussion facilitated by David Jolliffe

Thursday, October 19, times TBD.


On the Row

THE PRISON STORY PROJECT: ON THE ROW is a production of the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project, which since 2011 has been sending teams of writers into prisons, leading writing workshops with the inmates, and then developing readers’ theatre scripts that are performed by professional actors both for the inmates who write the material and for public audiences. In the summer of 2016, the Prison Story Project undertook its most challenging initiative: eight inmates housed on Arkansas’ Death Row met with Prison Story Project workshop leaders one Saturday a month from May through September to read and discuss imaginative literature and write in response to issues, themes, and problems raised by it. ON THE ROW, the 70-minute script generated by the initiative, was performed on Death Row for the writers on October 8 and subsequently presented to large, enthusiastic public audiences in the weeks and months following the initial performance.

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David Jolliffe is the initial holder of the Brown Chair in English Literacy at the University of Arkansas, where he is also Professor of English in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and, by courtesy, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education and Health Professions.

Prior to coming to Arkansas, Jolliffe was Director of Composition at the University of Illinois at Chicago from 1987 to 1994 and then Director of Writing Programs and Director of the First-Year Program at DePaul University, where he taught from 1994 through 2005. He has been a member of the executive committee of both the Council of Writing Program Administrators and the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

A long-standing actor and director, Jolliffe creates many of his community literacy outreach projects by emphasizing the power of performance to teach the world of the word. With the Classical Edge Theatre Company, which he helped to found in 2011, Jolliffe sends teams of actors into schools throughout Arkansas to perform scenes from Shakespeare and lead workshops. Most recently, he has joined the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project, for which he helped to run writing workshops for inmates housed on Arkansas’ Death Row in the summer of 2016. Beginning in October 2016, Jolliffe portrayed a role in the readers’ theatre performance of ON THE ROW, the production developed solely from the writing produced by the Death Row inmates.

The author or editor of several books on literacy in communities, rhetorical theory, and the professional preparation of writing instructors, his most recent publication is The Arkansas Delta Oral History Project: Culture, Place, and Authenticity, co-authored with Christian Z. Goering, Krista Jones Oldham, and James A. Anderson Jr. and published by Syracuse University Press.


Why We Strive

Facilitated Closing Plenary & Performance, with Playback Theatre West

Saturday, October 21, times TBD.


Playback Theatre is founded upon the idea that stories shape our lives and build community. For nearly 30 years, the professional actors and musicians of Playback Theatre West have used this form to facilitate both personal and community sharing, healing, and growth. Audience members share a story from their lives and professional improvisers turn them into art, on the spot.


This unique and interactive closing event will allow us to bring together participants from across the conference, to explore shared themes and/or forge connections between our work, our current/future challenges, and our shared visions. Playback’s fluidly dynamic, embodied forms invite us to visualize more clearly the ways in which the dynamics behind our conference themes write themselves upon the world and affect us as whole persons and interrelating communities.


In this facilitated closing plenary, conference participants will be invited to share moments or insights from the conference, our lives, and our work – which will be “translated” into professional theater, movement, and song, in the moment and on the spot.


More about Playback Theatre West & its members @



“Community Writing in a Time of Violence” … discussion facilitated by Eli Goldblatt

What role does writing play in responding to fears and disillusionment that can emerge after being inundated with reports of mass violence? How can we help communities that feel shaken by violence on the streets or violent images projected on to them by others? How can people respond through writing to disturbing scenes they see either in the media or in their daily lives? How should literacy leaders respond to the cheapening of public discourse and attacks on verifiable reporting? This session brings together people concerned about the effects of the near-daily reports of mass violence, threats against women and minority communities, public insult exchanges, and social polarization. No speaker can tell us how to proceed; we will write, read, and talk together, sharing responses that support both communities and individuals in moments of distress.

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Eli Goldblatt is Professor of English at Temple University and director of New City Writing, an institute focused on community literacy in North Philadelphia. Goldblatt’s research and published works include Writing Home: A Literacy Autobiography (S. Illinois UP 2012) and `Round My Way: Authority and Double-Consciousness in Three Urban High School Writers (U of Pittsburgh P 1995), as well as Because We Live Here: Sponsoring Literacy Beyond the College Curriculum (Hampton P 2007), which won the 2008 National Council of Writing Program Administrators’ Best Book Award. The Conference on Community Writing presented him with the Outstanding Scholar Award in 2015. With David Jolliffe, he is currently working on a book about non-school literacy projects in urban Philadelphia and rural Arkansas. Goldblatt’s poems have appeared over the last forty years in small literary journals and his poetry collections include Sessions 1-62 (Chax P 1991), Speech Acts (Chax Press 1999), and Without a Trace (Singing Horse Press 2001). Goldblatt’s two books for children are Leo Loves Round and Lissa and the Moon’s Sheep (both Harbinger House 1990).