Omar Mohamed’s Perspective (Tech Person):
The “Anti-Racist Social Work: The Theory and Practice” webinar was always a plan for the Student Connect Team in which the University of Birmingham’s Social Work Society are involved in, however getting a time that suited the 5 exceptional guest speakers meant that the date for this webinar had to keep being pushed back. Whilst the tragic murder of George Floyd triggering the amplification of the Black Lives Matter movement became a clear reason for anti-racist social work to be highlighted, anti-racist social work has been talked about for decades. Therefore, this webinar needed to contribute meaningfully to the understanding, awareness, and practice of being anti-racist in social work.
In order to achieve this, new and fresh ideas needed to be explored through the likes of Diana Katoto taking up the student spotlight and giving her thoughts on current leadership and education around anti-racism. Kayleigh Rose Evans and Vanessa Sibanda were able to offer an interesting perspective on how white privilege, racism, and anti-racist practice lives in current social work practice. Wayne Reid was able to offer some insight into the leadership around anti-racist social work from the British Association of Social Workers’ work as well as drawing on some of his own lived experience. Dr Prospera Tedam, through her years of lived experience and professional expertise, offered an exciting perspective on the theory around anti-racist social work as well as her own model and research.
At the heart of bringing all these exceptional guest speakers together, was Siobhan Maclean and the Student Connect Team. From my perspective as the ‘behind the scenes, tech person’ it was exciting to be the one emailing the guest speakers, collecting information and resources they wanted shared as well as facilitating the Zoom Webinar functionalities according to their presentation needs. Whilst my role was to ensure all the tech was perfect before, during and after the webinar, I was also on hand to offer emotional support to the panellists who were rightly nervous and worried as we had around 1,200 registered for the live webinar! Something important to reflect on and a key learning point from the whole experience is how traumatic it is to continually talk about experiences of racial injustice and in hosting this webinar, whilst the intent was to amplify the voices of black people in social work and explore anti-racist social work themes such as institutional racism, white privilege and cultural competence, all of this continues to be difficult to talk about and adds to the trauma of racial injustice.
Overall, being apart of a webinar to explore and add fresh and new perspectives on anti-racist social work was extremely rewarding and an honour. I am proud of the webinar achieving 1,200 registrations, 800 live webinar attendees, and just over 1,000 views on the recorded YouTube video. Students, NQSW’s, PEs, Academics, Practitioners, and more from a variety of backgrounds, countries and experiences attended and I am hopeful that the guest speakers and their passionate talks will contribute to much-needed change in social work on a macro level.
Diana Katoto’s Perspective (Presenter):
As a young black woman, I have had my fair share of traumatic racist experiences, and I have struggled in the past with understanding what I could do to make things better. When I started studying BA Social Work at the University of Birmingham, I connected to the idea of the profession fighting against injustices and inequality. It aligned with my personal core values, which made me feel like I had chosen something that was meant for me. From the first day, I was engaging in conversations about the issues of the lack of diversity in the curriculum and the teaching staff, which was welcomed from the students, lecturers, and Head of Department.
I was given the opportunity to be one of the guest speakers due to my effects in challenging the silence from the Social Work profession in the UK around George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial injustices in this country. On the 30th May, I tweeted about my discomfort, which sparked a wide discussion about what social work has and has not done regarding racial inequality in the UK and internationally. Then I recorded a YouTube video entitled ‘Black Lives Matter: The Lack of Response from the UK Social Work Profession’, which acted as a continuation of my tweet. People from across the UK watched this video, from frontline social workers, students, academics, and social work organisations. Siobhan Maclean thought it would fit to have me as a speaker after watching the video.
Leading up to the webinar, I was in a state of nerves. I had spent the entire day doubting myself and my capabilities. Every time I tried to practice my speech, I messed it up. The amount of people registered and the wealth of knowledge of the other amazing guest speakers was scary, as I would have never of thought a year ago, I would do this! Thankfully, I was able to overcome it with the help of the Student Connect Team. Once I reminded myself why I was doing it and the passion I had for it, it set my mind at ease. I put my speech to the side and just spoke from the heart. One of the key points I made was that representation matters in practice and social work education. We need to have racially diverse people in positions of power. We need to have support systems that understand the effects of racism throughout the whole process of becoming a social worker and after we are registered. I also noted that everyone has a part to play in ensuring that change is made. I have made sure to do my part.
Ultimately, this opportunity was truly a once in a lifetime experience. These social work webinars have created a sense of community in a time of worry and uncertainty. This is thanks to Siobhan Maclean and the Student Connect Team. I have high hopes for the future of social work, hopefully we can all do our part to improve the lives of those around us through educating ourselves.