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The demise of the “Strong Black Woman” and the rise of mindful practice

She’s gone. She left sometime after my mother’s death and my youngest child’s entry into college. I downsized my home, got a room mate for the first time in life, spent more time in my studio, and decided to start figuring out this thing called life. I also wondered how it all related to my identity as a social work practitioner. In the midst of all this transition and change the Strong Black Woman who resided in my mind and body…left. I know not where she went, but I am glad she is gone. Much research has been garnered about the Strong Black Woman whose roots lie in survival during oppression and occupation in the lives of Black people as a result of the holocaust of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. She’s lived through the periods of slavery, Jim Crow apartheid, and the present New Jim Crow era where of mass incarceration pierces the peace of so many families. It’s never been natural to act as both mother and father, to perform with precision when healing from or reacting to trauma,  to have to seek refuge in an alternate reality which denigrates one’s own. Yet, we have survived and thrived to a degree in the midst of the impossible.The Strong Black Woman still lives in the lives of many.She can’t make mistakes, makes miracles out of impossible situations; she’s the bedrock of the family, the salt of the earth, the capable community advocate and erstwhile church fixture. She gets things done,  at all costs because she’s all in.

On February 1, 2012, my mother passed away. She was the strongest, most beautiful,  gentle and magical woman I have ever known. As a young, Black female mental health practitioner at the Menninger Foundation during my childhood, racist and sexist policies were the norm, not the exception. She was not allowed to obtain a clinical specialist’s license but she did become a licensed technician.in mental health. She was also an artist: a ceramicist, china painter, upholsterer; beer and wine maker and baker of exquisite culinary delights. She could race a car and cry her way out of a ticket.  Sometimes she worked to the point of exhaustion, and she must have worked a lot through the grief of miscarriages, a challenging marriage, and the death of a newborn. As the years progressed  she began to travel and think less of what others thought, including her own husband. She was a brave soul; a courageous and beautiful woman. She had all the answers, even when she didn’t- because she had to.

I no longer have the answers.

I no longer have the answers, nor do I have to have them. I’m curious and anxious and  a little off-kilter, but I am not surprised about the current state of political affairs. This has been our reality for as long as I can remember.  I’m refashioning myself, refining my artistic voice, resuming dance class, and finding it easier to speak my mind. I cry in front of people I work with, accept gifts from them, and give gifts in return. I gently support my daughters, but I don’t take on responsibilities that are no longer mine (Their failures to plan are not my emergencies.) Mostly, the best gifts I give my grandchildren is my time. I travel, spend time alone, and with friends. I think a lot, and laugh out loud. I enjoy dressing up, going out on occasion, and being catered to. I love to read. I weave, dye and paint patterned textiles. These activities give me the strength and energy to do the work of addressing the issues of financial capability, and justice- based food access,  all of which directly affects the safety, security, mental health and well being of women, girls and families. The Strong Black woman is gone, but in her place, I have found a mindful space, and a slower pace to accomplish this important work. The work will not happen in a day, perhaps not even in this generation, but eventually, it will get done. The wonderful thing, is I don’t have to do it all.

imag1221-2Photo of my mother’s china painting amid my textile work and other treasures

1-14-2016 #MacroSW: Financial Capability and Asset Bulding for All

This week’s Twitter chat is our first #MacroSW discussion on The Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative- a series of working papers brought forth by social work practitioners, scientists and scholars under the umbrella of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW). This chat, hosted at 9:00pm EST by macro practitioner, Sunya Folayan- will address the Grand Challenge: Financial Capability and Asset Building for All. One aspect of this Grand Challenge asks social work educators, researchers, practitioners and students to be financially literate in order to promote social and economic justice in society; and to infuse financial literacy into practice, research and teaching. The Grand Challenges for Social Work are described as ambitious but achievable goals for society that mobilize our profession, capture the imagination of the public and require innovation and breakthroughs in science and practice to achieve. The AASWSW invites social work practitioners, scientists and scholars to participate broadly in discussion and problem solving dialogue. This Grand Challenge chat @#MacroSW will engage members of our profession in bringing our brightest ideas, creative collaborations, and intentional innovation to the fore.
Our weekly generated resource bank will add to the body of knowledge created in addressing social work’s grand challenges. Social Workers have been powerful societal change agents for over a century- moving the nation through periods of stress, and unrest that characterize periods of social change and industrialization. Today’s global 21st century landscape brings with it more complex and interrelated problems which will require higher levels of problem solving. Today’s social work professional must play a more central, collaborative and innovative role in our ever changing world. If there ever was a need for the social work profession-that time is now.
#MacroSW is a collaboration of social workers, organizations, social work schools, and individuals working to promote macro social work practice. Macro social work practice focuses on changing larger systems, such as communities and organizations. It encompasses a broad spectrum of actions and ideas, ranging from community organizing and education to legislative advocacy and policy analysis. The chats are held weekly on Twitter every Thursday at 9 p.m. EST (6 p.m. PST).
References:
Financial Empowerment for Social Workers: http://aaswsw.org/proposed-grand-challenge-submissions/financial-empowerment-for-social-workers/ retrieved January 10, 2016

Sherraden, M.S. Huang, J.,Callahan, C., Clancy, M.M., & Sherraden, M. (2015). Financial Capability and asset building for all (Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative Working Paper No 13), Cleveland, OH: American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.

