Interview with Social Work Professor Barbara Zelter Arrested for Protesting with NAACP Against Bad NC Policies

I had the opportunity to catch up with Social Work Professor Barbara Zelter after she escaped the clutches of the Wake County Detention Center due to being arrested for protesting with NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) against the terrible policies of the North Carolina Legislature. Barbara teaches social work policy at North Carolina State University, and her class has been following legislation being enacted by North Carolina’s new super majority Republican led state legislature which means they control the majority in the house and senate with a Republican Governor. Here is some of our conversation:

SWH:  Tell us a bit about your background, and what fuels you to fight for vulnerable populations?

Barbara: It seems to me that some people are born with a kind of radar that makes them notice social unfairness.  Even as a child, I noticed things like rich and poor neighborhoods, and I seemed drawn to those living nontraditional lives on the edges.  I grew up in a middle-class family in Rochester, New York, the daughter of a Jewish Dad and Episcopal-turned Catholic Mom.  We had international visitors, and this opened my eyes to various cultures and traditions as enriching and fascinating. Religion was always compelling to me for its mysteries and the social gospel.  In 2008, I returned to hometown of Rochester after 40 years to get a master’s in theology at the seminary across the street from our childhood home.

Barbara Zelter Social Work Professor NCSUMy Masters of Social Work was from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), in 1991 (I get a degree every 20 years: college 1971, MSW 1991, MA in Theology 2011–we’ll see about 2031).  When starting with the MSW program in 1988 we had three children in elementary school.  Before that, I had been an employment counselor, an editor, a refugee sponsor, a crisis counselor volunteer for Hopeline, and other things.  I went to social work school wanting to be a therapist, like most students.  But graduate school can be wonderfully transformative if we allow it to be.

I was solicited to move into the Administration and Policy track at UNC and never looked back. The next 20 years involved community organizing for health care equity, living wages, campaign finance reform, against the death penalty, in support of families on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), etc.  The pay was terrible, but the people doing the organizing inspired me.  A graduate school internship opened my world to the layer of community agitators for social justice all over the state.  I knew I had found a home with them.

Ten years were with the North Carolina Council of Churches; for five of those years, two others–Kathy Putnam (MSW, with the NC Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition) and Micheline Ridley Malson (my first Social Work MSW teacher and a consultant now)–and I ran a statewide nonprofit called JUBILEE, around welfare reform.  It was a project of the NC Council of Churches and emphasized getting the voices of the families in the welfare system into the new welfare reform plans, and also involving trained teams in religious congregations to partner with families who would be losing benefits.  We had a third area of work, called Public Samaritan, that spoke for economic justice–jobs that paid enough, health care for all, etc.  We believed that you must combine community support with policy advocacy.

After that, I worked with the Council from 2003-2007 as their statewide organizer around peace and economic justice.  Then came seminary–I finished there in December of 2010 not wanting to be ordained and having exactly zero clue what might be next. I landed unexpectedly at NC State, opening field internships in advocacy organizations and then teaching.  It was a close friend from my MSW program, Dr. Jodi K. Hall, now the Field Director at the Department of Social Work at North Carolina State University (NCSU), who invited me to come to NCSU.  As she says:  “Don’t burn any bridges!”  You never know which of your classmates, teachers, field people, or others may open a door for you one day.  I am in debt to Dr. Hall; I dearly love working with students at this stage of my life.

SWH: I have heard many social workers say that social work is not political. What is your response to this statement?

Barbara: You know, we are at a time in history that greatly dishonors the proud foundation of social work in the settlement houses. A tradition that blended solidarity with immigrants and the poor emphasized a strong critique of the social systems that neglected whole segments of the population.  We live in a time where the Mary Richmond casework model of professional casework and the subsequent intrapsychic (focus on the psychology of the individual) tradition has almost completely taken over the professional social work field. I have a lot of opinions on this subject!

