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Volume 54, Number 1 Winter 2021
Notes from the President
Written by Bianca L. Guzmán, California State University, Los Angeles
As I write this update, I reflect on the monumental number of events that have occurred in our country. During the fall of 2020, I think we believed that the COVID-19 pandemic was attacking fewer people. In California, where I reside, I began to see a laxer approach to social distancing and there seemed to be a feeling in the air that things at least with COVID-19 were slowly getting better. There was then and there are now many conversations about how this health pandemic was affecting our economy and the most vulnerable populations in our country. We were also revving up for a tremendous political display of hate and animosity with the presidential election looming on the horizon.
Many of my students were experiencing isolation, loneliness, food insecurity and home insecurity. The conversations around white supremacy, racism, and the injuring and killings of Black and Brown bodies continued. It seemed to me that everywhere I turned there were scheduled trainings on diversity, equity and inclusion. Many of my colleagues discussed how best to handle issues of diversity from a virtual platform. There was a lot of talk about microaggressions and the result that these insidious daily offensive comments and behaviors, albeit virtually, were harming our Black students and our students of color. There was a lot happening; yet, it seemed that things would get better with the election of a new president. A minute later we are here in December, and the COVID-19 cases are surging; there are few to no hospital beds to house all the sick and dying people, and things look bleak. In California, you are 2.7 times more likely to test positive and have worse health outcomes from COVID-19 if you are Latinx in comparison to whites.
And while all these events are happening, we belong to an organization that is deeply committed to creating positive change in our local and global communities. It has been a surreal experience to be your president during this time. As an organization we have committed to a tremendous amount of change especially in addressing white supremacy, racism, diversity and equity. I do not think there is anyone in our society that believes that addressing violence against our Black communities is a novel event. I also have to remember that although we are a society that is governed by the membership we operate as a non-profit based organization that has governing rules and considerations. We have an executive committee (EC) and it functions like a board of directors. We have a guiding vision for our society that speaks to us having a strong positive global impact while enhancing the well-being and the promotion of social justice for all people. We also believe in fostering cohesiveness and combating oppression. Our guiding principles are: having a global nature; using multi-sectoral, interdisciplinary partnerships and approaches; a focus on creating policies informed by community psychology and social justice values; and research and action that promote social justice. We have an extraordinary vision and great principles and carrying out these ideas takes much work from the executive committee and the membership. I also want to acknowledge it takes time and investment to realize this vision. On the other hand, our executive officers serve for the most part 3-year terms, and therefore the amount of turn-over in our society’s leadership is constant. All this occurs in the middle of us pledging to change the organization. We all have little time and little institutional memory to have continuity in the projects we propose to institute long term lasting change. Yet, we keep trying. It is in this spirit that I report to you some changes in our organizational leadership and share some of the things happening in our organization to address the call to action to address white supremacy and racism.
There has also been a change in our executive committee with Chris Smith stepping down as the Regional Network Coordinator, a position that supports local networks creating meaningful opportunities for connecting, including through regional conferences. I want to thank Chris for the work she did while she served as the coordinator. She always asked deep questions regarding why we wanted to make changes and how that would impact our membership regionally, nationally, and internationally. We are also pleased to report that Tonya Hall was elected to fill the position. We are happy to have Tonya’s dedication and organizational skills on board as she steps into this role.
In addition to changes in our EC, we also hired a new administrative coordinator. We want to welcome Jadwiga Hescox who is completing her MA in Health Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Jadwiga has been a member of SCRA since 2018 and she is excited to start her position. Jadwiga will eventually be the point person for our member services and will be the person to help with membership questions. Finally, after many years of service, Jean Hill will be retiring from her role as executive director (ED) in late February of 2021. Jean has served in many leadership roles, including president 2012-2013. Jean has so much institutional memory that it will be a great loss to SCRA. Jean, you will surely be missed, and, at the same time, we wish you the best as you move into retirement. I will personally miss our conversations in which you continually demonstrated much care for the organization and all of us members. We know that with Jean’s retirement there will be many changes. We will need to hire an ED in a timely manner so that Jean can provide some of the training to our new person. At the moment we are forming a hiring committee to select the new ED. If you have interest in being part of this search please visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SCRAED for additional information.
