On October 19, 2018, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced Angela S. Henderson, PhD of Glen Allen, as his appointment to the Board of Conversation and Recreation. Dr. Henderson is an Assistant Professor and Research Assessment Coordinator for the Department of Social Work at Virginia State University.
She specializes in human behavior, the social environment and social welfare policy. Dr. Henderson received a B.S.W. from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2003 and an M.S.W from Howard University in 2004. She earned her Ph.D. in social work from Howard University in May 2013.
Dr. Henderson has been recognized in the social work community as a “social justice warrior” and has dedicated her life as an advocate for social, environmental, and education justice. In addition, Dr. Henderson is committed in protecting the human rights of individuals, children, and families.
While she attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University as an undergrad she and her mentor, Professor Ernest Morant, Sr., established “The Princeville North Carolina Project” in 1999 with the support of the Department of Social Work and Sociology for Hurricane Floyd relief efforts. The department adopted the town’s elementary school to support the educational achievement and health care of the students.
Dr. Henderson is branded as the “Fixer” and she is known for her ability to accomplish complex tasks under high-pressure conditions.
She served as the Assessment Task Force Lead for Virginia State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Accreditation process. In addition, Dr. Henderson is the Principal Investigator for the Police Minority Recruitment Project funded by the Virginia Office of the Attorney General.
In 2012, Dr. Henderson created Congressional Research Institute for Social Work (CRISP) on behalf of Dr. Charles E. Lewis, Jr. and Former Congressman Edolphus Towns. The purpose of CRISP was to recognize the importance of the Congressional Social Work Caucus and expand the participation of social workers in federal legislative and policy processes. Dr. Henderson served as the Chief Operating Officer and her tasks included: establishing and managing the daily operations, regulatory compliances, accounting, and legal processes. In addition, she served as the social media marketing strategist.
Dr. Henderson participated in a call to action discussion with the Obama Administration and the United States Department of Health and Human Services regarding the leadership of the Social Work Community in preserving the Affordable Care Act.
Dr. Henderson will join Patricia A. (“Patti”) Jackson* of Hanover, American Heart Association and Clayton L. Spruill of Chesapeake on the Board of Conversation and Recreation.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the key document guiding human rights advocacy. It is based on the universality, inalienability, and indivisibility of human rights and is founded on the core values of equality, non-discrimination and human dignity.
“Knowing one’s human rights is an important step that often gets forgotten,” Reuter said. “Learning the content and extent of basic human rights will give people the tools and language needed to address certain issues. Discrimination, suppression, racism, marginalization, and violence against individuals or groups are human rights violations that must be confronted.”
Once you know what human rights and human rights violations are, Reuter encourages everyone to pay attention and speak up in the face of injustice. Pay attention to what happens in your everyday life. Document, record and monitor what is going on around you, and if you see injustice, say something.
“The goal is to make everyday suppression of a specific group based on race, color, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability status just as unacceptable as the violence and hatred that has occurred in Charlottesville,” Reuter said. “It’s these normal, hidden human rights violations that are particularly dangerous to our society and that we have to confront together.”
Be aware of your own biases
One of the ways to overcome biases and stereotypes is to engage with those who are different. Research shows that interpersonal contact is one of the best ways to reduce prejudice. This theory is called contact hypothesis. The theory suggests that under appropriate conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority groups.
“It is incredibly important to be aware of your own biases,” Reuter said. “We all have them. Realize if you cross the street when a person of a different race walks toward you. Notice if you assume that someone is less competent because she is a woman, a person of color or Muslim. Think about systemic racism and structural violence in your own environment, and find ways to confront them. Actively learn about how our society has grown to marginalize some to the benefit of others. I encourage people to reach out and make new friends outside of their race, religion and gender.”
Join a movement or a cause that fits your passions and interests
Join a movement, and talk with others who feel the same. Look for a rally in your community. Organize a vigil. Participate in a discussion. Engage with others. Get together formally or informally. Look for opportunities to talk. The UAB Institute for Human Rights is a part of the StandAsOne Coalition. If you are a UAB student, you can join the Students for Human Rights club.
“Not all of us are born to be activists or community organizers,” Reuter said. “We cannot all become Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Leymah Gboweee; but we all can contribute by supporting the movement. Think about what you are good at and how your skills and talent can be used to move a cause forward.”
Call your representatives
One of the most effective ways to achieve policy change is to call local and state representatives. Reuter says calling is much more impactful than writing an email, Facebook message or letter. She advises anyone contacting their local representative to be polite to the staff, which is who you will most likely get on the line. Their staff members do not have influence on the decision-making process, but they will record your call and do not mind taking opposing views as long as the conversation is civil.
This step does not have to be formal. You can educate others by leading by example, or by bringing a friend along to a conversation you are having. It can happen person to person, on social media or on any other platform you use to connect with others. Creating art, poems and performances are incredible ways to get your point across to people who might find that formal ways of education do not resonate with them.