Serving individuals and families is a great social work task–relieving pain, finding resources, helping people find their ways to health, and community support is the area in which most social work jobs can now be found.  I do not blame students for following the areas where they actually can make a livelihood around caring and empowering people.  This is good work.  However, the alternate path of community organizing, policy focus, and political advocacy simply does not offer the same range of paid job opportunities.  There was more funding for these things a generation ago.

Teaching social policy and social welfare history, I find that students DO care about unfair policies, programs, and systems, but are simply not sure what to do to make a difference in the beyond-agency world of policy and politics. A world clearly driven and controlled by moneyed interests.  As they learn who actually represents them in the government, and which groups are out there to advocate on issues they care about, they DO jump in with fervor.

I think that at this time, it is best to acknowledge that social work jobs are mostly in the personal healing world but to challenge all service providers to always see individual situations in the analytical context of broad sociopolitical structures.  Service-provider social workers should be attuned to ways they can best advocate at the local, state, and national levels for funding, programs, and policies best for the common good.

Some will be called to serve at the next level, direct action, and civil disobedience, in the classic civil rights tradition of nonviolent resistance.  To me, we are at a historical moment that demands far more than polite letters to legislators.  Our bodies must be on the line.  Arrests and jail must be part of our social work advocacy options.

SWH: Social workers have largely been absent from the national conversation on discussing the social safety net that we implement. How did this happen, and what needs to be done to get back into the conversation?

Barbara: Schools of Social Work need to emphasize social justice, political economy, where the dollars come from for programs people like, and our Code of Ethics mandate around civic voice and participation.  I love the fact that NCSU’s Department of Social Work has this clear focus.  Additionally, individual social workers need to simply put in the time it takes to stay connected with local, state, and national advocacy groups that speak out on these social safety net policy issues while they are busy day to day in the trenches.

Unfortunately, we live in a time of debt bondage, just like it was described in biblical times.  Students carry an impossible load of debt, so of course, they think mainly about how to get a job that pays well.  The debt forgiveness movement around student debt is a hopeful sign.  If Wall Street gets a bailout for bad decisions and risky investments for the gain of the few, why does our country not “bail out” students who will be the leaders of our next generation?  When individual social workers are not heavily involved in the national social safety net conversation, we need to look clearly at the fiscal and political systems that keep the whole “caring community” in dire financial straits.  When we do not have national health insurance, a national care plan for the elderly, etc., the entire social services public and private sectors run like hamsters on a wheel to serve the millions of desperate Americans.  Unless we get our heads out of the trenches of service and deal with the large systems, the future for social workers and those we serve is bleak, I believe.

SWH: Many journalists and other disciplines become experts on social welfare policy because of their writing. What can be done in social work education to encourage more students to use technology and journalism to advocate for vulnerable populations?

Great question. I am mightily encouraged by the young generation’s use of social media, visual arts, and nontraditional communication methods to gain attention to issues, raise funds, tell stories, attract support, and move people to political action.  This is an exciting time, and social workers can be part of this transition from classic and sometimes punitive social service systems to creative, crowd-sourced means of rebuilding communities of support and equity.

SWH: What is next for you, and how should others get involved and become aware of the rights being rolled back in North Carolina?

Barbara: I am a member of the NAACP, and as one of the first group of arrestees during this North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) session, I will remain involved in the continuing witness on each of the “Moral Mondays” coming up at the legislature until they close this summer.  Much credit goes to the North Carolina Chapter of the  NAACP for catalyzing a “movement, not a moment” at this time.  Scholars, medical professionals, students, clergy, and others are coming together in a bold way to speak loudly against drastic racist and anti-poor legislation.

We all are naming the culture flip in North Carolina back to the ways of the Old South.  We are becoming an apartheid state once again, and this is serious. The Voter ID bill, for instance, is a blatant attempt to block the Black vote, which was so active in the 2012 election. We are basically at a time when the white old guard is pressing back against the new multicultural majority, resisting the browning of America. This of course is not the language of the discourse, which is around debt and budgets, not cultural change. I hope to encourage more social workers to join in this effort of public witness and resistance.  As Rev. Barber says:  These legislators may do what they do, but it will not be in the dark!  We are watching, and naming the violation of moral, religious, and social work ethics.

