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Volume 50 Number 3
Committee on Cultural, Racial, & Ethnic Affairs
Greetings from Geri and Jesica!
Geraldine (Geri) Palmer, Chair
“My father always said, “When you see a good fight, get in it.” – Vernon Johns
I am delighted to have been elected Chair of the Cultural, Ethnic and Racial Affairs Committee of SCRA! It seems social and racial justice has always been a part of my world, in some facet. I grew up in the village of Robbins, an African American community south of Chicago’s inner city, still unknown to many. Robbins was once the home of a tiny airport that served as a landing pad for the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. Robbins is the birthplace of Nichelle Nichols, one of the first African American women to play a major role on television (Star Trek), and where simply, I learned to respect my elders, where voting was never an option and service in the community was as normal as breathing. To this end, I am clear about why I am a community psychologist---and the impetus behind that decision. As community psychologists we must work to replicate healthy communities, and we can only do that by laying aside words and deeds, unintentionally or intentionally, which oppress rather than liberate. We cannot demand justice, when we don’t demand, and expect it, from our own ranks.
I earned my Ph.D. in Community Psychology from National Louis University and served in a myriad of communities in Chicago’s inner city and south suburbs as a community practitioner. My work has primarily revolved around fighting for the human right of decent housing for people homeless, with a deep concern for the overrepresentation of African Americans and other vulnerable populations in the homeless system, among other inequitable systems in our society. While serving as an executive director of North Side Housing and Supportive Services, I was awarded a SCRA mini-grant for a direct service project benefitting veterans who were homeless. Currently, I am an adjunct faculty member for Adler University, teaching Diversity and Individual Differences and Social Psychology classes in the Clinical Psychology program. I will also co-facilitate diversity training this summer for Adler staff and faculty. Research efforts focus on looking at socio-economic integration efforts and spatial inequalities. I also serve as a consultant to several non-profit organizations and recently co-founded The Center for Educational Opportunities for Descendants of the African Diaspora (CEODAD). We are seeking to address disparities in education, a concerted effort to help prevent homelessness and poverty.
I am part of the group that changed the name of the Cultural and Racial Affairs (CRA) committee to Cultural, Ethic and Racial Affairs (CERA) at the SCRA Biennial in Miami. The intent was to forge ahead with renewed passion and mission for the Committee. To press forward now as Chair of CERA, in this current socio-economic and political climate, align well with my own mission and passion of working to reshape the narrative of social constructs that have historically served to oppress.
Jesica Siham Fernandez, Chair-Elect
“Do work that matters. Vale la pena” ― Gloria E. Anzaldúa
As an early career scholar, born in Mexico and raised in a transmigrant family in the labor fields of Central California, I completed my PhD in social-community psychology and Latin American & Latino Studies (LALS) from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) in 2015. Over the course of my professional formation, as a community-based researcher and social justice educator, I’ve engaged in organizing efforts with undocumented communities, as well as advocating for the implementation of ethnic studies curricula. Trained as community psychologists in the tradition of Ignacio Martín-Baró, I have long been committed to engaging in anti-oppressive collaborative research that decolonizes knowledge, theory, and methods by centering individual and community experiences. Through the use of participatory action research (PAR), I collaborate with community members on identifying social problems affecting their lives, determining actions to address them, and facilitating sustainable structural change.
As a first-generation college graduate and doctorate, I view any acquired privilege as an opportunity to address systemic issues and facilitate empowering processes for politically marginalized social groups. For the past two years as a faculty member in the Ethnic Studies Department, I have collaborated with a group of women of color student activists who are organizing to create systemic changes at the University, particularly with regards to implementing diversity requirements, and implicit bias trainings for students, faculty and staff. Through these experiences I have combined my training in social-community psychology and ethnic studies, particularly as it concerns the formation of settings that allow for sociopolitical development, conscientización, sense of community, and justice-oriented action. Building bridges of collaboration, accountability, support and transparency are invaluable in facilitating racial justice, as well as culturally diverse, inclusive and equitable communities. With these experiences and values at the forefront, it is with enthusiasm and commitment that I look forward to serving at Chair-Elect for CERA!
Our Commitment and Future of CERA
Chair-Elect, Jesica Siham Fernandez, and I, Geri Palmer, will set the calendar for activities and goals we’d like to see accomplished during our time leading CERA. It is our goal to promote diversity in our external marketing materials. The public face of CERA and SCRA must match who we are internally and externally. Students of color in community psychology must be encouraged to attend and present at SCRA, and there’s no better way to do this than by reaching out. Staying informed of issues of concern to our members, students of color and other social justice advocates is easier today than in the past. Social media and video-conferencing are ways to create information venues. We plan to work with SCRA membership to center the experiences and concerns of students, both undergraduate and doctoral students, as well as, academic and practitioners of color. Through webinars, workshops, and mentoring networks we will also strive to promote the professional development of people of color. Other goals and activities may surface out of our time serving, and we will keep you informed.
We thank all of the past Chairs of CERA and those who walked beside them to help achieve the goals and objectives of CERA. We pick up the banner now, and we run on.
CERA is always interested in those who want to become members. Please join SCRA at: http://www.scra27.org/members1/join-renew-membership/
Geri Palmer, Chair
Jesica Siham Fernandez, Chair-Elect