Our Lives Matter: Summer ecclectic blog post #2

familyMy son and I have the sweetest night time rituals. I hope that we can engage in these rituals for a long time to come, but I know that soon he will feel embarrassed by snuggling with me, and maybe he won’t tell me what was good and not so good about his day, and maybe he will get to a stage that he won’t even say “good night” to us before slipping into his room. He’ll probably also want the door closed and all the lights turned off. But for now I cherish our rituals.  Since the shooting of Trayvon Martin I’ve prolonged our rituals, I hold him tighter, and each night I am reminded what a miracle our boy is. He came late in our lives and after many challenges and losses (see other blog posts). He is the most precious person I do not own or control.  At 4 he is wise beyond is small self. He’s aware of skin color, hair texture, and facial features across races and nationalities. Without prompting he is aware that skin color matters. I did not expect to have to talk to him about his body language, clothing choices, tone of voice, etc until he was a teenager, but it’s happened now. Our son has taught me that children can be savvy and wise beyond their years; that it’s never to early to begin life lessons, and of course our son reminds me daily that HIS LIFE MATTERS.

In a similar fashion my husband’s life, the life of our son’s father matters. Our marriage is a work in progress! I think we do pretty good for two later in life getting married people. He has all the qualities I do not and then some and likewise, I balance and complete him. He was born outside of the U.S. and often tells me all kinds of stories about how he learned about the American system, especially the legal system and how to deal with police.  As if coming to a new country is not enough of a learning experience but as a man of color you also need to learn how to interact with the police in a specific way. Even though he is a smart adult with a calm demeanor I worry for him. HIS LIFE MATTERS.

Women are the fruit of the world. We bring forth new life. We heal. We bring peace. We nurture. WE MATTER. So finally, but not least of all the life of the mother of our son and the wife to my husband (ME) matters. No space for a history lesson on the abuse and exploitation of women of African decent all over the world, but suffice it to say that my life matters.  My son is learning love, respect, adoration, and care from his dad and I am appreciative of that. And they both show me that MY LIFE MATTERS.

I am no CJ scholar. I am a social work professor who is all about social justice. I am a woman of color living in America. I am a mom and wife to men of color. I teach all my students (CJ students included) why race matters AND why ALL lives matter AND how learning about others, developing acceptance and respect helps us in that process. No individual is perfect, but there is still a lot of teaching & learning that needs to be done with police systems across the country.  I often feel as if I am living in my grandparent’s generation. How much changes yet stays the same. I am originally from Pasadena and am a contemporary of Rodney King (may he rest in peace).  The issue of inappropriate policing, police brutality, etc is not just a passing hot topic it is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed and changed NOW. WE MATTER.

THE BRUTALITY AND DISRESPECT MUST STOP. WE MUST VALUE ALL OF OUR LIVES.

Tell me how your city or town rates on cultural competency within the police force?  Does specific diversity training exist? Is there training to deal with people who face mental health challenges? What do you see in your community?

Our police does a pretty good job. The hiring is getting more divers and I know they are actively involved in our community in positive ways. They also have learned and continue to learn about specific immigrants groups which make up the majority of our city: http://lowellpoliceacademy.com/

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Being True to Me: I am an ecclectic sporadic blogger with average writing skills!

ecclecticIt’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I’ve had a lot going on – finishing the semester, getting the boy ready for summer, grieving, … Lots going on that needed to be settled and cleared.  I have spent some time pondering this blog.  I read a LOT of other blogs and know that the authors of blogs which attract the most readers (and make money) have a consistent theme/topic on which they write.  I contemplated finding one or two topics on which to write in order to be consistent and have dedicated readers.

I could blog about motherhood, academia, cultural competence, Alzheimer’s, being African American, being a mother to a black boy, being married to an immigrant, being a social worker, etc., etc., etc. Not one of those topic is more important to me than the next. So I decided that my blog will be an eclectic mix of the things that interest me.  Be prepared to read about our summer jaunts, my summer readings lists, my sabbatical, my volunteerism with the Alzheimer’s Association, my attempts to explain racial relations to my 4 year old, the adventures of my niece who will soon be here from Africa, our adventures as non-Catholics in a Catholic school, soccer, futbol, food, wine, and so much more!

