November 7, 2022 at 11:30 AM

Reflections on Our Collective Voice & VOTE!

Dear CSSW Community,

In this election season, I have been reflecting on what it means to utilize our voice, both individually and collectively. What’s at stake when we remain silent? How do we better support those who are collectively stripped of their voice for a myriad of reasons? And what does using our voice look like in action? While reflecting on these questions, I thought of Zora Neale Hurston, renowned anthropologist and author, who once said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” Tomorrow is the last day to vote in the midterm elections here in the United States – one of the many tools in our toolbox to speak, and speak loudly. If you did not vote early, I do hope you will exercise your right tomorrow. Here is a link to help find your polling site.

This voting season is tainted by horrifying events that have occurred throughout the world. I was saddened to learn of increased threats to New Jersey Synagogues last week—the latest example of growing antisemitism across the nation. As we gear up for the holiday season, I am troubled to think of the extra burden and fear our Jewish community faces as they honor their traditions. I am troubled that in 2022, we need to continue to fight against this type of bias. It is unacceptable and we must all do our part to stand up against such hate.

In Iran, there are women and girls utilizing their voices to raise awareness around gender equity issues. Their efforts were sparked by the death of an Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police. It is heartbreaking to see what is happening in the midst of their bravery, and I imagine it is terrifying for members of our Iranian community in particular, who are so far away from home. Our DEI Office, as well as Student Affairs, will continue to hold space for those in our community who need support processing all that is happening.

Our interconnectedness is front and center. Whether it is the latest developments in Brazil, which can directly impact what happens with the world’s largest rainforest – or the passing of Harlem’s son, the Reverend Calvin O. Butts, III (pastor of the internationally known Abyssinian Baptist Church and a leading social justice activist) – our connection to each other has never been more palpable.

Reverend Butts was known for repeating the phrase, “Keep the faith.” It was his way of providing hope (regardless of any religious affiliation) during difficult times and to continue to encourage all to raise their voices. Our voices are powerful. They are potent. They are more far-reaching than you know. Let’s make sure ours are heard!

In community,

Melissa D. Begg

Dean & Professor

Columbia School of Social Work