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Update on SWHPN's anti-racism work

Hello SWHPN Members! On behalf of the SWHPN Board and staff, we hope you are enjoying a relaxing and safe summer. At the 2022 Conference, we extended our commitment to enhanced communications and transparency with our members. We hope you have enjoyed the new monthly Membership newsletter which came out last week, as well as our first Advocacy and Policy newsletter.  It was developed in conjunction with several Board members, and is generously supported by Healthsperian, a Washington DC-based company that provides healthcare advocacy on behalf of non-profits across the country; they are providing this to SWHPN free of charge to help our members stay abreast of policy issues that may impact our field, and have been supporters of SWHPN conferences for a number of years.

Additionally, we are working to write more regular blog posts, to provide more opportunities to gather feedback from members, and to develop new member benefits, including leadership and professional development opportunities. We also want to make sure our members stay up-to-date on what is happening behind the scenes with the Board and staff as we take on our own development to transform the organization into an anti-racist, inclusive space. 

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Honoring Juneteenth

Reflections from the Executive Director

Sunday was Juneteenth, a federal holiday recognizing June 19, 1865 as the date enslaved people in Texas were declared free, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Because the date fell on a Sunday this year, many people found themselves with the day off from work on Monday, June 20.

To be honest, I have struggled with how to approach Juneteenth in a manner that respects and honors the holiday, given that I am a White woman. Saying “Happy Juneteenth” to the Black people in my life seems not quite the correct phrase (and certainly not to other White people); neither does taking the day off to relax and peruse online sales.

Late yesterday afternoon, I received an email from Jess Eckstrom, an entrepreneur that I don’t recall following, but must have subscribed to her newsletter at some point. She shared thoughts from Crystal Whiteaker, an inclusive branding expert active on social media. I don’t know either of them, but I really loved Crystal’s suggestions for ways that non-Black Americans can honor the Juneteenth holiday. I am sharing them in their entirety below, and they can be accessed from her Instagram link above.

"Here are some ways to honor Juneteenth...

For my fellow Black Americans, my only advice for you is to prioritize your joy and well-being. Do what feels good for your mind, body, and spirit.

Personally, this year, I have chosen to prioritize my time and energy for people and things that expand, nourish, or compensate me to honor my value of empowerment.

For non-Black Americans, here are some ways you can honor Juneteenth if you haven’t begun to already:

》Learn about the history of Juneteenth and its significance.

》Acknowledge where you have privilege and influence and how it can be used to honor and support Black Americans.

》Support Black owned businesses.

》Pay Black people for their labor. (Think sliding into the Venmo, PayPal, or CashApp accounts of Black creators and educators you regularly consume from on social media. Mine are in my bio.)

》Regularly invest your time in learning about true Black history, beyond glorified Black trauma porn.

》Finally, if you have the day off and plan to host or attend a BBQ or gathering of any kind, I encourage you to open up a discussion about the history of Juneteenth and the impact of systemic oppression on Black Americans. If this seems like too heavy of a topic to bring up at a gathering, I invite you to try to imagine what it’s like to live as a Black person in America, unable to pick and choose how you might be impacted by oppressive white supremacist systems."

Crystal Whiteaker























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A note from the 2022 SWHPN Executive Committee

Dear Members,

We are thrilled to welcome you to the 2022 SWHPN Annual Assembly in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s so nice to finally meet in person and we hope you enjoy your time connecting with colleagues you haven’t seen since 2019. 

It’s been an unprecedented two years with the pandemic, murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and too many other Black and Brown people, social unrest, and the war in the Ukraine. In reflecting on this year’s theme, “Looking forward & back: celebrating our history and the future of hospice and palliative care social work,” we’re struck by the word “celebrate.” While there is a lot that we are proud of in this field, and proud 
of SWHPN as an organization, it’s a difficult time to “celebrate” when we are aware of our roots in white supremacy and anti-Blackness. As an organization, SWHPN is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable community rooted in belonging and justice. An important part of this is to own our past and move through a period of disruption and discomfort. To develop new ways of working to ensure we do not perpetuate harm to historically marginalized and excluded communities, including our colleagues in hospice and palliative care. 

In Alicia Elliott’s memoir, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, Elliott, a Mohawk writer, reflects on her childhood growing up on a reservation in Ontario, Canada:

“Perhaps one day this neighborhood, this city, this country will finally hear its neglected past whispering. Look at me plainly. Look at me. Look at your patterns. Don’t make the same mistakes. Don’t hide who you were. Acknowledge it, then make something new, something beautiful, something that will make everyone proud.” (Elliott, Pg. 57)

SWHPN is in the process of reflecting on its patterns, its history – so we can acknowledge where we have colluded with oppressive structures, so we can stop making the same mistakes, and make something new.  We have committed the human and financial resources necessary to help us identify our patterns and plan for a more equitable future. As the history of systemic racism and oppression within the medical system begins to be acknowledged and addressed, we as social workers need to look at ourselves as individuals and at social work as a profession. As a profession that is rooted in “nice” whiteness, we need to question its role in proliferating power structures and imagine a new future. In 2022-2023 and beyond, my hope for SWHPN, to borrow from Elliott’s words, is that we not only “hear the neglected past whispers” but actively work to turn whispers into trumpets to address systemic racism. 

Acknowledge the neglected whispers of the past
Make something new
Something beautiful 
Something that will make everyone proud (A. Elliott)

We look forward to seeing what SWHPN will create together, in 2022 and for many more years. Jessica Strong, Executive Director, will share more about these exciting updates. 

SWHPN Executive Committee:
Anne Kelemen, LICSW, APHSW-C, Chair 
Danielle Jonas, LCSW, Vice Chair
Caitlin Scanlon, LCSW, Secretary/Treasurer 
Stacy Remke, LICSW, APHSW-C, Past Chair