March 9, 2013
This paper describes my personal experience of volunteering and interviewing individuals at the XXX Community Center in Brooklyn during a service day in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. As I dissect my experience, I incorporate the ecosystsems perspective, microaggressions, the Just Practice Framework as well as other scholarly approaches. Additionally, I examine how each are tied to the XXX community and social justice. Furthermore, I discuss the white elephant in the room—no pun intended—which is the fact that I, the White social worker, am analyzing XXX, a mostly Black community. Along with this awareness, I discuss the various methods in which the role of a social worker can support the XXX community as they are brought to justice.
Social Justice involves all human beings being treated equally and with fairness--through policies, programs, and daily interactions—because every person shares the same value and worth regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, abilities, and so on. Fortunately, our country has come a long way in “justice for all”; unfortunately, however, we have an incredibly long way to go. XXX is a neighborhood within Brooklyn which substantially suffered from Hurricane Sandy’s flooding and struggled with the aftermath of the storm with many homes and businesses enduring weeks without electricity and heat while temperatures regularly dropped below freezing. In honor of XXX's recovery and of Martin Luther King, the XXX Community Center and AmeriCorps organized the Peace March of local community members with the intention to “be a visible reminder to the community and the participants that MLK's legacy lives on and continues to be inspiration to overcome challenges” (“National day of service”, 2013). It was a moving experience to be a part of—people from all different walks of life came together for the goal of promoting community, equality, and peace. I volunteered at the “MLK Day of Service and Peace March”, which was also the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama for his second term. While I was under the impression that I would be partaking in reconstructing homes and businesses that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, I came to find out that this event focused on educating youth of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. This was done by giving a presentation, breaking up into groups for activities and art projects, and marching amongst the community to promote peace. Throughout these activities, I interviewed several people pertaining to social justice and how it relates to Martin Luther King, Jr., President Barack Obama, and our society. Throughout the day’s activities, I introduced myself to a variety of participants and asked for their permission to interview them for a paper that I was writing for my social work class. I asked the six consenting individuals the following questions: 1.) What brought you to this event today? 2.) What does “social justice” means in your eyes? 3.) What do you think MLK would say if he were here today? 4.) Does today’s event relate to President Obama? Why or why not? 5.) In relation to social justice, how do MLK and Obama compare and contrast? The interviewees varied in age (13-38), ethnicity (Black, White, and Hispanic), and roles in connection to the event (most were affiliated with the XXX Community Justice Center, the New York Juvenile Justice Corps, or the XXX Youth Court—while others were volunteers who came as individuals). While the respondents were all diverse, their responses generally shared similar themes. They reflected on our society coming a long way in the realms of social justice, but that we still have a long way left to go before social justice is truly achieved. If MLK were here today he may be proud of the progress that our country has made as far as segregation goes, but he would continue fighting...