January 10, 2022
Guests: Kelechi Wright, LCPC, LPC; Kortney Carr, LCSW, LSCSW
Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW
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Thank you to this episode’s sponsor! UH has a phenomenal social work program that offers face-to-face master's and doctorate degrees, as well as an online and hybrid MSW. They offer one of the country’s only Political Social Work programs and an Abolitionist Focused Learning Opportunity. Located in the heart of Houston, the program is guided by their bold vision to achieve social, racial, economic, and political justice, local to global. In the classroom and through research, they are committed to challenging systems and reimagining ways to achieve justice and liberation. In 2022 they will continue their ongoing series, Eyes On Abolition that explores abolition as practice and as a critical framework to bring about change, and invite you to join them in April when they host Becoming Abolitionists author, Derecka Purnell. Go to http://www.uh.edu/socialwork to learn more.
In this episode, I talk with Kelechi Wright and Kortney Carr. Kelechi is a full-time doctoral student at the University of Kansas in the School of Social Welfare. She has expansive clinical experience in mental health with BIPOC communities. Her research focuses on immigration, criminal justice and the criminalization of immigrants. Kortney is a third-year doctoral student at the University of Kansas and a Professor of Practice in the School of Social Welfare. She has a lengthy practice background in community mental health, mental health, and private practice, with an emphasis on trauma. Her research focuses on how Black men have survived social isolation in the U.S. We talk about their article, co-authored with Dr. Becci Akin, The Whitewashing of Social Work History: How Dismantling Racism in Social Work Education Begins With an Equitable History of the Profession, published in an open-access, special double issue of Advances in Social Work. This article should be required reading in all social work programs! It is an interrogation of how social work history – what gets to be told as history, who tells it, what gets valued, what’s considered evidence, what’s considered professional, who is considered a social worker – all of it – is racist and whitewashed. They talk about how social work history often focuses on social work being created by privileged White women who helped the poor and oppressed, but does not talk about Black social welfare leaders and community organizers and activists who did this work in their own communities and beyond, and who should be held up as social work and social welfare leaders and founders. This inaccurate history portrays White people as saviors and Black people as passive receivers. To continue to teach this whitewashed history perpetuates white supremacy, which has serious consequences for social work students, faculty, social workers, and especially communities where we practice. As Kelechi and Kortney explain, we need an accurate telling of history so that our foundation is solid and our present and future are built on that foundation, rather than furthering racism and inequity. We need to honor the legacy of Black social work and social welfare leaders and teach about the critical theories, knowledge, approaches, practices – work – that they and others have done – and continue to do – to impact communities and the social work profession. And always remember and focus on the communal nature of the Black community and how Black social work and social welfare movements are in that same communal tradition. We also talk about racial justice work for educators and practitioners, who should be doing this work, who shouldn’t be expected to do this work, DEI committees, syllabi, and so much more. I could say so much more about what we discussed, but I’d rather stop here and get you into the interview so you can hear directly from Kelechi and Kortney. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.