Some 75 social work professionals gathered via Zoom for the 22nd Annual Julie Claire Gutterman Lecture, on April 9, “Enhancing Practice to Promote Healthy Communities in Response to Societal Violence.” The late Julie Gutterman was an integral part of Jewish Family Service and cared passionately about professionalism and continued learning, said JCS President and CEO Erin Minior. “There’s no more fitting tribute to Julie’s memory than to bring people together for an annual day of learning,” said Minior.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Loren Intolubbe-Chmil, a co-founder and managing partner of Core Collaborative International, led attendees through multi-media exercises and discussions designed to contribute to an environment and society free of violence.
“Many different indigenous organizations have started incorporating land acknowledgments,” Intolubbe-Chmil explained at the outset. “I respectfully acknowledge that wherever we are, we are on native land… and expressing gratitude for generations of stewardship… and recognizing generations of violence.” She described herself as a social justice educator who relies on indigenous practices and perspectives.
After a year of living through the pandemic, said Intolubbe-Chmil, we’ll evaluate how we might acknowledge our perceptions of the health and safety of others, perceptions about social justice and social injustice, “Last summer [of 2020] was a pivotal change – what can we learn and how can we build from that?”
Between small group interactive sessions, Intolubbe-Chmil posed these, and other, questions:
- How can we further integrate the need for connection? The work we do as clinicians is contingent on that human need for connection; we’re all experiencing that need for the energy that we get from other people.
- How do we get past the divineness of social discourse and understand what people are trying to say? What’s cultivating that divisiveness, rather than a sense of curiosity and compassion?
- How can we make organizations and institutions more just, more human, more equitable?
- Where does trauma-informed care fit…how do we understand ourselves? We have to start with ourselves and then expand to spheres of influence to understand cultural competence. What does well-being look like… and how is it representative of everyone in the community?
Adhering to the very long-range perspectives held by Hopi elders, Intolubbe-Chmil said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for; it’s our time absolutely… how can we expand the scope of what we’re doing and how can we do that in the community?”
In the United States, the dominant cultural expectation contributes to white supremacy that we must understand better. It’s not just the Proud Boys or the KKK; we must be able to talk about the truths of the everyday reality and expectation of whiteness, she said. “There are profound consequences for those who have less proximity to dominant culture, …and that contributes to intergenerational trauma. It’s what happened to parents, grandparents, and those before…The first step to dismantling it is to acknowledge that truth.”
Referencing the gun violence of Columbine and Sandy Hook and other mass shootings as well as 9/11 and the Charlottesville, VA white supremacy insurgency, Intolubbe-Chmil warned, “Nothing is going to change until we acknowledge what is driving those conditions in the first place… we have to understand these as part of the same root causes of colonization, white dominant culture and toxic hyper-masculinity.” One’s age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, physical ability (or lack thereof), and socioeconomic status all impact how we perceive and interact with the world at large.
The ecological systems model is a way of applying or understanding the diversity of others, especially in relation to our own identity and life experiences, and understanding how we can adapt our practices to be culturally competent and relevant, said Intolubbe-Chmil. Noting that many of the attendees were older than 65, she said: “Considering the indigenous perspective of taking into account the past seven generations and considering the seven generations to come, what wisdom can we bestow? Grief is part of the world; trauma is part of the world… but they don’t have to be as consequential or common as they are.”
Culturally responsive mental health practitioners are aware of their own worldview and how that’s been shaped. “No matter how many credentials we have…, we’ve all been socialized into certain ways of thinking. A culturally responsive practice is a step back:” She asked: How does my cultural orientation impact the people I work with or my larger community? The goal is transformation and restoration… it’s a challenging frame of reference and …restoring people to being their whole selves with a sense of wellbeing.”
The attendee’s willingness to follow and participate in, with undivided attention, the in-depth discussion and ideas outlined in this lecture is evidence of their commitment to their field. “We are extremely thankful to Loren, our team at JCS for organizing the lecture, and attendees for another intriguing, organized, and successful year of the Gutterman Lecture. We look forward to next year,” said Minior.
The 2022 Gutterman Lecture Save the Date will be announced later this year. For any questions, please reach out to Janelle “JC” Roussel at Janelle@jfsri.org.