Incoming ABSW president: ‘Change is NOW’
Felicia A. Smith earned her B.S.W. degree in May 2020 from the VCU School of Social Work and served as the B.S.W. graduation speaker during the virtual Commencement ceremony. She starts the master’s program in August 2020 and will serve as president of the Association of Black Social Workers, a student organization.
In the last few months, our nation has experienced two significant crises: a global pandemic and police brutality. Some may see these two events as separate occurrences; however, the strict guidelines to overcome COVID-19 have allowed the country and the world to witness the injustice of policing in America. My community, the African American community, has been impacted by the sting of systemic and institutionalized oppression due to racism for generations.
I believe that the winds of change have come and descended on our nation. Weeks of non-stop protesting of the killing of unarmed Black people by the police are causing symbolic strongholds to be slowly changed and extinguished. For example, state governors across the South are removing Confederate statues and signing executive orders declaring Juneteenth a state holiday. Mayors and police departments in several states are banning neck restraints (chokeholds) and examining methods for reforming their police departments. Major corporations, educational institutions, as well as the United States military, are having conversations about race relations within their organizations. There are a countless number of examples of changes that are taking place right now due to courageous people fighting for social change in all capacities.
However, there is much more work to be done as a society. We must use this appointed historical time to continue to bring permanent positive change for the Black community. It is imperative that my Black community’s voices and demands are heard, respected, and valued for us to experience our unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, as social workers and advocators for social injustice, we must harness and seize this moment!
The NASW Code of Ethics states, “Social workers challenge social injustice. Social workers pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people.”
Dr. Angela Davis proudly proclaimed, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
As the new president of the Association of Black Social Workers (ABSW), VCU chapter, I have been preparing alongside my new e-board and advisor a five-point platform to help bring forth change in the African American community. The VCU ABSW chapter’s theme for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year is “Change is NOW!!!” Our vision is to tackle change through the systems of education, criminal justice, mental health, government and housing. We are excited to continue upholding the goals of our NABSW founders to “promote the welfare, survival, and liberation of the Black Community; and to advocate for social change at the national, state, and local level.” We are asking our entire VCU Ramily to support us (ABSW) as we implement this new initiative.