Open Mic Night! #MacroSW Chat 1/7 at 9pm EST

Open Mic Night! #MacroSW Chat 1/7 at 9pm EST

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Welcome back from the busy holiday season! Join host @karenzgoda and the #MacroSW crew for an hour of YOUR issues, comments and ideas on Thursday, January 7, 2015 at 9pm EST.

Spring Schedule Highlights: We are excited to announce our new weekly chats!

  • Grand Challenges for Social Work Theme Nights. In these chats, we will explore the Grand Challenges initiative by the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare. Our first Grand Challenge chat will be on 1/14 discussing Building Financial Capability for All.
  • #PoliticsNOW. We will be taking a deeper look at policy, politics, and the upcoming Presidential election. Our first #PoliticsNOW chat will be on 1/21.
  • Documentary movie nights. Our first movie night will be on 1/28  discussing the film Growing Up Trans.
  • Twitter Combination Hashtag event during Social Work Month. March is Social Work Month and we are working with folks behind other social work Twitter hashtags to develop an awesome event(s). Date(s) TBD!

About us:

#MacroSW is a collaboration of social workers, organizations, social work schools, and individuals working to promote macro social work practice. Macro social work practice focuses on changing larger systems, such as communities and organizations. It encompasses a broad spectrum of actions and ideas, ranging from community organizing and education to legislative advocacy and policy analysis. The chats are held weekly on Twitter every Thursday at 9 p.m. EST (6 p.m. PST).

For information about how to participate in the #MacroSW chat, view our FAQs. For chat schedule and chat archives check out: http://macrosw.com

Inequality for All: Student-Focused #MacroSW Twitter Chat on 10/8/15

Inequality for allSocial work students from across the country are welcome to participate in a student-focused Twitter Chat about income equality.  Join us for a live, interactive event in which social work professors Jimmy Young, of the California State University San Marcos, and Laurel Hitchcock, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will facilitate a live discussion about the documentary film Inequality for All on Thursday, October 8th at 9 p.m. EST (6 p.m. PST).

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to connect with social work students, educators and practitioners from around the world. To participate:

  1. Watch the documentary Inequality for All. Your instructor may ask you to write a brief statement about your reaction to the movie.
  2. Participate in the live Twitter chat using the hashtag #MacroSW. Tweet any questions or responses directed to the moderators and social work professors Jimmy Young (@JimmySW) and Laurel Hitchcock (@laurelhitchcock). Include #MacroSW in all…

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Assessment and Evaluation of SW Macro Practice Skills: Practice Wisdom From the Field #MacroSW Twitter Chat 9-24-2015 at 9pm EST

IMG_2821Source (some rights reserved)

Join in on this week’s #MacroSW Twitter chat as Rachel West and Sunya Folayan co-host this chat hosted at the beginning of the academic year as new learning agreements are developed in schools of social work around the country.

Today’s increasingly evidence- based climate reflects a shift in social work education that is driven by many complex sociopolitical factors affecting the profession. Field education for Macro practice competencies are defined as complex behaviors that reflect student’s integration and analysis of knowledge, values and practice skills (CSWE). Scholarly literature in social work has focused mostly on clinical (micro) practice among most professions including social work (Reheher, Bogo, Donovan, Anstice, & Lim, 2012). Fewer articles address the competencies necessary for community organization, advocacy, legislative and management practice: the historical underpinnings of social work. (Netting, Kettner, & McMurtry, 2008). While the Network for Social Work Managers has developed a…

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Open Mic Night! #MacroSW Chat July 23 at 9pm EST

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Join host @karenzgoda and the #MacroSW crew on the eve of our annual Summer vacation for an hour of YOUR issues, comments and ideas for future chats onThursday, July 23rd at 9 pm ET / 8pm CT / 6pm PT!

We’ll take a break for the month of August (no chats). Then we return to our regular schedule of chats on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month.

Fall Schedule Highlights:

9/10/2015
Host: Pat Shelly/UB
Topic: Trauma-informed care
What is Trauma-Informed Care and Why is Social Work adopting it as a Best Practice?
@UBSSW faculty Sue Green and Tom Nochajski, Directors of the Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care ( ITTIC – http://bit.ly/1HJ3356 ) will be the resident experts for this chat, on the eve of the 14th anniversary of 9-11.There has been a great leap forward in the research on trauma, the ubiquity of Adverse Childhood Experiences (…

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Implicit Bias in Social Work: #MacroSW Chat – June 25, 2015

Hosted by @UBSSW – Pat Shelly, University at Buffalo School of Social Work

In this twitter chat, we will discuss implicit bias in the social work profession. What follows are some introductory thoughts. A compilation of remarks from the chat will be posted here after June 25th.

The terrorist hate crime and murders at Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th was allegedly committed by a young white man who espoused racist, white supremist reasons as justification for his actions. He held overtly prejudiced beliefs, and acted with deliberate intention. Is racial prejudice evidence of an abnormal psychology? Was the suspect in the Charleston shootings mentally ill or a sociopath? Or is he a thug?

image courtesy of Notes from An Aspiring Humanitarian image courtesy of Notes from An Aspiring Humanitarian

One explanation for the basis for killings of African Americans in the U.S., particularly by law enforcement, has become more prominent in…

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