Stay tuned. Be patient with my writing. I hope to post interesting stories and/or tips and I hope you’ll keep reading and leaving comments!

ACOSA response to Ferguson (My mom would approve!)

Below is ACOSA’s statement on recent events is Ferguson, Missouri.  Thanks to my colleague Monica for sharing this and asking my to post on my blog.  What organizations do you belong to and how are they responding to Ferguson and other national and international events?  “ACOSA, the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration. ACOSA is a membership organization for community organizers, activists, nonprofit administrators, community builders, policy practitioners, students and educators. ACOSA will keep you informed of the latest innovations in community and administrative practice as well as provide you with a variety of opportunities for networking and professional advancement” (www.acosa.org). The statement is best viewed by visiting the website, as my blog formatting is a bit whacky…

world

The Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) Statement
in Response to Recent Events in Ferguson, Missouri
“If not us, who? If not now, when?” – John F. Kennedy
In times of systemic injustice, social workers have historically chosen action over inaction. The recent
death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the national conversation it stimulated has highlighted the
extent to which institutional racism still exists in the United States. Our longstanding ethical commitment
to social justice requires social workers, regardless of their primary method or field of practice, to take
action to address the multiple manifestations of institutional racism. ACOSA calls on all social work
professional organizations, social work schools, and individual social workers to make their voices
heard, locally in their communities and organizations, and in the state and national policy arenas. Here
are some tangible steps all social workers can take to create a more equitable, safe, and just society.
We urge you to join with us in taking action.
Professional Social Work Organizations:
● Council on Social Work Education, National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of
Social Work, & Society for Social Work Research should hold special forums or symposia at
their annual meetings to discuss the social work response to the issue of institutional racism.
● The editors of the Journal of Social Work Education, Social Work, and the Journal of
Baccalaureate Social Work should publish a special issue dedicated to this topic.
● The newsletters of all professional organizations should feature a regular column in which people
can submit ideas for a social work response.
Schools of Social Work:
● We encourage all schools of social work to organize a series of events that involve faculty,
students, and community members to discuss the implications of what happened in Ferguson for
their communities and to formulate policy solutions at the local, state, and national levels
● We encourage all faculty members to facilitate conversations regarding the events in Ferguson
and their implications for the people and communities with whom social workers work. These
conversations can add context to the larger systemic issues, especially when linked to the deaths
of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Discussing the impact racism in such diverse areas as
criminal and juvenile justice, education, employment, health care, and housing is key to
advancing social justice.
● We encourage schools of social work to provide faculty development opportunities to assist
faculty members facilitate difficult conversations about race, racism, and injustice in a safe
classroom environment and among their colleagues. This enables faculty to make the
connections between institutional forces and their manifestations in the lives of our clients and
constituents
● We encourage schools of social work to highlight the work of faculty doing research with
implications in this area. Schools can provide development opportunities for faculty to translate
their research into forums that could heighten public awareness of these issues and influence
policymakers. Examples include the development of a speakers bureau for media and
community consultation when need arises, training in the use of social media, the submission of
oped
essays, and testimony before legislative bodies.
Individual social workers:
● Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers and speak to your local and federal officials
about your concerns.
● Lead a discussion of these issues in your local church, synagogue, temple, discussion group,
book club.
● Discuss the issue with your colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Do not be silent.
● Meet with members of law enforcement in your community. Discuss your concerns and hear
theirs. Using your social work skills, facilitate discussions with community leaders
● Vote. Make lawmakers know that you vote and for what reasons.
● Organize. With members of the community most directly affected by institutional racism,
identify issues for action and take action to change conditions.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – Martin
Luther King, Jr.

P.S. My mom would approve

A Vent: Those CJ Majors in My SWK Courses

teacher(Based on anecdotal course observations over the course of 7 years and not based on any actual rigorous data collection or analysis…which gives me an idea…):

One of the beautiful aspects of being in higher education is that each academic discipline really does attract a specific type of student.  In our undergraduate Social Work courses we tend to get a significant number of students who vote with the Democratic Party (or are not registered); are not particularly religious, are female, young, and Caucasian.  Social Work majors also tend to have had some personal interaction with or connection to the greater social service/welfare system.  As opposed to the stereotypical Criminal Justice major who is either Independent or Republican, maybe not religious but with a penchant for following rules, male, youngish, and Caucasian.  And contrary to my SWK students the CJ students I have encountered, have had some negative personal interaction or connection with the CJ system (victim of a crime) that leads them to their professional choice.  There are also some suspected personality traits that typically go with each major, but that I will not even touch (but you can use your imagination).

