Social Work in the Public Eye (January 2017)

Dana Courtney

NASW member Dana Courtney was profiled in The Times-News in Burlington, N.C., about her leading the Alamance NAACP’s voter registration efforts in preparation for the 2016 primary and general elections.

Courtney, a retired social worker, helped inspire her group to stay focused on enabling as many eligible voters as possible to cast a ballot this year, the article says. In less than a year, the group registered 1,400 people.

Courtney, chairwoman of the organization’s political action committee, told the newspaper, “I’ve always believed you don’t not vote for one party or another just because you don’t think that party is it. You look at the candidates and the issues.”

The article notes that Courtney and others in the branch attended training on the process, and she says the group makes a point to take a nonpartisan approach, refusing to divulge their own political preferences — even when asked by the people they’re signing up.

“We’re expected to have a lot of integrity when we do this,” Courtney said.

Courtney said she has learned to approach people about registering by asking, “’Can we help you update your voter registration?’ Because for a lot of people, it’s embarrassing if they haven’t registered before now,” she is quoted saying.

“We have registered people saying they’re 70 years old and never ever registered,” she said.

LaTonya Scriven Charles

The TownTalk newspaper in central Louisiana named NASW member LaTonya Scriven Charles to its list of “20 Under 40 Award” recipients.

Nominations were received for 135 people for 2016, the newspaper noted.

“Looking through the credentials of those who were nominated was both humbling and encouraging,” the newspaper stated. “It is exciting to see so many hard-working, dedicated young people in our community. In many cases, it was astonishing to see how much these people have achieved in such a short time.”

Charles, who is the chairwoman of the NASW Council of Chapter Presidents, is an administrator at Bayou Mental Health Services in Pineville, La.

According to the newspaper, nominees were submitted by their peers and others in the community.

“These are the people who see firsthand the good work the nominees are doing every day in their communities, and the fact they were appreciative enough to submit the candidate for consideration is significant,” the article says.

Mike Boucher

NASW member Mike Boucher, a social worker with the St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, was quoted in the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., in a story about workshops that promote peace and understanding, especially during the turbulent election season.

The story says Boucher was running through his Brighton neighborhood when he spotted a campaign sign supporting the Republican presidential ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

“You just don’t see any of those in my neighborhood,” Boucher was quoted as saying in the article. It noted he supported Democrat Bernie Sanders but planned to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Moved by curiosity and a need to understand the other side, Boucher told the newspaper that he knocked on the door and spoke with a woman inside for half an hour.

“I just tried to understand what her experiences were and how she came to believe and support who she is,” Boucher was quoted saying “For me, it’s about trying to understand another person’s perspective.”

The story, which highlighted the in-depth discussion during a “Let’s Talk About Hate’’ workshop at the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in the community, said negativity in the presidential race can seep into people’s lives with family members, co-workers, friends and neighbors taking sides.

But when people such as Boucher make a serious effort to understand another point of view, that negativity can subside, the story says.

Thomas “Tab” Ballis

Social worker Thomas “Tab” Ballis was interviewed by WHQR Public Radio, serving southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina, about a movie he is producing called “Park View.”

In Wilmington, N.C., in 1990, 32-year-old lesbian Talana Kreeger was brutally murdered by a truck driver who offered her a ride outside the then-named Park View bar, which was known as a lesbian bar.

While her killer was prosecuted for the crime, the murder was not prosecuted as a hate crime.

The brutality and violence associated with the crime created a domino effect: panic became fear became isolation became a breakdown of community, Ballis said.

He noted that LGBT men and women, already marginalized, fragmented into more divisions and tragically isolated from each other after the murder. The film aims to examine the alienation that results from historical trauma and question its inevitability.

When asked why he was working on the project, Ballis said, “I am a social worker, that is what social workers do, is fight for marginalized communities.”

“Over the years, I met people who knew (Kreeger),” Ballis said. “I began to realize the pervasive effects of hate crimes on marginalized communities, like LGBT communities.”

Kreeger’s story is part of the book Unfinished Lives by Steven Sprinkle, narrating the stories of 12 people who lost their lives to LGBT hate crimes, the station noted.