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The
Community
Psychologist

Volume 54, Number 2 Spring 2021

From the President

Notes from the President

Written by Bianca L. Guzmán, California State University, Los Angeles

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Here we are in 2021. We still have a pandemic and many of us are working virtually. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I used to say that “I am in Zoom jail.” I could not get used to mostly being on Zoom for many of my meetings and interactions with other colleagues around the country and the world. I am well into hitting a year mark on Zoom and I have found that there are few interesting and fun things I like about Zoom. Just recently, I know we all watched disbelief as a lawyer in Texas showed up to a court hearing as a computer filter-generated cat. https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/09/us/cat-filter-lawyer-zoom-court-trnd/index.html. While I understand this was an embarrassing moment for the lawyer it did make me smile and realize that we as humans are always looking for a familiar way of relating to each other. This brings me back to thinking about the things I love about Zoom, which are mostly when I see babies/children or pets show up on individual’s Zoom boxes. I also like being able to see where individuals decide to set up their Zoom space or what type of filters they choose or what they are eating. I am also always on the look-out for when people talk to others in their space and they thought they were on mute and they were not. Why are all these things so interesting? I go back to the point that it provides us a way to relate to others in ways that we cannot do in person right now. Maybe you have some favorite Zoom moments too. I invite you to think of why these moments resonate with you? I thought about all these things as we were planning our annual SCRA Mid-Winter Executive Committee Meeting (SCRA MWM).

It is safe to say that SCRA has never had to have a totally virtual MWM until this past Thursday, February 4 through Saturday, February 6, 2021. The virtual meeting took place over three days and 13 hours. Why do we have to have this meeting and who needs to attend this meeting was my first question in the planning. I wanted to make sure that the time we spent together made a meaningful contribution to our Society and that each person that attended did not feel like they had wasted time. The MWM is usually an in-person 2 ½ day meeting where the attendees will travel to reach the appointed destination. This convening is a time for the attendees to get to know each other and share time, meals and ideas about what priorities SCRA can move forward for the following year. This year we did all this virtually. The individuals who attend are the officers that include the presidential trio which includes the current president, the president elect, and the past president (note this position has remained vacant since September of 2020), our secretary and treasurer.  In addition to the officers, the other members of the executive committee are representatives from our committees, councils and interest groups. Finally, our executive director attends. Please see our website for all our current EC members at  https://www.scra27.org/who-we-are/leadership/. In total we had 19 members of the EC attend spanning from Alaska to Greece and crossing four different time zones.  One of the most important things we undertake as a group is to share accomplishments and make plans for the future of the Society. This is also a time for the executive committee to share reports and set the budget for the following year. Unfortunately, no one showed up as a kitty, however there were some children and pets that did make appearances. We did find ways to connect and be in community across time zones and virtual space. I want to thank the entire EC for representing their committees, councils and interest groups with much diligence and dedication. It is important to note that we had challenging and essential conversations related to where we intend to go this next year and how the Call to Action on Anti-Blackness has influenced the types of initiatives we undertake and fund. 

I think it is essential to highlight some of the things that occurred during our meeting. One of the tasks that we began our meeting with was to review the SCRA Call to Action on Anti-Blackness. We felt it was important to review the demands placed on us as a Society by our Black and African descent members and allies. It is important to mention that many EC members signed the Call to Action and some were authors. Our goal as a body is to remain a source of accountability – we continue to examine questions like: Where is the work toward change in our Society being taken up? Where has it not been assigned? Where are we stumbling? Where are we finding positive early steps? As a reminder, the EC of SCRA identified 10 areas of action in response to the demands presented in the Call to Action. The following list below is the primary areas that we identified. 

  1. Leveraging Conference Space: Training, Scholarship, and Climate
  2. Investing in Sustainable Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppression Organizational Change
  3. Promoting Dialogue on Racism and White Supremacy Outside of Conferences
  4. Revising Community Psychology Research and Practice Core Competencies 
  5. Developing Anti-Racist Curriculum and Training Practice Guidelines 
  6. Promoting Black, Non-Black POC, and Anti-Racist Scholarship and Practice 
  7. Revising Recognition and Leadership Development Policies and Practices in SCRA
  8. Establishing Anti-racist Policies and Practices in Councils, Committees, and Interest Groups
  9. Increasing Organizational Transparency
  10. Taking action Beyond SCRA

When looking at our response to the Call to Action it is clear that the EC and our councils, committees, and interest groups have begun to do a lot of work to address many of the issues described in the Call to Action. Some of the initiatives that we had undertaken as a response to the Call to Action are in process and some are completed. We recognize that this work is unfolding in a pandemic, where many of our members may have additional time and responsibility constraints and frankly have a more limited capacity for completing additional work. I offer this observation as a way to acknowledge the challenges that we are all facing during this time and also for our need for self-agency and for preserving our physical and mental health. I do not intend for this observation to be an excuse to absolve responsibility or justify inaction. As a Society, we are taking the incremental steps we can access. I also choose to believe that everyone is doing the best that they can. The projects we are doing will require continuous care and attention. Although we were unable to review the entire 10 areas that we prioritized we will have additional time to do so as we continue to meet as an EC throughout our monthly meetings in the coming year. 

The other major task of the MWM was to finalize our 2021 budget. We sought to focus on how each of the 2021 proposals could continue to support our response to the Call to Action. Below are some highlights from the approved budget for the 2021 year. 

  • The Committee for Ethnic and Racial Affairs (CERA) was funded in full to continue to implement a mini-grant program. 
  • The Research Scholars program received additional funding to dedicate 2 spots for Black and non-Black members of color in the program.   
  • The Council on Education proposed and was funded in part to pursue a brand-new effort called the Racial Justice Inquiry, Discourse, and Action (RJIDA) Initiative to nationally evaluate graduate community psychology programs. 
  • The Awards Task Force and CERA brought proposals to improve our awards, and the EC responded by increasing funding for graduate students engaged in racial and social justice praxis, funding a new award on Outstanding Racial Justice and Liberation Work, and renaming several other awards (more details coming soon). 

This list does not reflect all the financial commitments the EC has committed to this work. Previously, we voted to dedicate dollars to hire an organizational consultant plus modest stipends for hiring committee members to participate in the process. In sum, we protected $135,000 in unexpected royalties to move forward initiatives inspired by the Call to Action on Anti-Blackness. 

As a final note, I want to make the point that most of this work is on-going and likely to change and certainly be imperfect. We will need to keep coming back to the Call to Action and our response to the Call to Action and keep shifting things as we move forward. One thing is for certain as a Society we remain committed to continually improving our organization and our practices. We want to do the right thing. One of the next steps we need to develop is a shared theory of change to guide our actions, a strategic plan, and an implementation plan that centers on the experience of our members especially our Black and non-Black members of color. I see a future where many of us as members participate in projects that continue to transform our Society into a place that we have pride and appreciation for.  I know there will eventually be a time where we will gather and celebrate our successes in person without any of us trying to find what we like best about Zoom. Until then may you be safe, happy, healthy and have abundance.