ISSUE 104 SEPTEMBER 2007 CONTENTS HOME PAGE
Which is me? Culture of a radical youthworker
— Danaan Parry, (1991). Warrior of the Heart.
Beyond either/or I seek my self.
Why do we find the need to deny our privilege in order to build others up?
This work of social welfare is about heart.
Yes, I am privileged and I need to unpack my knapsack. But too I am scarred.
I can look at my skin as a starting point, yet wondering if it is not something to build on.
Looking through the lens of
privilege, past the false truths;
I recollect a safe childhood:
Youth tramping through the woods; tending the gardens; enough food and healthy, sweaty bodies in flow at play and work; safe streets, air and water as at school and the libraries. We make this road by walking.
Circles of support that draws everybody in.
Games, plays, art, flowers, markets, skateboards and graffiti.
The hip hop/ punk/ generation coming of age in basements or wherever (just not in jail).
I work from my spirit of hope.
I work towards my goals for gardening a fresh crop of beautiful children and hopeful, healthy independent baby mamas and papas.
My skin color and class position
compel me to bridge the divide between
Is my whiteness my chrysalis? My platform for winged flight?
My blind-spots are my responsibility and in this work sometimes I will blindly wield myself in violent ways. But I know that it is not enough to only learn to wield myself nonviolently.
(And if my mistakes ever become too great I will go find something else to do).
But at each moment there are questions that need asking.
It is this asking and unpacking that leads to the vulnerable surrender to the being in becoming that is this work. Outside the storm is raging.
The youth and their families I will work with and on behalf of, despite of, may not look like me or come from where I came from and my role with them may sometimes be like an ice cutter clearing a way for the channel and then getting out of the way for the work to be done by ...
Them; the families and youth themselves.
Is exchanging pies at Christmas and planting tomatoes in pots on a mother’s front stoop crossing the line of professional boundary? Is calling a young man at home after 8pm and taking him out to breakfast, playing a game of pool or walking in the woods better than doing Empirically Based Practice of CBT therapy? Only in MSW School might we ask these questions. But the questions that need asking is what do I do when a mom’s sober, ex-con boyfriend hands me his resume and asks if I can help him get a job? Make a referral?
What is the lesson when an African American foster mom rejects my vulgar hammer of expertise when I project my assumptions on her (as if she is only a nail) rather than ask her about her perspective?
These things we call race, class, gender, sexuality, age and ability are like the creeping of stiff joints that are not exercised regularly. Only through query will we stay young. Only through humility and struggle will we change ourselves,
and maybe, a little bit of this world.
956 17th Ave SE
I am currently entering my third and final year in the MSW program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.