NAACP has produced a string of videos with the statements of all protesters who were arrested. I have attached the video statement of Barbara Zelter, and the others can be viewed on Rev. William Barber’s Youtube Channel.

University of Kentucky Social Work Student Lands Role on New BET Series Being Mary Jane

Although he is not a household name yet, University of Kentucky College of Social Work Student, Trey Lindsey, landed a role in the original BET series “Being Mary Jane” starring Gabrielle Union.  I was able to catch up with Trey for an interview with SWH as a result of an impromptu Twitter exchange.  Trey was excited to do his part in using his soon to be celebrity status to help bring some visibility to social work.

It was a great interview, but what struck me most about Trey’s responses is that he still self-identifies as a social worker although actor is probably more appropriate.  Trey’s character is a superstar pro-athlete from Tennessee who gets suspended for six games for testing positive for Adderall. Being Mary Jane will begin airing sometime this Spring. You can follow Trey on Twitter using @treylindsey.

Trey Lindsey SWH: Tell me a little about your background and why you chose social work as a major.

Trey: Well, I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. I had a great upbringing as a child and caught the acting bug at a very young age. I have three older siblings; two sisters and a brother. I am of course the baby of the clan. I came to the University of Kentucky (UK) originally wanting to major in Broadcast/Communications and switched my major a few times until I fell comfortably into the College of Social Work. I have a strong passion for helping others. I know what it’s like to struggle and have the odds against you, so helping others and giving back in some capacity has always been a priority for me. I believe social work allows me to do that among many other things.

SWH: Tell us about your social work program, and what kind of school projects have you been working on.

Trey: The Social Work program at UK is great. It’s one of the smaller colleges at the university so everyone pretty much knows one another. The professors are very hands on and provide great resources for the students to use. With being a male in the field though, you kind of find yourself outnumbered when it comes to the ratio of male to female. It was a little difficult for me to get use to only because I had never had classes before with all females. Being an African American male in a college full of majority Caucasian females, it was definitely an environmental adjustment for me lol. However, I have grown used to it.

I haven’t really been working on too many school projects. Mainly,  you can catch me writing research papers constantly and interning at my practicum which is where a lot of my free time is utilized.

SWH: Is there any crossover between your social work skill set and acting skill set? 

Trey: I believe there is a great relationship when it comes to my social work skill set and acting skill set. What I’ve learned about the Social Work profession is that you have to be a great listener. You want to meet clients at their levels and always follow the Code of Ethics, and lastly, always be professional.

When it comes to acting, you’re a professional and you have to behave as a professional at all times. It’s a very demanding profession that requires a lot of discipline, focus, confidence, determination and perseverance. When I’m on a set filming, I am focused 100% on doing my job. Acting uses the “Give and Receive” method that I find useful in the social work profession as well.  

SWH:  How did you prepare for your role, and how did you get your big break? 

Trey: Well once I’ve been hired for a role, I usually prepare myself mentally by learning everything I can about the character and transforming myself into it. I’ll read the script word by word at least twice from front to back, and dissect on a separate sheet of paper some of the emotions and different view points on how the character may respond to a particular given situation. Once it’s time to film though, I zone out. I’m all about performing to the best of my ability and listening to the direction of the director. I try to stay in character even in-between takes and blocking so that everything stays fluid and realistic when it’s time to start filming again. A lot of people don’t know this, but I HATE being in my trailer! Haha

I would much rather be on set watching everything and learning as much as I can behind the scenes. The film industry is its own world that has its own language and set way of doing things. I am truly in my most comfortable state when I am on a set filming. It’s my passion, it’s my world, and it’s what brings me a level of contentment and happiness that words can’t describe.

I guess my introduction to the big leagues was when I filmed on “Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son” with Martin Lawrence. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot because of it. As an actor, you want to always be progressing in your career, and I am blessed to say that so far.  God is providing me with amazing opportunities. 

