Professor Elspeth Slayter has been taking an active role in local and national racial justice efforts. Recently, she helped organize a grassroots group known as #SWEduActs which is short for "social work education acts." This group of social work educators came together in June to respond to police brutality and structural racism after the murder of George Floyd.
They wanted to find a tangible way to act fairly quickly in response to these issues within the hundreds of schools of social work around the country, so Professor Slayter, along with her co-organizer, Lauri Goldkind of Fordham University, led the organization of a national social work “teach-in.” A teach-in is an informal lecture and discussion or series of lectures on a subject of public interest.
The teach-in took place in the last week of October. To participate, professors either taught a session of their own class on the topic of police brutality as a form of structural racism, or they “brought” their students to the online keynote event on October 27. To support professors around the country in doing the difficult work of teaching about racism, oppression and police brutality, Professor Slayter and colleagues prepared slides, a lecture recording, a “how to facilitate difficult conversations” guide, and a resource reading list to make the work easier.
The keynote event involved an introduction by Professor Slayter, a view of the TED talk by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality as it relates to police violence, followed by a discussion featuring Professor Sharon Moore (University of Louisville), Professor Tina Sacks (University of California at Berkeley) and Mel Wilson (National Association of Social Workers) which was introduced by Professor Desmond Patton (Columbia University).
#SWEduActs' community organizing tactics resulted in over 60 Schools of Social Work from across the country participating in the week of teach-in events, with hundreds of students participating from across these Schools. The success of this project highlights our Salem State School of Social Work's capacity to provide leadership on matters of racial justice on the national stage.