Fighting an Anti-Social Work Agenda: The Power of Protest #MacroSW Chat 4/13 at 9pm EST

Update: Chat archive available!

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At first glance, social work may not appear to be intrinsically linked to protest. After all, we’re more likely to be found working behind a cluttered desk or our car between home visits. But in the earliest days of the profession social workers were integrated within the communities they served. Settlement houses were often used as meeting locations for community activists to organize strikes and other public demonstrations.

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Image source. Photograph shows the American delegates to the International Congress of Women which was held at the Hague, the Netherlands in 1915. The delegates include: feminist and peace activist Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (1867-1954), social activist and writer Jane Addams (1860-1935), and Annie E. Malloy, president of the Boston Telephone Operators Union. To the right of Malloy may be labor journalist and activist Mary Heaton Vorst (1874-1966) and the woman wearing a hat on the far right may be Lillian Kohlhamer of Chicago. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2012)

Since the election of Donald Trump, America has seen a resurgence in public activism in

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Left to right: Rudra Kapila, Sunya Folayan, Karen Zgoda, Kristin Battista-Frazee at the Women’s March in DC, January 2017. See more #MacroSW at the March here.

the form of mass protests and actions. Social workers of course have taken part in many of these actions as individuals or small groups, but our profession’s collective presence has been limited. The current administration has taken many actions that are explicitly contrary to social work values. With calls from the NASW and other social work institutions to organize, oppose, resist, and educate in response to an anti-social work agenda, it is time for social workers to consider how we can take bolder action to resist unjust policies.

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This discussion continues the #MacroSW organizing chat series. The first chat focused on understanding power as organized people and organized money. The second chat discussed how we can effectively build relationships to develop grassroots power. How can we now take these concepts to develop public demonstrations of our power? And to what end? In the third chat of the series, we will answer the following questions:

Q1: Have you ever taken part in an action (rally, protest, disruption, etc)? What was it? Describe the experience. #MacroSW

Q2: Was the action effective? Why or why not? If so, what did it achieve? #MacroSW

Q3: Are there specific forms of protest or tactics you think social workers should be engaging in? #MacroSW

Q4: Do you have plans to participate in an upcoming action? What is it? If not, what would you like to see in your area? #MacroSW

About the Host

Justin Vest is the lead organizer for Montgomery County at Progressive Maryland where he leads issue-based advocacy campaigns and develops volunteer organizers to fight for social and economic justice. He earned his BSW from the University of Montevallo and MSW from the University of Alabama before relocating to the DC Metro area.

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