NASW-Illinois Chapter President Latesha Newson, MSW, LCSW
Greetings, NASW-IL Social Work Community,
I hope that your holiday season is off to a great start. What I love about this season is that it evokes a heart of gratitude. As I reflect on the many blessings and challenges that I have journeyed through this past year, I am truly grateful. I am grateful for the remarkable and groundbreaking work that we have done together as a chapter and the impact that it will have in advancing our social work profession. I am also grateful to lead this organization and serve our membership as board president. I have been blessed to meet and develop some lasting relationships which I find very meaningful. I look forward to forging new relationships with our membership in this next coming year and would like to hear more from our membership as we build collaboratively together in 2024. As I reflect on a heart of gratitude, I am grateful for some honorable mentions that have occurred since my last "From the Pen of the President," article.
In our chapter news, I am happy to announce that our Legislative Committee development and appointments have been finalized. Michael Mallory has accepted the appointment to chair this committee and the following members have also been appointed:
Chair: Michael Mallory, MSW, LCSW
Jacki Brunk, MSW, LCSW
Vincent Cieslak, BA, CDVP, CADC
Jacob Frazier, BFA
Kathrine Galloway, MSW, LSW
Ky A. Miller, MSW, LCSW
Darby J. Morhardt, PhD, LCSW
Kimberly Stoerger, MSW
We look forward to the important work that they will do for our chapter in helping to shape and provide input on our chapter advocacy and legislative efforts.
I am grateful to recently honored with the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Health and Human Services at my esteemed alma mater of Governors State University. It is an honor to be recognized by my colleagues and institution for my work and contribution to the field of social work. This award is so meaningful to me as it also pays tribute to the exceptional education experience that I received from the Department of Social Work at Governors State University. I find myself in a full circle moment, transcending from student, to alumni, and now to full-time faculty. This is a dream realized and one that I hold dear. I am grateful for my social work mentors and professors that taught me the fundamentals of social work but who also modeled for me how to be genuine, intentional, compassionate, and committed to those we have the privilege to serve in our profession.
I am also grateful to be a part of a monumental development at Governors State University and the groundbreaking of its Social Justice Initiative. As a member of its advisory council, it is remarkable to see this great vision that began approximately two years ago come to life. The Social Justice Initiative (SJI) has already made such a significant contribution and impact in the southland area. The SJI's mission is to transform vulnerable populations, racial and economic injustice, and structural and social barriers of underrepresented individuals, families, and communities in the southland and state of Illinois. SJI’s goal is to address these social conditions through the utilization of research, policy, advocacy, restorative justice, and experiential learning.
The areas of focus of the SJI include the following:
The Self-Help Legal Assistance Clinic
Student Leadership Development
Arts, Culture, and Media
Generating Hope – A Comprehensive Restorative Justice Program and Support for System Impacted Students (formerly involved with the criminal justice system)
I am also honored and grateful for the invitation to participate in the Black Women's Work Symposium at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice on Friday, December 1st. I look forward to joining in this rich dialogue-sharing on the panel topic, “Black Women and the Field of Social Work."
This symposium is a unique gathering designed to provide Black women at the University of Chicago and beyond with a dedicated space for reflection on their labor within various dimensions of life, including community, institutions, families, and healing. The mission is to create an inclusive platform for sharing the narratives and stories of Black women and the impact of labor on their well-being, families, communities, and healing journeys.
This symposium offers an invaluable opportunity to discuss and explore the pivotal role that labor plays in the lives of Black women, examining how it can be a site for both oppression and liberation, as well as a space for organizing and empowerment.
As we transition out of this month and into a new year, I find myself in a place of self-reflection. Self-reflection is a pinnacle of our work and as practitioners who impact the lives of those most vulnerable, I believe it is important to self-evaluate how we have shown up personally and professionally with a renewed commitment to evolution and to service. This past year, I have witnessed the need for continued growth and advancement in our profession. My greatest hope is that we as social workers never lose our sight of our sense humanity and that we find value in our differences. For it is our differences and shared, lived experiences that help inform our work, enrich the lives of our colleagues and the people we serve, and thus, move our profession forward.
Wishing you all a blessed and prosperous new year!
Latesha Newson, MSW, LCSW, serves as university lecturer and BSW field coordinator at Governors State University in the Department of Social Work. She is a strong advocate for social justice and works to influence policies that create equitable and transformative change in our society. She has served on the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors since 2019, previously as Calumet District Chair, chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Committee (DEIAC), and as member of the national NASW Delegate Assembly. In 2020 she served as co-chair of the NASW-Illinois Chapter Task Force on Racial Justice where the chapter’s final recommendations on police reform were reflected in the Criminal Justice Omnibus bill. Latesha believes that it is our social responsibility to create and effect change through advocacy, policy, and the advancement of social work.