SWH: Even though, you are entering show business, are you open to doing any public service announcements or using your celebrity in the future to educate about social work?

Trey: Absolutely! I’m not one who’s focused on the title of being a celebrity. Quite frankly, it’s a false illusion. If the privilege of having that title allows me to educate, advocate, and bring awareness to others about certain issues affecting our world, then I think that’s AWESOME.

The Social Work profession does not receive its due credit or recognition in the way it should. It has a very negative stereotypical image that was created by the media, and I want nothing more than to be a contributor to turning that image around.  I would be honored to show people just how passionate we social workers are about helping others in need.

 

Happy Anniversary Social Work Helper: Reflecting on the First Year

When I first got the idea to create Social Work Helper, my goal was to provide a place for helping professionals to collaborate, share information, and find support. However, Social Work Helper has changed tremendously from when it was first launched on World Social Work Day, March 20, 2012. The original website provided some information, but it primarily served as the portal to the social network I created specifically designed for helping professionals.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with my Masters in Social Work, it would be one year before I was able to find employment again.  During that year, I felt disconnected from my profession because I could no longer afford to pay membership dues to be a part of a professional association. I scoured various different social networks in order to connect with other social workers or helping professionals that were struggling with unemployment like me.

I found that there were other professionals and social workers who were struggling with unemployment, but I quickly realized Linkedin and Facebook were not the forums to discuss these feelings. It’s not uncommon for potential employers to scour social media sites to check out prospective employees, so I still did not feel comfortable reaching out and posting my struggles with unemployment on these sites. I also found it impossible to connect with these folks through private messaging because current social networks prevent you from reaching out to someone not in your network.

Social Work Helper was created as a niche professional network with enhanced security and an approval process in order to provide a space for support, information, and collaboration to its users. I designed this site to make it easier for like-minded individuals to connect with each other. There is no more out of network or do you know this person, the pre-approval process helps to determine the suitability of users.

As people begin to join, the swhelper mobile app and updated web space were created to make it easier for users to connect on their smartphones. The network also provides a library of resources for users, groups, forums, community blog posts, podcast, and more. Then, the Social Work Helper Magazine was created to further increase visibility for social work, nonprofits, and social good organizations. Social Work Helper has launched other components to include social work chats which is a live Twitter chat using the hashtag #SWUnited.

Marriage Equality Goes Before the Supreme High Court

Daniel Martinez-Leffew (left) wrote a letter to Chief Justice Roberts, urging him to accept marriage equality. Shown from right to left: Daniel Martinez-Leffew, Bryan Leffew (father), Jay Foxworthy (father), Selena Leffew (sister) (Photo/Courtesy Bryan Leffew)
Daniel Martinez-Leffew (left) wrote a letter to Chief Justice Roberts, urging him to accept marriage equality. Shown from right to left: Daniel Martinez-Leffew, Bryan Leffew (father), Jay Foxworthy (father), Selena Leffew (sister) (Photo/Courtesy Bryan Leffew)

Today, the United States Supreme Court will hear opening arguments on the constitutionality of California’s Prop 8 which denies marriage equality to same sex couples. Before I go any further, I want to state that my Faith and Belief in God do not prohibit me from supporting Marriage Equality as a constitutional right under the Law. Let me explain!

First, my religious beliefs are a guide for my behavior, and I don’t expect someone to impose their religious beliefs on me no more than I would impose my will on them. Secondly, using religion as a basis to legislate against same-sex marriage as morally wrong would require the same litigant to argue that legalized prostitution in Nevada is an accepted religious practice.  It is not my place to demand others navigate their lives based on my moral compass especially when their lives have no effect on how I live mine.

I was looking at the news the other day when I saw this video of a 12 year old little boy who wrote Justice Roberts a letter asking that his two Dads be allowed to marry. This little boy along with his sister and another brother was placed in foster care. His brother was adopted, but he wasn’t because of his health care needs. I have seen firsthand same-sex couples who have been discriminated against by social services agencies/social workers who would rather leave a child in foster care than place them in the home of a loving same-sex couple.

