Reflections from Justice Dreamers
cti o Refle
n s f ro m J u s t i c e D re a m
is a compilation of manifestos written by future social workers & justice dreamers of the collective learning community of Social Welfare 252 (Theories and Practices of Social Justice), Spring 2021. All intellectual material was created within the course and is the sole property of its creators. Illustration & Graphic Design by Yeji Kim
Ta b l
e of C o n t e n t s kacg
Rodrigo Froggy Vazquez
J. David Likens
k acg What’s becoming clear to me is that social change must be more than just a job. The NASW claims that social justice is a core value, but I don’t think I can participate in that work by turning off my social worker self after 5pm. Our readings have made clear that the organizations we work for, the places we get our paychecks from, will always have it in their best interest to not overhaul. As a white person, it is all too easy for me to fit into this system and never question anything, but this leads to slow death, of my Black and brown community members, but also of myself. So my work must go beyond the work of my employers into my community and life. When we are out in the streets the way our justice dreaming colleagues have called us to be, it won’t be trackable or create the right data
that procures grants and wins over foundations’ support. It’s a little silly, but it reminds me of one of my hobbies: crocheting. People always told me to take money for it or sell my items somehow, and I realized that I do not want all the things I love to be tied to money. Our lives cannot only exist in a system of money-making, competition and exchange. I want to dream bigger than that, and I think it starts at home.
My vision for social work is to center love and clients, fuck “the gaze of funders”, grant requirements, fuck program completion. I want to give money away for people to get their needs met. I will work to push against policies and procedures that are, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore puts it are, “radical in form, but liberal in content” at any non-profit organization I may work in in the future. I will do my best to do this by getting the needs of clients met immediately whether through cash aid from the organization or donations as well as teach clients how to navigate systems in an advantageous way. tvtI’ll use my gifts, speak my voice to fiercely advocate and get my clients what they need right away. My vision involves divesting from whiteness. I will not give in to whiteness. I will not give in to the belief
that my emotions and my sensitivity and my humanness make me weak or naive. I will use my rage as momentum for social justice. I will use my white passing self to infiltrate meetings “at the table” and get into any space where the voices and needs of the most marginalized need to be heard. My vision also involves imagining the unimaginable and taking action to make it real, like the group of runaway slaves who founded the independent maroon state of Palmares. They imagined possibility and hope while being born into a world that had none. With every force working against them they imagined the unimaginable and took their liberation for themselves. I put and will continue to put my body on the line, my emotions on the line and feel what others feel as impetus and momentum for justice
seeking while also caring for my mind and body. Care and love must be prioritized and chosen over and over again everyday in order to create the socially just world we want. This means freeing our minds of the limits imposed on us, finite thinking, scarcity, that there isn’t enough love to give not enough time to help others. Instead we must remind ourselves to bring in abundance, love and infinite thinking. In our everyday lives and in any thought that passes through our minds and interactions with others. This starts with something as simple as saying hi to my neighbors instead of assuming they want their privacy and therefore taking the first steps in building community. It means loving the people who hurt us. Loving the people who hurt us. The people who hurt us have internalized hate, doing
as the system intends them to do we must remember this and always maintain our empathy. Remember that we need everyone in this struggle to reach liberation.
K h a nh Phu
So what’s next? There are ways to take care of each other and invest in ourselves. I join these activists in their vision for a world where we have power among the people and not just people in power. This takes courage and can not be done in solitude. Despite what people may say, our dreams of justice dreams are not meant to be as quiet and as convenient as possible. The pathway to justice-seeking for me requires unshrinking and standing in power with my community. There must be fury but there must also be love.
Many of us believe in abolishing lifethreatening and lifeending systems and practices. A lot of us are down to protest against injustices and are ready to shut shit down. But how many of us are willing to build and support life-preserving and life-saving institutions? For me, the pathway of justice-seeking is twofold: a divestment from oppressive establishments as well as an investment in our communities and our people. It is clear that unjust government bodies such as the police are beyond reform.
