In July 2020 when I started my presidency, taking over from the warmth and generosity of our past president Ana Puig, the pandemic was well under way and quarantine was the responsible decree of living. For six million people and counting around the world, a tiny invisible virus became huge and lethal, and one way or another, disrupted all our lives. We found in the next ten months, our lives getting smaller and more circumscribed, divided and divisive, hating, frustrated, and distressed. Suddenly, plans to travel, gather in celebration or to mourn, give care and counsel, teach and learn, went on hold. Hugging others, sending a child to school, going out to eat around strangers, shaking hands all became sources of danger rather than connection. Many of us are still grappling with losses that had no closure and bereavements we have had no opportunity to grieve, while continuing to feel instability, fragmentation, and isolation.
As we contemplate the ending of the pandemic, we must stay aware of how changed we are and not expect that we will be able to shrug off the effects of this time. Particularly for children, youth coming of age, essential workers, health care workers, and everyone who felt disenfranchised, marginalized, and isolated, this has been a time of learning while often plumbing the depths of helplessness, hopelessness and despair. We have been taught to fear others, and in a time of social distancing, to fear connecting and relating because it can harm us. Anxiety, depression, and apprehension will be common and we need to be able to hold it in compassion for ourselves and others.
We learnt that racism and particularly its continuing everyday role in the African American experience in this country is a historical and current reality that some deny while others of our compatriots defend. It is increasingly urgent now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed in heartbreaking clarity how people of color are disproportionately impacted with a four times higher prevalence. In ASGW, we joined with our fellow counseling Divisions to declare that Black Lives Matter and that until they do in every realm of safety, opportunity, access, equity and freedom, we cannot say that all lives matter.
We learnt that one life that does matter over all others is the life of the planet. During the quarantine that shut the human world down, we began to hear birdsong, pollution levels dropped, night stars could be seen, and animals returned to walk down streets.
We are in the process of reconceiving ourselves to be available as a resource and support in the social crises in which we find ourselves. As an organization, The Association for Specialists in Group Work exists so that members and other helping professionals are empowered with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to practice effective, socially just, and ethical group work in a diverse and global society.
We have a redesigned and more accessible and agile website, with the ability to deliver webinars and streaming video, connect with social media, and be able to provide members with access to resources and products to assist. The Communications Committee has worked extremely hard on this.
The Special Initiatives Committee responsively developed Ten Tips for the Facilitation of Virtual Groups.
The Membership Committee has reached out to new members and sent notices of renewals and expiration, and begun to offer webinars on various topics with the most recent on The School Counselor’s Guide To Using A Solution Focused Approach with Students, Teachers, and Groups. If you have an idea for one, please reach out to them.
The Products Committee in this virtual world has worked hard to digitize products and e-books, while still working on producing the group t-shirts we love so much. Finally, the Conference Committee has been working hard on the 2022 ASGW Conference set to be held in Atlantic Beach. The call for proposals is out there and is due on the 15th of this month. Please consider participating. We will have both in-person and virtual options to join together.
The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, under the guidance of Dr. Kristopher Goodrich, had stellar publications, including Special Issues on Group Work with African American Children and Adolescents and Career Development.
I want to let you know that the next Board taking over in July is fabulous, with Lorraine Guth as President, Kathy Ybannez-Lllorente as President Elect, Kendra Jackson as Treasurer, with stability from Rachel Vannata as Secretary and Chris Bhatt as Governing Council Rep, and Ana Puig staying on as Process Observer.
I wish that in 2021, we move through the gateway created by the pandemic and all it has exposed of the deep structural flaws of our societies, and keep our histories as cautionary tales at the threshold but re-envision as we build our new normal. I wish us to reach out to each other, in humility, in forgiveness, in acceptance and validation. I wish each of us the opportunity to fight for a world where all have access and all, across race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, socioeconomic status and ability, faith and age, across the globe are delivered safety and nourishment adequate to grow with and flourish. I wish us wisdom to let go of the old, cherish and value this world we live in, so worthy of saving.
Devika Dibya Choudhuri, 2020-2021 ASGW President