Most importantly, as a social worker, I should not have the right or the ability to deny a child from a viable adoptive or foster care same-sex couple placement because it conflicts with my personal/religious beliefs. In my opinion, the decision would be cruel, inhumane, and unconstitutional because it fails to consider the needs of an unwanted or abused child who could benefit from inheriting a loving family who desperately wants children.

Please watch the Youtube video of this young man, Daniel Martinez-Leffew, reading his letter to Chief Justice Roberts. If this does not convince you that marriage inequality is wrong, you are too self-absorbed to see beyond yourself.

Macro Community Practice: Why It Can’t Be Separated From Politics

What is macro community practice, and what does it have to do with politics? Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I often engage in political discussions with my @swhelpercom Twitter account. Most people outside of social work are often glad to see a social worker engaged in the conversation because these discussions involve Medicare, Social Security, Mental Health, and Welfare programs. They view us as the experts in these areas because we are the implementers and providers within those programs.

Social workers are the largest provider of mental health services in the United States, yet we are not at the table when experts are gathered by the government to reform these various systems. Who is the blame for social workers being absent from the policy making table which will overwhelmingly affect our ability to provide services to the people we serve? Macro community practice by definition is instituting programs and policies to increase the outcomes of the service community. Macro community practice focuses on using program evaluation and evidence based practices to gather essential data to identify areas for improvement.

Unfortunately, many social workers in both the US and abroad do not believe social workers should engage in politics. On several occasions, I have been told by other social workers that it’s inappropriate for me to engage in political conversations or advocate from a political point-of-view because social work is not political or it must be engaged in a nonpartisan way. Social Work is a profession much like teaching and law enforcement in the respect that our jobs are intrinsically linked to government funding.

Our Human Services system is in desperate need of reform, resources, and funding. However, is it reasonable to expect politicians with no human service or social work experience to see these systems as a priority especially without a union to protect our interests?

Recently, I had a brief conversation with a social carer in the United Kingdom (UK) on Twitter, and I responded in 140 characters of course. My main point in the conversation is that legislative policy dictates practice, and we must have advocates in public offices who are sympathetic to the plight of social workers/social carers in order to get system changes that are supportive of social workers.

I don’t know a single social worker who won’t agree that the system is broken and changes are needed to improve the quality of services to clients, work conditions, and pay for social workers. Macro community practice is designed to look at system changes that will impact service delivery at all levels. However, macro community practice is not a concept that should be viewed from the top down rather than the inside out. No matter our specialty or the demographics we serve, micro/direct practice should never be separated from macro practice.

For a macro community practitioner to be effective we must challenge systematic oppression as well as oppressive policy and laws creating barriers and limiting our clients’ ability to improve their outcomes. When can still help one client at a time, but how we vote and who will be put in office will determine the fate of our profession.

Interview with Gary Wexler: Former Ad Executive Turn Nonprofit Activist

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Gary Wexler who is a former Ad Executive that has helped to create television commercials for products such as Apple and Coca-cola. Now, Gary uses his powers for good to help nonprofit agencies maximize their marketing strategies instead of wasting donor dollars on ineffective tactics. Also, Gary Wexler is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California teaching marketing in the Annenberg School of Communication. Later in the article, you will also be able to view a short video on “Way Beyond Branding” by Gary Wexler who possesses a wealth of knowledge, and I would like to share with you our conversation.

SWH: Tell me a bit about your background and your passion for the Nonprofit Sector.

Gary: I became involved with nonprofit causes in high school joining a student club where we traveled as tutors, working with grade school kids in poverty areas of Los Angeles. It captured my soul and began a lifelong involvement with the sector as an activist, volunteer, board member, donor, and finally as a professional. In my 40s, I left my career as a successful ad agency copywriter and creative director, creating award winning television commercials for Apple Computer and Coca Cola because I realized my passion was with the nonprofit sector. My passion for the sector lies in the fact that the nonprofit sector holds the soul of our society.