I teach a course on “diversity” and “cultural competence” in the human services. The course is required of SWK majors and also meets the University’s graduation requirement for diversity.  Thus, I tend to have 85-90% SWK majors; 5-10% CJ majors;  and 2-3% “other majors” (Business, Education, Sociology).  Did that add up to 100%??? The course is taught from the ethical & value-laden perspective of the SWK profession with my own twist (middle-aged female of color with a variety of life experiences and lots of opinions).

And here is what I’ve noticed and how my patience and acceptance has been tested:justice scale

  1. CJ majors sit in the back or on the far sides; never in the front or the middle
  2. CJ majors have no problem challenging the information presented and often do so from the perspective of personal experience as opposed to presenting factual data
  3. SWK majors tend to agree with everything I say (equally as annoying as challenging everything I say)
  4. SWK majors tend to roll their eyes at the CJ majors and vice versa
  5. CJ majors deny that there is any injustice based on a specific social identity (race, ethnicity, gender in particular).
  6. SWK majors think everyone has been wronged or oppressed (in fact when I give an exam I am the oppressor)
  7. CJ majors claim that our country and it’s social institutions are based on and operate under the premise of justice.
  8. SWK majors say justice is not SOCIAL JUSTICE
  9. When discussing a specific type of oppression that a specific group has experienced (i.e. Antisemitism or Homophboia) the CJ majors say “Well, that’s like the time I…”
  10. SWK majors say “NO. It is NOT like the time you…” and then they over empathize.

I am challenged to really TEACH as oppose to PREACH to the converted SWK choir. It is a challenge. I am embracing it.

  1. I am breathing deeply
  2. I am counting to 5 (sometimes 10) before I respond
  3. I am looking up tons of CJ facts to bring to class for rebuttal purposes.
  4. I am consulting with my CJ colleagues (thanks, you know who you are!)
  5. I am welcoming the CJ majors who keep me on my toes AND making sure they get a good does of social work values & ethical principles

I want everyone who wants and can access an education to receive an education (I really want higher education to be more accessible, but that’s another blog). And I want to encourage students to explore courses outside of their major (that’s what liberal arts is all about right?).

helpingAND I really want to convert all those CJ majors in my SWK course to become SOCIAL JUSTICE ADVOCATES as opposed to the deliverers of justice.

The bittersweet similarities between my mom and toddler

My mom does not have a formal diagnosis, but we all know she has some form of dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s.  I’m hoping to get her one of those 3-hour long formal geriatric assessments this summer. The trick is what to say to her to get her to go and then sit through the whole thing?  She’s an educated, independent, stubborn, former entrepreneur who even with severe memory loss cannot be easily fooled into doing something she does not want to do.

She came for a visit last month for 5 days (that’s our limit together and her limit away from her comfort zone = home). The saving grace is always her grandson (1.5 years old) and he son-in-law.  I may have mentioned in previous posts that no accomplishment I’ve had is as great to her as me being married and having a child.

So here are the ways in which my mom and my toddler are similar – it’s cute and amusing, bitter sweet, and   just the reality of who they each are and where they are in their stages of development (every good social worker recognizes that):

 

 

  1. I love them both unconditionally
  2. They both assert their independence and resist assistance with most tasks
  3. I have to repeat what I say to each of them, at least 3 times, maybe more for mommy
  4. They both eat small meals and require snacks throughout the day (1 for overall growth & development and the other to keep her brain turned on)
  5. They both should take naps
  6. They both need assistance with bathing, although one resists the assistance more than the other
  7. They both need help picking out clothes and getting dressed
  8. Neither can sit still for longer than 1 to 2 minutes – both are easily distracted
  9. They both use words in interesting ways – one just learning new words, the other having forgotten what words to use or how to use them
  10. They are perfect companions for each other because they love each other unconditionally