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Volume 55, Number 4 Fall 2022
Written by Yvette G. Flores, University of California, Davis
Dear members: This year’s APA Convention was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota with COVID-19 guidelines in place. All participants were required to verify their vaccination status prior to the convention in order to register. Our program, chaired by Drs. Ashmeet Oberoi [APA MAL] and Dawn Henderson [incoming APA MAL] offered 18 sessions and 35 posters focused on Decolonizing Community Psychology Values and Methodologies. A combination of research presentations and posters, critical conversations, symposia, and skill building sessions highlighted the social justice work of our members. Although this year’s convention attendance was limited by the ongoing pandemic, our sessions were well received and visibilized the important role of community psychology in addressing key societal problems in African American and Native American communities, burn out among college students, and to promote workplace balance, among other important social justice considerations. The transnational focus of our division was evident in virtual poster presentations from Uruguay and research presentations from Chile. The mental health of immigrants and refugees and the well-being of youth of color were important topics addressed by various scholars. We were delighted to see that Dr. Chris Beasley received an APA Presidential citation for his advocacy with Ban the Box in APA and professional psychology. His persistence and relentless advocacy led to an APA Council decision earlier this year to Remove the Felony Status Question from its membership application, with 93.5% of Council members voting for its removal. Many community psychologists were involved in the drafting of this policy change and advocacy to make this happen for over more than a decade. SCRA APA Council representative, Dr. Sara Buckingham brought us the good news on February 28, 2022.
It was also my privilege to present the Presidential Address this year. I will share some excerpts of that address in this column.
Dear Colleagues: let me begin by introducing myself. I am a community-clinical psychologist who has been in academic spaces since 1986, after working as a research psychologist. I am now a senior faculty member at UC Davis. I was honored to be promoted to distinguished professor in July of this year. Since 1986 I have had a psychology practice with a focus on the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, and the evaluation and treatment of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. I also serve as a consultant to a number of organizations that address social, family, intimate and interpersonal violence. I am also an immigrant, cis gender, light skinned multiracial, heterosexual Latina. It has been my honor to serve as your President since September of last year.
From that positionality, as we gather here in person for the first time since 2019, I feel it is important to recognize the global, national, interpersonal, and for some the personal turmoil we have undergone in the past two years. We have been challenged to live with a virus that has killed millions, compromised the health of many, and altered the way we live. Many of us have suffered significant losses, of family members, colleagues, and friends. Climate change is affecting our global communities – fires, floods, unbearable heat in many areas of the planet, drought that threatens the life of people in developing countries as well as in the more affluent countries, including the United States. We witnessed the floods in Kentucky in the past week and California is currently burning.
As a result of new methods of communication, we witnessed the murder of George Floyd by police officers in this very city. We have borne witness to the killings of black and brown men and women, the disappearance of indigenous women, and the massacres of men, women, and children by civilians, utilizing weapons of war. We have witnessed the targeted murders of African Americans and Latine in various states of this country and Anti-Asian hate crimes fueled by the rhetoric of white nationalists in power. We witnessed an attempted coup against the government this January. We are seeing the erosion of hard-fought civil rights, voting rights, women’s reproductive rights, and a diminished separation of church and state. Many states have banned the teaching of critical race theory and assault hard fought ethnic studies courses. This is an effort to silence the truth of the history of the U.S. We are bombarded with misinformation, hateful rhetoric, anti-immigrant language, and continued threats to our rights.
Regardless of our political orientation, we are all affected by the rise of white nationalism in this country and around the globe. For folks of color, the dangers are greater; the stakes are higher.
What are we as community psychologists called to do? What is, or should be, the response of our Society and of APA, besides policy statements and apologies for past injustice? I refer you our Society’s website, where are values and our mission are outlined.
After the murder of Mr. George Floyd, black psychologists, non-black POC and white allies in our society drafted a call to action on anti-black racism. We as a body were asked to examine the past and present injustices and make substantive change, to go beyond the aspirational language of diversity and inclusion. The leadership of our society in 2020 drafted a response with a promise to begin a process of reflection, inquiry, and change. I want to offer my thoughts on where we are and where we need to go.