SWH: How do you define Nonprofit Revolution Now and what is it mission?

Gary: The world has changed. We are living in a new era, dominated by new thinking.  Yet, the nonprofit sector is in many cases stuck in old-thinking and fearful of making the drastic changes needed in order to survive and thrive. The Revolution is leading the way for these new changes and methodologies using what we call “Seize the Conversation” marketing as the engine of positive disruption within the sector. Seize the Conversation is integrated with Human Centered Design Thinking which is a way to bring people into collaboration to create the big new ideas that will give the sector a powerful verve. This is the purpose, goal, and methodology of the Revolution.

For the organizations who read the Revolution, the other purpose is to lead them to realize that nonprofit marketing is about helping create three results—fundraising, advocacy and participation. It’s results are not a branding or social marketing campaign. Those are mere tactics, along with many others, in the battle. But, this is a battle for ideas that penetrate the hearts and minds of the donors, activists and participants.

SWH: How did this new project come about, and what types of issues do you focus your writing?

Gary: It came about from my teaching. I am the Professor of both Nonprofit Marketing as well as Advertising in the Masters in Communications Management program at USC/Annenberg. In nonprofit marketing, my students were sent out to work with real nonprofit clients, armed with knowledge they gained in class on how to focus and ask invasive questions and then bring the client participants into consensus.

When they return to class each semester after meeting their clients, the students all say the exact same thing. “You taught us how to focus, ask questions and bring consensus and these nonprofits can’t do it.” That’s when I knew I had to begin writing about the issues of the sector and what I believe the solutions are. The focus of the writing is on big ideas as solutions created through Seize the Conversation strategies.

SWH: What is the Nonprofit Revolution Now Manifesto?

Gary: The Manifesto is the weekly blog…soon to be called the “Blog-ifesto.” The new site will be up in the next few weeks which will be exciting, powerful, informational and controversial.

SWH: What kind of information and content do you highlight on the blog?

Gary: I grab the most important conversations that need to be circulating in the nonprofit sector and then translate them into how to create results using big ideas to deliver the goals of fundraising, advocacy and participation.

SWH: How does someone become a part of the Revolution?

Two ways. Either sign up for the blog. Or bring us in to create the Revolution within your organization, helping you reach your fundraising, advocacy, or participation goals.

Wanting more of Gary Wexler? You can visit him at http://www.garywexler.com or Nonprofit Revolution Now. You may also want to follow him on Twitter at @garywexler.

 

 

 

Our Children’s Place: Presents Mothers of Bedford

 

Our Children’s Place, a local Chapel Hill nonprofit, in partnership with Meredith College will be hosting a screening of the acclaimed documentary Mothers of Bedford on February 12, 2013, at 6:30 PM EST. Mothers of Bedford explores the complexities of motherhood while being confined in a maximum security prison. The harsh reality of our day is that 80 percent of women in US prisons are mothers of school aged children. The film examines the lives of five women, and the challenges they face being parents behind bars.

The screening will be held at Kresge Auditorium in the Cate Student Center at 3800 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, NC. Suggested donations for the public is $30.00 for the community and $10.00 for students. Our Children’s Place is a local nonprofit in Chapel Hill, NC that is committed to serving children of incarcerated parents. They are one of the leading advocates and resources in the state for this population. To reserve your tickets go to Our Children’s Place.

According to the Mothers of Bedford website:

Many parents find it hard to imagine being away from a child for a week. Imagine being separated for ten or twenty years? Mothers of Bedford explores the effects of a long-term prison sentence on the mother-child relationship.

