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Saint Leo 360 Podcast

Episode 30: Social Work, Social Justice, and Unity Roundtable with 3 Social Work Faculty

Posted by Greg Lindberg on March 3, 2021

Episode 30: Social Work, Social Justice, and Unity Roundtable with 3 Social Work Faculty

Download Episode 30 Transcript

Speaker 1:
Saint Leo 360, a 360° overview Saint Leo University community.

Greg Lindberg:
Welcome to another episode of the Saint Leo 360 Podcast. This is your host here with you, Greg Lindberg. On this episode of the Saint Leo 360 Podcast, we have a nice panel of faculty from our Bachelor of Social Work Program. And we're going to be discussing social work, social justice, and just kind of how those two intersect. And I think we've got quite an engaging discussion here ahead of us. So I'd like to introduce the panelists with us here. We have Dr. Ebony Perez, who is the Chair of Undergraduate Social Work here at Saint Leo university. Dr. Perez, welcome.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Thank you, Greg. Glad to be here.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. And then we also have Dr. Sha’leda Mirra. Dr. Mirra, welcome.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here with you today.

Greg Lindberg:
Definitely. And certainly, last but certainly not least, our third panelist is Christina Cazanave. Christina, welcome.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. Alrighty. So Dr. Perez, I'm going to hand it off to you here to get us started.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Thanks, Greg. I appreciate you, all your work and allowing us this opportunity to come together today. So ladies, the three of us as social workers, we have several decades of social work practice under our belt between the three of us. And I wanted to talk today and to let our listeners know not just who we are or what social work is about, but thinking about the state and the condition of our country, how polarized and divided we are, that it doesn't have to be this way and that we have the opportunity to really unify and come together as a nation. And so I wanted to bring us together because you two are powerhouses, in my opinion, of ladies and examples of strong women who have been out there doing the work and really looking at unifying your community, working with people of various opinions and different professions and putting those social work skills into practical use.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
So I just wanted us to chat today about who we are as social workers, what we do, and how we can really come together under this goal of unity and social justice. I know that's a huge topic, it's a broad topic. So I'm going to put it out there to you and give you the first question of what does it mean to you as a community member, as wives and mothers, what does unity mean to you? What does that social justice goal look like?

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
All right. I guess I'll go first. When I think about unity, I think what stands out the most to me, especially with my role in the community as a pastor, is creating those collaboration. Relationship is huge. And I think oftentimes, the disconnect that we see amongst our community has to do with the severing of relationships. It's hard to practice humility, cultural humility, when we're devoid of that relationship. So to me, thinking about our social work gym model and how we function as social workers really is the rudimentary elements of engagement and rapport building. So unity, to me, is about collaboration.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Okay, Christina.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
So I agree with Sha’leda. But I'm going to take it in a little different perspective just for the fact that I am very heavy duty into policy. So I believe that unity is something that we are continuously striving for. There is never a time in our history where we haven't been trying to be unified, all the way from the foundation of our country, coming together and to create a new country all the way up today, to today when we're trying to unify the country because we are in such a polarized state. And I think everybody saw that occur on January 6th, there was no denying there is true polarization. So I believe that we live in a society, unfortunately, that believes what we do as individuals has no effect on others. But I believe you, ladies, and myself, and many people dismiss that notion because we understand that there is no one person, no one entity, a power that can change everything.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
Even if we're looking at one administration left, the new one came in, so everything's going to change and he is going to unify our country. And again, that's a lot to put onto one person. So instead, I see unity as the terms of a democracy hope or the idea that we have a hand in our outcomes. We know if enough of us work together, then there is no denying our voice has power and has character, and then that will keep us moving towards the idea of a holistic unity in our country and globally.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
I like the fact that you brought it down, both of you really to us and what we do. Because let's be real. Oftentimes, people think social worker, warm and fuzzy, touchy feely, but they don't really think about the power that we have as community members and movers and shakers. To me, that idea of unity doesn't mean that we're all sitting around agreeing with everyone that there are no divergent opinions. And I think in this day and age of social media, people are like, "Oh, I don't like what you said," or "I have a different opinion. So I hate you. You hate me." And you're like, "Wait a minute. No, civil discourse was never meant to say that I don't respect you as a human being. It's say that there are differences." I mean, Baskin-Robbins has 31 different flavors. How boring would it be if we only had one flavor of ice cream?

Dr. Ebony Perez:
So there should be no expectation that we're all going to think and do and say the exact same thing. And that creative diversity I think is really what can kind of help us bring us along to kind of that path of understanding. People just want to be understood. I had a student in class this week talk about her idea of social justice was started with just the basic, simple dignity and respect for another person as a human being. And I was like, "Yeah, I can do that."

