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Letter to the Editor: PSU School of Social Work Black Lives Matter call to action

June 4, 2020

Dear Students and Faculty


As agents of change, researchers, educators, social workers, and people working with children, youth, and families, we stand in solidarity and uplift the calls to action shared by Black Lives Matter and other movements for racial justice, radical healing, and structural change. The systemic violence, police brutality, and, specifically, the murders of Black men, women, trans, and non-binary community members has been happening continuously and across generations through multiple forms of oppression.  The violence that we have collectively witnessed over the last several weeks has pushed many of us to our breaking points.  In this moment, many of us are questioning how and why and what we can do to disrupt and resist these systems of terror and harm.  We believe that all of us have a role to play in dismantling the systems of racialized violence and intersectional oppression whether through redistributing funds, protesting, mutual aid, spiritual work, engaging hard conversations with loved ones, and holding space for self-care, healing, rage, and grief.


We must acknowledge the on-going impacts of anti-Blackness, not only on Black communities, but on all racialized communities, and we must directly say: BLACK LIVES MATTER in Portland, in our SSW community. We must also act.  


We call on our community to deepen our commitments and action in the following areas:  


  • Support Black healing and liberation
  • Love and support our Black colleagues, students, and ourselves. Make space for meaningful community and relationship. 
  • Create and sustain safe, healing, responsive spaces for counseling, advising, and mentorship by and for Black members of our community. 
  • Direct people to, fund, and amplify resources for and by Black mental health and community health providers.
  • Recruit and, more importantly, retain (through on-going mentorship, and systemic as well as interpersonal support) Black students, faculty, field instructors, and staff across our programs. 


  • Interrupt anti-Blackness everywhere
  • Deepen our commitment to anti-racist, justice-centered curriculum and pedagogy, including actively centering the voices of Black students, scholars, activists, and educators in our classrooms. 
  • Build more meaningful and reciprocal relationships with Black communities and Black-led organizations, and invest in repairing harms caused by PSU and the SSW.
  • Address anti-Blackness within our own communities, including colorism and the violent intersections of white supremacy, capitalism, settler colonialism, ableism, and heteropatriarchy. 
  • (Re)commit to self-educating, and to disrupting oppression on multiple levels, including in our own homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces.


  • Make an increased commitment to transformative action & social change
  • Leverage our research and practice, in collaboration with students and community, to advance racial justice on micro, mezzo, and macro levels. 
  • Encourage students to center racial justice activism into their academic learning, through their Field Education Plans, independent studies, and other learning opportunities.
  • Commit to decarceration and demilitarization of police forces in Oregon, including PSU. Support movements that divest in policing and reinvest in community-based solutions. #DisarmPSU.
  • Help to sustain local and national movements for Black liberation through financial and practical support.

Over the past week, we have heard many requests from faculty, staff, and students for ways to be in community with one another. We hope to join you in creating spaces for healing, sharing strategies, and taking collective action in the days, weeks, and years ahead. In the meantime, we call on each of us to consider how we deepen our efforts to support Black healing and liberation, interrupt anti-Blackness, and advance transformative action in our own lives and work. 

There are many, many resources available to you online, through the SSW, and in your community, including: places to donate to, calls to action, and educational resources for white folks, non-Black POC, and Black folks.  Seek them out!  


Even though we are in a particular historical moment, remember that the current violence is steeped in anti-Blackness, and has deep historical and systematic roots. Our work is ongoing and we must continue to center anti-Blackness and social justice efforts for the duration.  

Here are a few resources to help get you started.


Support Black healing & liberation


Interrupt anti-Blackness


Take Action