The film examines the struggles and joys these five women face as prisoners and mothers. It shows the normal frustrations of parenting as well as the surreal experiences of a child’s first birthday party inside prison, the cell that child lives in with her mother, and the biggest celebration of the year, Mother’s Day in prison! Read More

 

How the Affordable Health Care Act is Saving My Life-Part I

I knew that pursuing this degree would be costly, but what I didn’t know is that it could potential cost me my life. Three years ago, I was accepted to one of the top five Schools of Social Work in the country.

I was already working as a Child Protective Services Investigator when I decided to pursue my MSW, and I thought it would help me to advance in my field. However, as a CPS investigator and a Master level student, I was forced along with others in my cohort to make a decision between finishing school and my job. Both worlds were colliding, and I was caught in the middle.

It’s crazy how a social work student with no work experience can work in Child Welfare to fulfill their 900 hour internship requirement. However, someone already working in Child Welfare doing the same job does not receive credit and is required to do an additional field placement. In what world is this fair!

I was already invested in both time and money to just walk away from school. So, I quit my job working at a Human Service Agency in order to work for free at another Human Service agency in order to fulfill my internship requirements. As a working practitioner, I knew that I could not manage my caseload, class work, and another 16 hour per week internship to be completed in another department. Initially, my agency was going to give me some concessions while in school, but all it takes is for someone to quit or go on FMLA.

Yes, I knew that I had a pre-existing health condition, but I was going to a university with one of the best health care systems in the country. It never occurred to me, not even once, that the program in which I was accepted would not offer me a healthcare plan.

The summer before my last semester, I started getting sick. Everyday, I would park in the deck of the Medical Center to walk to class at the School of Social Work while I was being relegated to free clinics for my health care. The last semester, my school made some changes to the health care plans. I have a healthcare plan…. Now, I can get the care that I desperately need. Right? Wrong!!!

The health insurance provider stated that I needed proof of continuous coverage in order to receive coverage because I had a pre-existing condition. Guess what….I didn’t have proof because I had been uninsured for a year. Ok….I thought. I am an advance standing student….I will be back to work in no time. Everything will be alright. Right? Wrong!!! It would be a year after graduation before I would gain employment and health insurance again.

Two years and one pre-existing condition later, in May 2012, I began getting the tests I needed years ago to determine whether I have cancer or not. Not having health insurance in this country is a death sentence. In the last six months, I know two African-American women who died from complications from preventable issues because they did not have health insurance. Despite my degrees and my accomplishments, I was just another unemployed, black woman with no health insurance, and I was treated as such.

Today, my insurance carrier is covering the majority of cost for my tests and surgery, and I don’t think it would have been possible without the ACA. With health insurance, I have Dr. Randall Scheri the world-renown surgical oncologist at Duke University Cancer Center performing my surgery later this week. The prognosis is good because the cells have not turned cancerous….Thank God!!! They are taking every precaution in case something is found during the surgery. However, I believe everything is fine, and I am planning for a speedy recovery.

President Obama made it possible for those without healthcare to have the ability to get health insurance and be covered. He did it despite the difficulty and the unpopularity of the bill, and I am thankful that he did. Now, my hope is that the Council for Social Work Education will reform their current internship requirements, so it is not oppressive and create further hardships on students who just want to help others. No other profession mandates a 900 hour unpaid internship with no guarantees of health insurance in order to obtain a degree. So why is social work doing it?

It’s been difficult to not be bitter and not to be angry. No one should have to choose between basic human needs in order to pursue higher education for a better life. After my surgery and I am on the road to healing, I plan to advocate on behalf of students who may find themselves in similar situations or for those who may choose not to go back to school for social work because of the barriers. Change is needed.

*Part II soon to come…

Captain’s log stardate 74906.5, June 10th, 2021, Part II was never written. Cancer was found during the surgery, and it has been a long journey to recovery. However, this platform would not have been created without that experience. I use this platform to create awareness and advocacy on a variety of issues, but at its core, our goal is to help register people to vote on the matters important in their lives and their loved ones.  I am a firm believer that pain and suffering breed empathy and compassion. As a result of my pain, it further ignited my desire to help more people navigate their pain as well as support their purpose.

Exit mobile version