“It is such a privilege to be an educator,” Reuter said. “It is one of my favorite parts of my job to talk to students about issues that affect the world and to encourage them to learn more about these topics. It’s something that everyone can do. Teach your children and young relatives about kindness, human rights, and peace building. Teach them also about systemic suppression, racism and the way our society has oppressed minorities. Talk to them about what bothers you and what you would like to achieve. You don’t have to be a professor or teacher to educate others.”
One of the fastest and easiest opportunities to make an impact is to donate to an organization that fights for human rights or civil rights.
There are a number of organizations dedicated to ensuring the preservation of individual rights and liberties, one of which is the UAB Institute for Human Rights. You can learn more about the Institute here.
Take care of yourself
Confronting issues such as hatred, violence, and suppression can take a mental and physical toll on anyone. Reuter says it is important to know what you can and cannot do, what you are willing to do, and what your priorities are.
“Focus on the local level. Start in your own community,” Reuter said. “That world is changed person by person, but don’t forget to take care of your needs. When you start to feel overwhelmed, shut down Facebook, Twitter, cable news and other forms of media. Enjoy time with your friends and family. Be kind to yourself, and realize that real progress takes patience.”
Washington’s political classes woke up to stunning news Wednesday morning. Congressman Eric Cantor, the majority leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives had suffered a resounding defeat in the primary at the hands of an unknown challenger—David Brat, an economics professor and political neophyte. This was obviously more a vote against Cantor than one supporting the policies of Brat which still remain to be understood. His initial foray into the media spotlight was unrevealing as he tap-danced around a question from NBC’s Chuck Todd about his views on the minimum wage saying a minimum wage of $100 was too high for workers in sub-Sahara Africa.
As improbable as it was Cantor would lose the primary—no sitting majority leader had ever loss a primary since the post was created in 1899—what would be the betting odds that two professors from the tiny and obscure Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia would face off in the general election to replace Cantor? Jack Trammell, an associate professor in the sociology department was selected by a Democratic committee to be the sacrificial lamb in an anticipated race against Cantor in November. Trammell’s only chance of scoring an upset against Brat is if Cantor’s ego leads him to enter the race as a write-in candidate. Republicans will never let that happen.
There were losers Tuesday night other than the majority leader. Millions of undocumented immigrants—in limbo for years waiting on Congress to pass some form of immigration legislation—saw a tepid supporter replaced by at a staunch anti-immigrant Tea Party enthusiast. Cantor’s defeat also hurts the Obama Administration and Democrats generally going into the midterm elections. The biggest losers are residents in the 7th Congressional District who go from being represented by the number two guy in the House to a freshman congressman with little or no clout.
This is one of those rare incidents where truly no one saw this coming. Cantor’s internal poll had him up by 34 percentage points. In trying to explain the surprising outcome, his pollster, veteran Republican vote counter John McLaughlin, pointed to the high turnout, small sample of likely voters (400), and the fact that it was an open primary and some Democrats may have voted for Brat to make the race tighter. The race was not close with Brat winning by 11 percentage points 55.5 to 44.5 percent, garnering 36,110 votes to Cantor’s 28,898.
The numbers that got my attention: Brat raised $206,663 and spent $122,793 while Cantor raised $5,447,290 and spent $5,026,626. Brat managed to get an 11 percent victory margin despite being out spent by 25 to 1. The line being bounced around by the punditry was that Cantor had spent almost as much at steakhouses as Brat had on his entire campaign. At one time late in the campaign he had. Brat told his supporters: “Dollars don’t vote, you do.” Ah, one can only wish this could be the ruling paradigm. Yet, the idea that votes can trump money is reason enough to get social workers more involved in politics.
Another lesson is about power. Be careful not to be consumed by power. Learn how to use power to the benefit of those without it. I learned a long time ago that you can get more done if you are willing to give up the credit. The culture among the staff in various House offices run from those who are overly cautious (nothing gets done because everyone is fearful of making a mistake) to those who are obnoxious (your chances of making mistakes are greater because everyone is hoping you will fall on your face). Staffers usually follow the boss’s lead. There were people on both sides of the aisle who were happy to see the arrogant Cantor exit the political stage.
It seems Democrats weren’t the only ones celebrating the cataclysmic fall of Eric Cantor. If you’ve been watching House of Cards, then you’d understand this was Cantor having the ultimate Frank Underwood moment—when the fictional majority leader abandoned crucial negotiations over an education bill he promised the President in order to go back to his district to resolve a dispute over the peach water tower. Rule number one: all politics is local. Back in the 7th CD in Virginia, too many residents believed Cantor had fallen in love with the national stage and was not paying enough attention to his district. He was angling to become speaker of the House but forgot he first had to be a congressman.