As a member driven Society, we believe in collaborative responses, to attain these requires time. Our best efforts sometimes are not enough and certainly, they are not fast enough. I want to assure you that we are trying. As a I see it, an important first step was to recognize the truth of the accusation. SCRA has been guilty of racism, lack of diversity, and behaviors and practices reflective of white supremacy. I believe, and this is MY belief, that as human beings we are the products of our history, our upbringing and the context in which it occurs, our educational experiences, and the privilege accorded to some of us by virtue of our race, our skin color, our class, gender, sexuality, and access to information. Sadly, even among those of us with degrees, our education about and experience with diversity is limited and at times non-existent. Many of us do not recognize our racism and other isms that impact how we work, think, and interact with others. Our Society has had good intentions. At the present time, good intentions are not enough.
The Call to Action Against Anti-Blackness in SCRA outlined a number of ways we as a Society could begin “working on our ingrained white supremacist logic within ourselves and our organization.” I refer you to our website to read all the related documents. The colleagues who drafted the letter outlined four areas of action:
The colleagues in leadership positions, officers and members of the EC, responded with an extensive list of actions to respond to the Call to Action on Anti-Black Racism. It must be noted that SCRA councils and interest groups, as well as members, had also identified important actions to be taken. Since 2020 past and current elected leaders and members of our Society have worked to address the necessary changes. The process of self-reflection and discussions on how best to respond to the demands on the organization brought to light internal conflicts, historical wounds, and differences that at times devolved into harmful exchanges. Members of the EC committee and officers resigned to protect their physical and mental health. The conflicts that emerged visibilized the need to create healthy ways of problem solving, to remind ourselves that kindness and cultural humility must replace vitriol and harmful exchanges among us. We could not move forward to make systemic change without acknowledging the trauma we were experiencing and inflicting on each other. To that end, we have begun the work of developing a restorative justice process for the E.C., and if successful, we will make available to the membership.
When I reflect back on the past twelve months, I see my role and that of the other officers as centered on keeping our organization afloat, managing crisis resulting from leadership changes, and ensuring that the work of the Society continued. It is important to highlight what was accomplished since 2020. We have focused on three areas: operational efficiency and greater transparency, more equitable funding of projects, responding to the call to action on anti-black racism, in particular the call to engage in efforts to dismantle white supremacy within our society. I want to highlight some of the efforts we have made
We have much work ahead and we need you, as members, to participate. We need you to run for office, to volunteer to serve on committees, and to continue to engage with us, providing input, and to challenge us.
In the months ahead, we will continue to work on organizational efficiency and transparency.
A core value of our Society always has been social justice. I grew up with the tenet that the revolution and social justice begin at home. Change in our Society must come from all of us. Your elected officers and EC members need to hear from you about the actions you are taking in your everyday life, in your work life, for example the exemplary work of the Village of Wisdom, where our EC member Dawn Henderson works, and which has been featured in “Conversations that Raise your Practice Game.” This series led by Tom Wolff, bridges the research-practice gap, which is an issue that we must continue to strive to address. As an academic and practitioner, I believe it is imperative that we not privilege academics above practitioners in our Society.
I want to reiterate that we have members who are actively engaged in research, practice, and advocacy. We are committed to make those efforts more visible to the membership. Our members share resources to decolonize CP, to support emerging scholars, early career psychologists, and offer mentorship to BIPOC and other members who are marginalized in the institutions where they work.
Social justice activism takes many forms. We must continue to recognize the invisible labor of Black and other BIPOC CP’s; please consider nominating and encouraging practitioners to apply for Fellow Status, to submit their work to the journals, and the TCP and communitypsychology.com. We live in a global and intergenerational world; we must remain engaged and have intergenerational and transnational conversations. It is critical that we remain engaged and increase our participation with international Community Psychology organizations and practitioners. Although SCRA and its membership has changed significantly in the last few years, we can learn from the elders in the field, despite our differences. Those past presidents with whom I met are eager to remain engaged without taking up too much space. As an elder myself, I recognize the importance of stepping aside to make room for early career, graduate students, especially BIPOC who historically have been under-represented in leadership positions, whose voices have not been heard, and who have felt oppressed. It remains my commitment to work in collaboration with others in dismantling racism. It is particularly critical in this historical moment. We continue to do the work. I invite you to join us.
I leave you with the words of Rigoberta Menchu. She says: “Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples.”
Until next time, I wish you health and continued engagement with our division. Feel free to reach out via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or join me during office hours the second Friday of each month, 9-10 Pacific, 11-12, Central, 12-1 Eastern.
In community, Yvette