Another significant action that we have taken as an EC is to assemble the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant Hiring and Transition- (DEI) Committee. This committee will assist us as an organization learning, examining, and moving in the direction of changing our organizational culture and operations to address White supremacy, racism, and anti-Blackness as proposed in the call to action. The primary role of this committee is to hire a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant(s) and oversee this group’s work until we can form an anti-racist, anti-oppressive working group to oversee long term changes. It is also our plan to form a Black, Indigenous, or other Person of Color (BIPOC) anti-racist, anti-oppressive advisory board. In these endeavors we have been fortunate enough to have Kien Lee from the organization Community Science (https://www.communityscience.com) volunteer her time to assist us with the formation, structure and process of hiring a consultant(s). Kien is also a member of SCRA and has a wealth of expertise in the design and implementation of research and evaluation initiatives that contribute to racial equity. Their involvement has been transformative. Thank you, Kien!
In terms of the DEI committee, we have 13 members with a cumulative wealth of experience in many topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, the members of this committee have expertise in power dynamics, social movements, media socialization, sexual identity, implied bias, cultural assets, microaggressions, cultural responsiveness, intersectional feminist care and in race and a sense of belonging. These committee members also represent a diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. The committee members are: Bianca L. Guzman, Ramy Barhouche, Pamela Martin, Meeta Banerjee, Natasha Ranamayake, Katie McAuliff, Karizma Funnye, Seanna Leath, Mika Handelman, Magaela Bethune, Dolores Miranda, John Moritsugu, and Jonathan Coats. To learn more about these members visit, https://www.scra27.org/resources/call-action/. The committee is in the process of finalizing the request for proposals (RFP) call, and we aspire to begin receiving applications early in the new year.
Moreover, our committees, councils and interest groups have been working hard on the many initiatives that they have proposed and I want to thank all our members for volunteering their time to participate. For example, the Council of Education proposed a substantial shift in their use of funding to support thorough review of educational practices connected to anti-racism. The Policy Council continues to be a leader in supporting our members and organization by connecting to initiatives to hold APA accountable as well as movements to pursue healing and reconciliation in the United States. The Practice Council continues to host exceptional Conversations to Raise our Practice Game (Fridays), many of which have been dedicated to disrupting racial injustice. See their collection of videos here. The Council on Cultural, Ethnic, and Racial Affairs (CERA) also continues to hold important healing circle space dedicated to our members of color. This is just a snapshot of the member-led work being done that continues to move us toward a more just organizational future.
Additionally, I want to take a moment and acknowledge the work of the Awards Task Force. The members of this task force are Noe Chavez, Serdar Degirmencioglu, Bianca L Guzman, Ashmeet Oberoi and Susan Torres-Harding. Building on the work of many past leaders in SCRA, this taskforce has had the particularly challenging task of re-imagining and updating our awards. As a society we value the individuals who lead the way in our discipline. Many of our current awards are named awards. Most of the named awards are of white males. Many of our members have much reverence and admiration for the accomplishments of the individuals whose names are on the awards and yet as we move to be more inclusive in our field, we begin to examine what the function of these awards are and how we honor the voices of other individuals who have also had important impacts in community psychology and are often unacknowledged. In returning back to the call for action, the task force felt it was necessary to acknowledge the work of BIPOC individuals in SCRA. Although we currently have an award for the mentoring of students of color, the committee felt that there needed to be another award to honor BIPOC individuals. This decision led to the renaming of the former John Kalafat Award to the Community Psychology Award Recognizing Achievements by Black, Indigenous, or other Person of Color (BIPOC) Graduate Students. The task force also proposed, and the EC approved a new award focused on racial justice. The task force has much more work to do, however these are good steps forward.
I just finished the book called “My grandmother’s hands racialized trauma and the pathway to mending our hearts and bodies” by Resmaa Menakem. I am reminded that Menakem says, “While we see anger and violence in the streets of our country, the real battlefield is inside our bodies. If we are to survive as a country, it is inside our bodies where this conflict will need to be resolved.” This quote speaks to me about the trauma that we are experiencing in our inability to connect to other human beings who we love and value. I understand that we must process all trauma through our body in order to heal. This healing process also involves connecting to other humans for support and validation. I am hopeful that we will find ways to make these connections in ways that promote healing for ourselves and those we cherish.