Students on Capitol Steps
Social work students on U.S. capitol steps during Social Work Day on the Hill, March 17, 2015.
by Charles E. Lewis, Jr., Ph.D.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015, was a remarkable day, as more than 200 social workers and social work students found their way to the nation’s capital to participate in Social Work Day on the Hill events. Social Work Day on the Hill was conceived by former Brooklyn, New York, Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns as a day when social workers of all persuasions—micro and macro, students and faculty, clinicians, administrators, researchers, and policy practitioners—would gather on the Hill to honor the contribution social workers make with our service in Congress and other arenas of the federal government and to recognize the need to engage the federal government in a purposeful way in the pursuit of social justice.
The day began with a student advocacy forum that focused on the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr., Social Work Reinvestment Act, which was first introduced by Mr. Towns in 2008 and was re-introduced in succeeding Congresses by current Congressional Social Work Caucus Chair Barbara Lee (D-CA13), most recently on March 17 as H.R. 1378. Companion bills were introduced by Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who recently announced her intention to retire at the end of her term in early 2017.
The forum was organized largely by Shauntia White, a student at the National Catholic School of Social Services at the Catholic University of America, with sponsorship support from Dean Will Rainford and the Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work and its parent organization, the Clinical Social Work Association. Team leaders included Jeanni Simpson, student government president, Howard University School of Social Work; and David Paul, National Catholic School of Social Service.
After a morning panel discussion on the Social Work Reinvestment Act, groups of students visited the congressional offices of members of the Congressional Social Work Caucus who did not co-sponsor the Social Work Reinvestment Act in the previous Congress, to urge them to consider signing on to the bill in the 114th Congress. The students also visited the offices of members of the House who co-sponsored the bill in the previous Congress but were not members of the Social Work Caucus, to urge them to consider joining the Caucus. There were students representing 25 schools of social work.
That afternoon, more than 120 social workers descended on Room B-340 in the Rayburn House Office Building for a reception marking March as Social Work Month. The reception was sponsored by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The program was emceed by Dr. Darla Coffey, president and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education and a CRISP board member. Speakers included former Congressman Towns; Dr. Darrell Wheeler, president of the National Association of Social Workers; Toni Oliver, president of the National Association of Black Social Workers; Dr. Susanna Ward, president of the Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA); Shauntia White, the lead organizer of the student advocacy forum; and Drs. Darlyne Bailey, Terry Mizrahi, Altalf Husain, and Michel Coconis, representing the Association for Community Organizing and Social Administration (ACOSA) and the Special Commission on Macro Social Work Practice.
The highlight of the afternoon’s reception was a keynote speech by former Oakland, California, Congressman Ron Dellums, who encouraged the audience to let their voices be heard and to stay involved on the Hill. Mr. Dellums served in the House of Representatives from 1971 to 1988, representing the 9th District in Northern California. He was the first African American to serve as chair of the Armed Services Committee. After retiring from the House, he was elected mayor of Oakland, CA. He is currently the Visiting Fellow at Howard University’s Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center.
Charles E. Lewis, Jr., Ph.D., is President of the Board of Directors of the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP). He served as deputy chief of staff and communications director for former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns and was the staff coordinator for the Congressional Social Work Caucus. He was a full-time faculty member at Howard University School of Social Work prior to joining Rep. Towns’ staff and now is an adjunct associate professor.