Kay Alphonse In my justice dreaming – I think of a place without police and without the policing of every part of who we are. I think of a place where I can be free. That we can be free. To not be at the juxtaposition as a Black woman to be invisible yet hyper visible. To not be under constant surveillance from the world at every step that we take. I don’t want to have to stand up for myself to white men, white women, and Black men all in the same sentence. I want a world where that is simply not acceptable because I’m already tired. I dream of a place where Black and Brown folks are no longer considered a threat to society. But a society that honors our ancestors, who are not in history books – and honors us as their descendants. I want us to be able to create and re-create and define and then re-define who we want ourselves to be. No longer living in a world where they projected images of themselves onto us. I want the foundation of lives to be rooted in our beauty without pain. Where we’re loved and valued without it feeling like a foreign concept. Our bodies are seen as more than objects for their entertainment. Our bodies are not able to be disposed of. I want to see a world where community is prioritized and how we care for one another is at the center of who we are.
I hope social work reflects what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves. But we’re also given the environment that teaches us and allows us to know what self-love feels like. An effortless self-love. A love that does not have everything stacked against us from the moment we are conceived. A love that flows from our mothers, into us as we are in her womb. As I seek justice, I will always seek love. But fuck the government, the prison industrial complex, the education system, and the every person who has stood and continues to stand between us and justice. We must be proximate to the world we so desperately want to change.
AC E Justice is not remediation. Justice is the absence of barriers. The ability to live freely without the constraints and oppression of poverty, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and more. This justice requires the radical transformation of society both structurally and mentally.” Justice is fairness. I believe that in order to actualize this dream, social workers and policymakers must be with the people. My vision for social work is one where every social worker understands the importance of hearing and seeing the communities we serve at a policy level. My hope is that social work can become a profession that uplifts voices rather than speaking over them. My hope is that social work becomes the bridge from what is to what could be.
o F ro g g y V a z q
I want the term Social Worker to be feared by corporate greed I want social workers to fight back against exploitation poverty pimping even if it makes them bleed Battle scars Want a world without prisons no more racial bars You cannot define justice if it’s taking away the justice from others Family reunification mothers’ fathers’ sisters’ brothers A world without borders military orders Radical thoughts No police cooperation Community training from the community to people who want to work within \ that community No divide and conquer between each other’s No oppression Olympics between black and brown and natives Want people to care I want youth in the ghetto to not worry about getting killed in gang warfare
Justice today is like a broken window Society putting the bits of pieces of glass back together As their hands bleed, they continue to put this window back together with hope it will stand We cannot expect to use the same pieces of glass to replace the window We need a new window We need to question the window Maybe we do not need a window maybe we need a door I want kids to grow up with both parents Black and brown communities with teachers who look like them who believe in them With quality education and resources for afterschool programs A dream of a real social worker would be for a society to exist where they would not need social workers because everyone will play a role in supporting each other. Support in healing revealing a new destiny
How can we create something new if we are “professionalized” in techniques by institutions that have long been used to oppress? In reality, creativity is not nurtured in our current systems. Surveillance, evaluation, competition, restrictive rules, and time limits, all “kill” the creative instinct … and are inherent aspects of white supremacist systems where social workers take part. In many ways, oppressors want us to see things from their eyes, not from our own eyes. So, how do we take off this veil … and nurture our ability to collectively create alternative visions as future social workers? It is important to use our privilege to build ladders and bridges, not walls… So we must use our privileges to nurture spaces of collective care that foster seeing, reflecting, creating, and building … that honor lived experiences and uplift the collective power of communities. Spaces where we can imagine together. Feel our emotions. Shout. Laugh. Cry. Dream. And create.
avid Lik ens My greatest tool as a social worker is my tacit assent to the genuine desires of those I serve, and the consciousness that silence is my true wisdom. Social work just as justice seeking is built on a foundation of community, with the understanding that community is the most powerful catalyst for change. Social workers have the honor of teaching what sanctuary looks like to those who have never known safety and stability, sometimes the goal is habilitation because rehabilitation requires a return to something never experienced. Effective social work is a human right inherent in a just society, every bit as essential to its functioning as the law. The soul of social work is not housed in the halls of academic institutions, but in the hearts of the true believers who naively believe in a world never known. In that sense social workers are not logical academics, but rather romantic dreamers. They dream of a world where trans women not only survive, but live and thrive. They dream of a world where we fight side by side with those that suffer, not to be a hero, but for the sake of the movement.
