President Obama Visits NC State to Talk About Jobs

President Obama with Governor Pat McCrory
President Obama with Governor Pat McCrory

Under the current political climate, members of the GOP have avoided any public displays of affection with President Obama out of fear of retribution from tea partiers. However, this did not appear to be the case with Governor Pat McCrory as he welcomed President Obama after he exited Air Force One.

Today, President Obama visited North Carolina State University (NCSU) to discuss his plans for an innovation hub to be developed in Raleigh. The plan seeks to create partnerships between public, private, and universities in effort to spur innovations that will leading to fabrication and mass production in the United States.

According to the Raleigh News and Observer,

Obama announced a $140 million consortium of companies and universities at NCSU that will develop the next generation of energy-efficient electronic chips and devices. The effort – and other technology hubs like it – fulfill a pledge in his State of the Union address a year ago to develop high-tech jobs.

The Next Generation Power Electronics Institute will be headquartered on NCSU’s Centennial Campus. Over the next **-five years, the U.S. Department of Energy will provide $70 million to the institute, to be matched by at least $70 million in nonfederal money by the businesses and universities and the state of North Carolina.  Read More

The address to Wolfpack nation was nationally televised on all the major networks except Fox news who decided to cover the “Devil Baby” prank in New York City instead. Nevertheless, the President’s address has rebooted the national conversation and focus back on job creation where it should be.

In the wake of the long-term unemployed being kicked off benefits in both North Carolina and federal extended benefits, Americans are still having a tough time finding employment especially when there are three people for every one job.

Despite the record number of people at food pantries, the GOP is taking lessons on how to appear more compassionate while continuing to deny extended unemployment benefits to jobless Americans. You can view the President’s address at NC State below:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb–6RSdIkI[/youtube]

Children from Adversity: Ronald Maloney Debuting Powerhouse Road

There are many lessons to be learned from children of adversity who able to thrive despite the circumstances placed upon them through no fault of their own. Native North Carolinian, Ronald D. Maloney, was the first bi-racial child placed in the State’s colored orphanage in Oxford, North Carolina as a result of his mix-raced status. Ronald Maloney will be returning to North Carolina to begin debuting his memoir Powerhouse Road.

In 1959, Ronald’s circumstances were unique because he was denied acceptance by both the black and white community, and he remained in the colored orphanage from first grade until the day he left for the military in 1972. As a Bachelor’s of Social Work student, he graduated from North Carolina State University in 1977, and he went on to obtain a Masters in Social Work from the University of California at Berkeley.

According to an article written by UC Berkeley Social Welfare, when asked what led him to California, Ronald Maloney stated,

“I had wanted to go to USC or UCLA because of their sports programs,” says Maloney of his initial choices for graduate school. “But then I saw that Berkeley had the number one program in social welfare, so I knew that’s where I had to go.”

Maloney drove across country with whatever belongings he could fit in his army duffle bag to start his new life in the Berkeley and the Bay Area, a place where he remains to this day. He explains that he knew he was definitely no longer in North Carolina when he spotted “a guy with dreads” while coming up University Avenue to the campus. “Oh, I am at UC Berkeley now!” he remembers thinking.

Also among his earliest memories was the very first School of Social Welfare orientation he attended in Berkeley’s famous Rose Garden, complete with wine and cheese.

“I’ll never forget when an older man came up and asked me, ‘How does it feel to be at UC Berkeley?’” recalls Maloney. “I didn’t know who he was, but I figured it had to be somebody important – and it was. It was Dean Specht. He said to call him Harry.

“When Harry asked me that question, I answered, ‘Do you want me to tell you how I really feel or what I think you want to hear?’ He said he wanted to hear my real feelings, and I said, ‘I feel academically inferior because all these people around me are coming from big-name and Ivy League schools.’  Read Full Article

The article is a great read for anyone wanting to preview the upcoming book signings by Robert Maloney. You can also view a segment about his journey on UNC TV using this link.

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.

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