By Mildred "Mit" C. Joyner, DPS, MSW, LCSW
Social Work Month 2023 is completed. It is a time during which we commemorate the numerous contributions of social workers across the globe, while recommitting ourselves to the fight for social justice.
Every March, we find ourselves rejuvenated by the love and admiration shared by fellow social workers and the many people who support our profession. However, it can be difficult to fully enjoy the celebration when we are reminded of the challenges we face—namely, the dismantling of our democracy.
Racist acts, vile attacks against the LGBTQIA+ community, and blatant violations of reproductive rights continue to escalate in state legislatures across our nation. This leaves those charged with advocating for a more just and equitable nation perplexed and often exhausted.
As forward-thinking professionals, however, we know that social work must lead a new civil rights movement to protect the rights of all people with purpose and resolve. NASW’s mission is “to contribute to the well-being of individuals, families and communities through its work and advocacy”—so the time to break barriers is now.
Together we must address the current discourse in the U.S. NASW has a membership and supporter base of hundreds of thousands of change agents who are dedicated to making a difference. Our association must work consistently to understand the current state of public affairs while keeping an eye on the future and actively engaging in advocacy and action that will transcend this moment with our members.
Let’s face it, bigotry is being normalized again, and NASW and the social work profession must hold people in our communities accountable by promoting the truth through action. We have purposeful work before us.
Since the fall of
Roe v. Wade last year, we have continued to see an increase in states’ attempts to pass legislation designed to prevent people from accessing reproductive health services. Relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they are sworn to protect and defend continue to be strained. We still witness example after example of disregard for human life, lack of compassion, and abuse of authority.
In education, lawmakers across the U.S. have launched a war against inclusion and DEI efforts—or as some call it, the “woke agenda.” Focused efforts to ban education about the history of African Americans and other people of color perpetuates racism and supports the flawed hypothesis that some people are superior to all others.
The belief in white supremacy among America̕s leaders is dangerous and unethical, and it repeats other campaigns in history to mask totalitarian atrocities and promote generational ignorance. With so much at stake, NASW and its membership must stand at the forefront with activists across the land to effectively address these issues.
This year, NASW welcomes its new chief executive officer, Anthony Estreet, PhD, MBA, LCSW-C, who will chart the course for our association during a period of great polarization. He has made a commitment that the association will be action-oriented and employ innovative and forward-thinking methods to ensure that new voices, ideas and perspectives are heard and included. To combat hate and racism, Dr. Estreet says as an association we must “look internally, have a clear message to the profession and society at large, and continue to educate and highlight voices focused on removing structural racism.”
NASW will follow the values contained in our Code of Ethics, and equip our members with research, information and resources that will not only direct the actions of the association but also pave new pathways for change agents to engage in evidence-based practice in their communities.
To assist NASW with developing a compilation of social worker actions to advance justice, I invite you to email me at
email@example.com. Send me the actions you are taking individually, in your community, nationally or globally to eradicate racism, to stop hate against the LGBTQIA+ community, or to end attacks on reproductive rights. Your efforts may inspire someone else in the profession to get involved.
Contact Mit Joyner at firstname.lastname@example.org