Letter to Membership
This letter from the President, followed by Action Steps from Incoming and Outgoing Presidents, is one in a series of steps for NESTTD as an organization to begin more clearly stating allegiances, setting intentions and following through after my initial letter regarding the murder one month ago of George Floyd.
First, NESTTD stands in solidarity with Black Lives. I realize our actions have not yet demonstrated that, and there is much work to do to live that solidarity.
Although NESTTD has had goals as a board to diversify our board and committees, racially, ethnically, and age, for instance, there is far to go, and the reasons for that are many.
The organization been too silent, most notably recently, but truly all along. As President, I take responsibility for the silence. The silence also has many contributing roots. It certainly is one of my clearest personal struggles in life, even in areas that matter to me most. For that I apologize, as NESTTD deserves a clear voice all along in this important area.
I say it has other roots though, as I don’t believe the silence is limited to my personal challenges, or any individuals on the board. When I was studying Social Work at Boston University at the end of the last millennium, I read “Exclusion and Emphasis Reframed as a Matter of Ethics” by Jessica Henderson Daniels.
The takeaway as I recall, was that Daniels, the African American author, clearly spoke out to share the pain of what it is like to have read Trauma and Recovery, which included references to several great historical traumas, and not see featured the history and trauma of the African American experience of enslavement and its aftermath.
I am not speaking against anyone at all here, just to describe the history of erasure that our profession, and our particular area “trauma” was, 30 years ago, and is today, too likely to help participate in, just like so many institutions, despite no ill intent. We are embedded in the society that erases and invalidates. Even though we have all the tools to “step back” and see and “validate” trauma and recognize dissociation, we can be too likely to miss entire chapters.
It will be important to find a new way. The voices have been there. In our profession, Daniels wrote this response to one of our foundational documents in 1994.
Despite our embeddedness in a far-reaching system of white supremacy that is not limited to those with prejudice or ill intent, we likely have many skills to begin seeing and caring, should we choose again and again to do so. It will require some vigilance.
This embeddedness has come at a painful cost to some of our very own membership, and past participants.
I invite all the membership forward in the journey of continuing NESTTD’s important mission and doing so in a way that is fully aware of movement toward becoming a full and equitable community.
What are the steps? a Action Plan Statement from the Incoming and Outgoing Presidents
We have had discussions as a board, and have received suggestions from members of color and white members who are also passionate for change. Only a few of the potential detailed plans are included here, and instead are listed our broad outlines.
- We had planned to send a survey of membership out this week, and have just done so. We will use information from the survey in addition to the suggestions we have already received.
- We had planned to hire outside consultation to help us as a board work on areas of race and ethnicity, as doing some work on our own has not been successful. We have chosen a consultant, and are scheduling with her for our summer retreat. One of her stipulations is that ongoing work continue. We will continue. The plans we see today are likely to be affected by the work we do in consultation.
- We expect part of the work to include revisiting the mission statement of NESTTD.
- Our Racial Equity Committee has been formed and currently includes myself, incoming President Deborah Hughes, LICSW, current Secretary Carol Lambert, LICSW, and former President Barbara Phillips, PhD .
- We have added the Racism and Trauma tab to the website and have begun adding resources. More resources as well as organization of what is there is upcoming.
- We plan renewed dedication to looking at ways for our programming to reflect not only the needs of all clinicians in their work with clients of color, but also discern which presenters most clearly meet the needs of our membership and participants of color. We have made some past efforts in this regard for exciting speakers and are looking into the obstacles we encountered so we can address them and update.
- We have received dozens of suggestions regarding racial equity, all of which are helpful, and many of which could be acted upon. A couple of small things could be completed immediately, for instance add a race and ethnicity question to the survey to better discern needs. Most suggestions are more involved, and we will continue growing a plan which matches the resources of the organization, and the additional wisdom we gain through consultation and growth.
- We will report back on progress. The first report back will be from our incoming President Deborah Hughes, LICSW, sometime in early fall, when we will have had time to begin acting on learnings from our summer retreat. She will share what we have learned, how it has informed and refined our action items, and when to expect the next update from there.
As outgoing President and incoming Presidents (the terms change on July 1st) in making the actions item list above, we look forward in working with the NESTTD community in this important area of healing and growth.
Carolinda Sterczala, LICSW
Deborah Hughes, LICSW
President Elect, NESTTD