They dream of social, economic, and mental health reparations for those oppressed by the system. They dream of an army of the righteous, willing to die for what they believe in. And they dream of a world that can smash through the walls of seclusion and privilege and use the bricks to build opportunities for oppressed communities. In this sense the greatest tool social worker justice seekers possess is the ability to transform rage into hope.
Anonymous My vision for social justice is one where all marginalized groups and individuals can walk in peace and embrace their identity without facing any scale of violence. My dream includes the deconstruction of gender binary concepts so everyone can live authentically without being shamed and attacked. I envision a just society that embraces supporting, valuing, and holding all life sacred. Where healthcare, welfare, housing, and food security, everything essential to have a healthy life is accessible and equitable. I envision a society where we make tools accessible for everyone to advocate. My pathway includes doing my best to act ethically and empathize with each community I engage with. Justice is not achieved when one is free or provided justice, it is achieved when everyone is free and liberated.
Anonymous My vision for social work, as part of my pathway of justiceseeking, is coalition and community-building with activists in this virtual, and soon-tobe physical, space. Like guest activist speakers we have listened to, we have already had an impact on those around us: on each other, our clients, our peers, and our loved ones. I refuse to believe that we must wait to be licensed, to complete this degree, or to be paid for our ideas and labor in order to be “social workers” or in order to create an impact. Whether it has been within this Social and Economic Justice course, or in other classes, I have already been inspired by every single person in this class. The “how” behind coalition building is still in development, and it is one that takes critical self-reflection, love, and commitment.
Naming white supremacy and divesting from whiteness in our practice, in our classes, in our internships, and in our future places of employment, can be difficult and can lead to detrimental consequences. Thus, this further emphasizes the need for us to connect and support one another within these inevitable, unsafe spaces. I would like to share in detail about the influence that Juli Salamanca Cortés has had on me since their visitation in our collective learning space. Juli said that activists need to believe that their actions can create change, that we must think about our actions in the present time. Social and Economic Justice is not something that we wait for; we have to tap into it every day and see it happening all around us. Juli also mentioned the relationship between art, the body, and activism.
They shared that art that is not elitist or white can break stereotypes and change the world. Activism for social and economic justice can be overwhelming and tiring, but, as Juli emphasized, we must find time to take care of ourselves in order to move forward with our work. Lastly, Juli’s final comments repeat in my head as I navigate through the world of academia. Juli said that the great change doesn’t come from asking for permission. Through this course and throughout the last few years, I’ve grown to learn the importance of compassion and empathy in social justice movements. Community and relationship building cannot be removed from the work being done towards an equitable society. It is the friendships, the dialogue, and the sharing of space (whether digital or physical) that brings
forth change in our world. This work cannot be done alone and as a graduate student, I am actively reminding myself that, as Audre Lorde said, “without community, there is no liberation.”
As I dream about justice, I think about those that came before me. I think about those who lost their lives while fighting for the lives of others. I sit in gratitude and admiration for the social movements that came before me. I lift up and think about the movements that are not acknowledged or highlighted in U.S. history or the mainstream media. I think about and thank the brave voices who speak their truths, so that others can live theirs. I keep these histories, narratives and stories in mind as
I continue seeking, dreaming and learning about alternative practices to make our society more just. The pathway of justice would not exist without those that came before me. I draw from my ancestors and their strength as I continue fighting for justice and holding myself accountable. I am guided by abolitionist concepts that demand equity and decolonizing practices. I will continue to reject white supremacist ideas that divide us while remembering to center joy, love and, community.
Reflections from Justice Dreamers is a compilation of manifestos written by future social workers & justice dreamers of the collective learn...
Published on Aug 17, 2021
Reflections from Justice Dreamers is a compilation of manifestos written by future social workers & justice dreamers of the collective learn...