I have been very appreciative of the moments this year where I have received a reward acknowledging the work that I am so passionate about. I am linking below a video of my speech and the transcription.
I am very grateful for the ongoing encouragement, support, mentorship and acknowledgment from my co-workers, family and friends.
Good morning everyone. I have so much gratitude for the ability to be here with everyone; sharing in the collective work and goal of supporting people to thrive through the challenges of mental health disorders and addiction. It is an honor to be recognized in this work among the professionals and change agents in this room.
I want to take the opportunity to start this morning with a Zulu greeting that is used in different parts of Africa. People greet one another by saying “Sawubona” which means “I see you”. The traditional response to this is a word (“Ngikhona”), which means “I am here”.
It is said that it is inherent in the Zulu greeting and response that there is a sense that until you saw me, I didn’t exist. By recognizing one another we are calling a sense of community and purpose into existence. So this morning I start with saying Sawubona to all the people here, doing the work of hope. I see you.
As I reflect on the importance of our collective work I think about the many opportunities we have to shift micro and macro experiences around the importance of mental health support. Whether working with one child, one family, one community or in the macro work of society; the ability to engage with individuals fighting to thrive is one of the most powerful things we can do in a JUST society.
My professional work as a mental health provider, advocate, and activist was paved by many of the lessons I learned from my mother at an early age.
My mother was a woman of service. She taught me to be present for the needs of others by showing me how to be present with those who needed it the most. She took care of children, fed people, and shared shelter with others when they needed it. I will never forget her memorial, sitting in a packed room, and listening to every person speak about living with my mom. My husband leaned over to me and asked if everyone had lived with her… and I told him, “pretty much”.
She taught me that service was an act of love, and that love was active.
Whether she was running her daycare, feeding the neighbors, becoming a foster mother or adopting everyone into her family…… her kind of love was the kind that came with service to others. Love as an action and not just a feeling. My mother taught me to see the inherent dignity and worth in every person. No wonder I grew up to be a social worker.
I was 23 years old when I started working in Drug Treatment services at New Bridge Foundation, and I truly I grew grew up in my career there. I spent 16 years at New Bridge learning, growing and being able to witness the path to healing with so many young people. Today I work for Lincoln Families as a Program Manager of two programs that oversee mental health services for young people and families in various levels of the system.
It is truly a blessing to have the chance to do this work. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing children and young people on their journey to push beyond survival. To be witness to the humanity of those who are too often without a voice and silenced in their struggle. Young people assumed to be high risk, behavior challenges, unmanageable, or out of control…. And in reality they are just scared, traumatized, disempowered, and searching for a way to be seen.
In my most recent trip to Sacramento, standing in front of the state legislature along side Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, I gave my second testimony in support of Assembly bill 456. And I thought then as I do now…. That this work need us to show up, be present and be willing to move beyond our own comfort to support a picture of equity and opportunity for wellness for others.
This reflection of the work reminds me that there is not a more critical time than right now to engage hope and love in action in the world. We are living in a time when civil liberties are being stripped from marginalized populations, the prison industrial complex is thriving, access to healthcare is being ripped apart, trans and non-binary identified individuals are targeted, immigrants are dehumanized, families are being forcefully separated, police violence is rampant, national suicide rates are up, school shootings have become normalized and the reality of poverty continues to reach far and wide. California is still above national average for child poverty and we understand the impact that this can have on child and family functioning. And systematic disenfranchisement continues to sweep through the very fabric of our society and racism continues to stare us in the face.
There is not a more critical time than right now to continue to engage in advocacy to promote the wellness of children and families, to increase access to mental health and substance treatment, to support best practices and implementation of culturally significant supports.
There isn’t a more important time than now.
I would like to end with one of my favorite quotes from a leader in the liberation movement: Afeni Shakur.
“I guarantee that the seed you plant in love, no matter how small, will grow into a mighty tree of refuge. We all want a future for ourselves and we must now care enough to create, nurture and secure a future for our children.”
I thank you for inviting me here today and for continuing to honor and embrace the work of hope for our young people. I am truly grateful to share space with you all here today, and within the work. A special thanks to my long time coworkers and friends Georgette and Abby for this nomination. And to my husband Jonathan for everything.
And with love in action, I say Sawubona to everyone here today working to make a difference. I see you….”