Dean Linda Burton's statement on the shootings of Jacob Blake and Trayford Pellerin

August 25, 2020

Good Evening Haviland Community!

I hope that you are all safe and healthy.

As I reflect on the events of the last several days, I know that the hearts of the Haviland community are going out to Mr. Jacob Blake and his family at this time. Mr. Blake, an African American man, was shot in front of his children by a white police officer yesterday. While Mr. Blake survived the shooting, just two days before, Mr. Trayford Pellerin, also an African American man, was killed by police officers in Lafayette, Louisiana. I know that our hearts go out to Mr. Pellerin's family, as well as the families of others whose names we don't know but have lost their lives in similar ways.

Although the facts in these cases are still unfolding, these incidents are more than troubling and illustrate the ongoing struggles for justice that we commit ourselves to facing every day. As a community of learning, practice, and empathy in all matters "social welfare," we have voices and skills that, as John Lewis said allows us to engage in a different kind of trouble — "good trouble." That good trouble allows us to mobilize our resources to effectuate necessary social change. So what does that mean?

I have at least three thoughts on the matter. First, as your Dean, I am reaching out to share a desire for change in our Haviland community that includes each and every one of us becoming truly "woke." When I say "woke" I am referring to its deeper meaning rather than how the term is used in popular discourse. I want us all to be aware of and know the history of racism and social injustice in this country and what it looks like in everyday life. With that knowledge, I want us all to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we can, as individuals and as a collective, do to contribute to social change in a healthy and sustainable way.

As one example, I am eager to see continued growth in our skills and understanding around these challenges. Specifically, I want to see us make a concerted effort to have our faculty, students, and staff sitting at "the table" in leadership positions, at UC Berkeley and beyond, armed with the skills and knowledge to "work it" and see our wisdoms shaping those ongoing discussions. Crucial forms of social welfare knowledge and practice will not have the necessary impact that we know is so critical unless we take seats at the table. To achieve this goal we need to educate, promote, nominate, and sponsor each other in pursuing leadership roles. We are our own best advocates.

Additionally, we must help to write reform policies around systemic racism and be the authors of new practices, policies, and laws. Guess what? Some of our SSW graduates like Congresswoman Barbara Lee are doing just that. Let's put a few more of our people in these key places.

Third, this academic year's community events will include anti-racism and social change game-changers dropping in to visit us in classes and in school-wide presentations. We need to know what they know. Seizing the opportunity to learn from Ambassador Attallah Shabazz was only the beginning. Our SSW leadership team and our students are working hard to bring others.

When Ambassador Shabazz spoke last Friday, she talked about the importance of being strategic for the long game so that when we are frustrated we're not "swinging in a direction that cannot give you the answer." Anger and anguish are more than understandable, but they are not nearly as effective as shaping new policies and having a seat at the table. And, if we advocate for each other we won't need to bring Shirley Chisholm's folding chair.

I am wishing you supportive, peaceful, and purpose-driven thoughts at a time when grief and rage can easily take over and take us off our game. We have some "good trouble" to get in to. Let's do it!

In solidarity and community,

Dean Burton