Month: July 2012

Social Work Dean Encourages Hartford Students to be Nonviolence Leaders

As a young girl growing up on state assistance in Baltimore’s troubled Harlem Park neighborhood, Salome Raheim experienced firsthand the challenges that come from economic and racial disparities, and how prejudices can arise from stereotypes and limited knowledge.
Salome Raheim, dean of social work, speaks to students during a Kingian nonviolence youth academy held at Weaver High School in Hartford on July 23, 2012. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Yet Raheim persevered. She was the first in her family to graduate high school. She not only went to college but obtained a doctoral degree, and today serves as the dean of UConn’s School of Social Work.

Raheim didn’t let her circumstances stop her, and on Monday, she urged a group of high school students from Greater Hartford to do the same as the keynote speaker launching a three-week youth nonviolence leadership academy at Hartford’s Culinary Arts Academy in the city’s north end.

“I know that because of your choice to be here, you are to be the significant leaders of our time,” Raheim told the group of about 40 students ages 15-17. “We need you. I need you. Our community needs you.

“To be an effective leader you need to know yourself,” she continued. “You have to be willing to envision the impossible, and know that it is possible.”

The program, sponsored by the nonprofit Connecticut Center for Nonviolence, is designed to help children of incarcerated parents develop sustainable nonviolent leadership skills that can be applied to daily domestic, academic, and professional life. Patterned after the nonviolent leadership of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the program teaches students to be Kingian Nonviolence Reconciliation trainers and proactive leaders in the movement to end the school-to-prison pipeline for many urban youth of color.

Victoria Christgau, the nonviolence center’s executive director, said, “We are honored to have [Dean Raheim] with us. She has a wealth of knowledge about diversity and inclusion, and her eloquence is greatly appreciated.”

Raheim wasted little time immersing students in the world of community activism. As part of a lesson on recognizing and appreciating the diversity of people around you, Raheim gave each of the students a sheet describing about 20 different individual descriptors – African American, Southerner, naturalized citizen – and asked them to go around the room getting endorsements from individuals who met each criteria. It not only pushed the students to get past their shyness, it taught them to appreciate the diversity in their immediate surroundings of which they may be unaware.

“To be a leader in the nonviolence movement, it is fundamental that there is an acceptance of differences,” Raheim said. “To be the best leaders that we can be, it is critical that we look at how we speak and how we think about ourselves and one another. Without that, we cannot lead, and we certainly cannot lead in a nonviolent context.”

Raheim advised the students that when they laugh at a comedian’s off-color jokes about people of different races or ethnicities, individuals who are disabled, or perhaps those with a different sexual orientation, they are doing violence to both themselves and others. She urged the students to take their nonviolence charge seriously.

“Sure, it’s about heroic actions, it’s about standing up for what’s right, demonstrating and marching,” Raheim said. “But it is also about who you are and what you do every day. What you do, what you think, how you act.”

The students said they appreciated Raheim’s candor and inspirational, informative message.

“I liked that it was hands-on and interactive,” said De’ajah Thornton, 16, of Bloomfield High School. “If someone was just talking to us, it wouldn’t be as good. We got to do things, got to know each other. It is teaching me to think differently about things.”

“It was interesting, something different,” said Gerina Fullwood, 17, of Southington High School. “I’ve never sat through a program like this.”

Keashaun Gamble, 16, of Hartford, said he appreciated the things Raheim said about prejudice and how pre-existing stereotypes and limited knowledge can twist an individual’s perspective on others.

“A lot of stuff she was saying is so true,” said Gamble. “I’m here to learn everything I can about nonviolence and how to be a leader. I want to bring it back to my community.”

The nonviolence leadership academy was made possible through funding support from the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University and the Hartford Board of Education. The students were recommended for the program through Hartford’s Blue Hills Civic Association, as part of the association’s summer youth employment and learning program or SYELP, funded through Capital Workforce Partners of Hartford.

Article Courtesy of UConn Today
July 25, 2012
By: Colin Poitras

Dean Salome Raheim Featured Speaker at Stowe Center Program Series

THEM: Images and Attitudes That Separate Us was the focus of an event at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford on Thursday, July 19. Dean Salome Raheim; Rev. Dr. Michael Williams MSW ‘97, CT Department of Children and Families; Rabbi Donna Berman, Charter Oak Cultural Center; and Tokuji Okamoto, Our Piece of the Pie were the featured panelists.
Salome Raheim, Ph.D., ACSW
Dean and Professor, UConn School of Social Work

The event included a tour of the exhibit THEM: Images of Separation, on loan from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University. The exhibit shows how everyday objects are used to foster prejudice and discrimination – and separation. According to Katherine Kane, Stowe Center Executive Director, “this exhibit shows objects of intolerance to encourage tolerance and promote social justice.”

MSW Alum and Current Ph.D. Student Appointed to State Task Force

Dwight Norwood MSW ‘07 has been appointed by House Speaker Christopher Donovan to a State Task Force to Study “Aging in Place”. Norwood is a Ph.D. student at the UConn SSW, the Director of St. Luke’s Eldercare Services Gatekeeper program and a consultant to mental health agencies throughout the state implementing Gatekeeper programs. In addition, Dwight is a member of NASW/CT’s Committee on Aging. The chapter submitted his name for this important appointment.

Dwight Norwood, MSW ’07

“Senior citizens comprise the fastest growing segment of Connecticut’s population because a large number of people are reaching that age, and because senior citizens live longer now than ever before, and there simply aren’t enough assisted living and nursing home beds to accommodate everybody,” said Senator Edith Prague (MSW ‘75) sponsor of the bill. “This task force will map out a strategy to help shift our culture toward widespread home care, because we know that’s where most seniors undeniably prefer to be, and then ensure the home care available is safe and affordable.”

The study will examine infrastructure and transportation improvements, zoning changes to facilitate home care, enhanced nutrition programs and delivery options, improved fraud and abuse protections, expansion of home medical care options, tax incentives, and incentives for private insurance. The Task Force is to report its findings to the Legislature no later than January 1, 2013.

Dwight established the Gatekeeper program at St. Luke’s in 2009. It is now sponsored by the CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services statewide. “This is the first statewide program of its kind in the US and I’m proud to have been instrumental in its establishment,” said Dwight.

Dr. Lisa Werkmeister Rozas Awarded UConn Small Faculty Grant

Associate Professor Lisa Werkmeister Rozas was recently awarded a UConn Small Faculty Grant to conduct focus groups of Germans to explore what it means to them to be “German”. In cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences, Merseburg, Germany, Dr. Werkmeister Rozas and her colleague Professor Johannes Herwig-Lempp hope to have a range of participants, various generations, East and West Germans and those with a history of immigration, to see if there are differences. Dr. Lisa Werkmeister Rozas It is hoped that the study can then be broadened to an even larger population and perhaps comparing it to how US Americans see their identity.

The distinction between national identity and citizenship is greatly dependent on a country’s history of inter-ethnic group relations. In many European countries national identity and ethnicity are interchangeable, while in other countries, such as the United States, national identity in certain respects supersedes ethnicity and/or race. However, neither is completely separate nor static, they are connected, fluid and dynamic. The way identity is negotiated gives insight into the dynamics of inter-ethnic relationships in a country. Examining the newly developing identity of post-war Germans with their experience with migration, discrimination, racism, and prejudice through a social work and human rights lens, allows for greater understanding of how elements of power, privilege and prejudice are created and maintained in any society.