Robinson-Morris Talks Justice at SSW Celebration
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Robinson-Morris Talks Justice at SSW Celebration

The Boston College School of Social Work (SSW) hosted its annual Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Lecture and Distinguished Alumni Award Celebration on Jan. 27. David W. Robinson-Morris, the founding director of The Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit at Xavier University of Louisiana, gave the keynote address, titled “The Texture of Injustice: Feeling Freedom, Dismantling Power.” The lecture coincided with the SSW’s 2019-2020 theme of “Civility, Discourse, and Organized Civil Disobedience.” 

Robinson-Morris is an assistant professor in the division of education and counseling at Xavier. His primary area of research concerns the study of non-Western philosophies and spirituality to explore various understandings of the human condition, according to the university’s website

The lecture began with a recognition of the SSW’s extensive work on civil discourse and civil disobedience. Robinson-Morris then discussed how Xavier’s Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit has approached similar issues regarding civility, social, and racial justice.

“Our work is grounded in a social justice framework and has tackled social teaching,” he said. “My own research and work is centered around intellectual engagement, innovation policy, research outreach, activism leadership, capacity building and cultural change, and faith and social justice.”

Recounting his visit to the National Museum of African Culture in Washington, D.C., Robinson-Morris reflected on the history of slavery in the United States. He asserted that the world is still facing widespread injustice toward black and brown citizens as a result of historical legacy. 

“The body never forgets,” he said. “The body remembers the textures of injustice.”

Robinson-Morris argued that for social justice to be achieved for members of the AHANA+ community, they need allies on the other side.

“We need white allies who are willing to work alongside with us, not for us, not on behalf of us,” he said. “If you see something, say something.”

The speech was followed by the Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration. Lt. Cmdr. Monique Worrell-Oriola, BC ’03 and SSW ’06, was awarded for her work as a clinician, public health practitioner, policy advocate, educator, and grants administrator in the field of social work.

“Boston College gave me a global perspective,” Worrell-Oriola said in a University release.  “I always understood, both as an undergraduate and a graduate student, that the world was bigger than Boston and the campus.”

Worrell-Oriola is a senior training consultant for ICE Health Service Corps in the Department of Homeland Security. A child of immigrants, her parents both worked two full-time jobs to help pay for her education. Throughout earning her master’s in social work at BC, Worrell-Oriola also worked full-time to support herself, according to the release.

“For me, this award is a recognition of the hard work and unimaginable sacrifices that my parents made for me to be able to be in a position to attend a prestigious graduate school and to vigorously pursue my education and passion,” she said in the release.  “This is what it was for: so that their child—a woman of color and a first-generation immigrant—would have a seat at the table where decisions are being made and have a voice of compassion for those who are vulnerable and for those whom the system may not have considered when a particular policy was made.”

Members of Melanated Social Work, a group that provides therapeutic tips, resources, and networking for clinicians, were invited to this year’s celebration as distinguished recent alumni award winners. Grinnell, Marvin Toliver, and Jesse Wiltey, all SSW ’16, and Josh McNeil, SSW ’15 run an Instagram account and podcast aimed at challenging norms while promoting compassion and love to individuals from all walks of life. 

The men of Melanated Social Work congratulated Worrell-Oriola and, in support of all women of color in the field of social work and labor forces, concluded their speech with a quote from civil rights activist Audre Lorde: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

February 4, 2020
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