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
When you break that simplicit definition down, it's really not that hard of a concept, but it's the whole idea of the uncertainty on how to engage in that. Because there are so many professions, cultures, family dynamics like mine. I grew up in a household where we do not talk about things that are uncomfortable. That is not the way of the world. You don't share that, you just keep it rolling. So it's very hard for some individuals to try to tackle a divergent viewpoint or ask somebody who has a divergent viewpoint, "Well, tell me more. What does that mean?" Or on that conversation. And then you add on the layers of what people are seeing, experiencing, and witnessing. It makes that simplicit definition your student put out there and it makes it seem like a giant leap that they have to create.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
But I kind of see it from a little bit of a third perspective here because I think that there is this sense of belonging that is innately within all of us. But I think sometimes that sense of belonging leads us through to this group think where we are only looking for people who agree with the perceptions and the ideals and the beliefs that we have. And I also think that somewhere along the way or even if it ever existed, I guess it's debatable where this common respect existed. And when we talk about critical thinking all the time, and the essence of critical thinking really is wanting to hear perspectives other than your own. You want to be able to from a very viewpoint. But I think our sense of belonging has really kind of hijacked the critical thinking piece.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
We're looking for belonging, and so we tend to acclimate to people who think like us, behave like us, and then once we're in that group and that group is same, it tends to kind of dictate our thoughts and behaviors, it would become more polarized, but in their mind, they really see that out of unity. So even though there's a separation that we see, they have found a group where they belong. So I think the challenge is how do we navigate through the polarized groups that really do see themselves and within a group where they do belong. But there's also feel this holding on to the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that really are very divisive.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
Yeah. What you're talking about is confirmation bias, and we see that all the time. We see that in our social media feeds, we see that in the news that we choose, we see that in the inner circles that we choose, it's just reconfirming our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and commitment to whatever we want to believe in. But I think what, well, I'll say what makes me really proud to be a social worker is we are almost taught not to do that. We are taught to look at every single situation with that gray lens. We meet where the client is at. And the client is not going to be where we want to be.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
We talk about the whole idea of self-actualization. It's not about what we want to put the client through and get them to that successful path, it's how they want to do it. We are the opposite of that. And we have the luxury of really talking to our students in that perspective of you need to leave behind that idea of confirmation bias and move forward into an idea of critical thinking and asking those critical questions of what am I missing, what is there more to this topic? And it's just something that I don't believe many other professions really take as seriously as we do.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
And the interesting thing is that with that, I may come around the block and still end up at the same decision that I started with at the beginning of the conversation. However, what I've gained in that is what you were saying, Dr. Mirra, as far as knowing people outside of that circle and getting a different perspective where I may still disagree with you, but I understand you more. And because I understand you more, then I see you differently and our relationship is built differently. Professor Cazanave, I think you're a hundred percent right. That brings us to a point where not only do we begin to do that in practice, but eventually, you start to embody it because you can't separate that part of you. Like, "Oh, when I get home, I'm going to sit this on the shelf." It doesn't work like that. We begin to view all aspects of our lives. And I think that for me, in I guess moment of transparency, although I think this whole conversation we're being pretty transparent, is my bachelor's degree is in psychology.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
So I was like, "Social work, what does that... All y'all do is snatch babies and work in schools." And then through trying to do something with a bachelor's in psych, I discovered what I really wanted was that hands on opportunity to really make a change in individuals and potentially in systems. And I think that's where social work has the chance to do something really beautiful. It's not that we don't have a sorted history as all professions do. We still have some things we need to atone for. There's some errors that we need to acknowledge and correct in some of the ways that, as a profession, we have been part of systemic racism, systemic oppression, and yet now we have the chance, and I think we really are doing big things in changing these around and really redefining what our profession means. And we're being called to the task. Students out there, if there are students out there who are like, "I want to be a change maker," they are coming into our programs, and they're saying, "Okay, give me what you got and push me a little bit more."

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
And I will tell you, they're pushing me. One of our classes is human behavior in which you're talking about theories. Theories that they have heard in intro to psych, intro to sociology, and here I am teaching it, and I'm bringing in the perspective of feminism and bringing in this first perspective of how this applies to oppression and equality and what could be such a Dole, a fairy Dole topic, is so much more lively because we are talking about things that matter, and we're talking about things that is educational, but in may ensuring that they can see the connection to how it's affecting their lives and how it's going to affect the lives of their future clients. So it's really cool to see our students who are hungry to be change-makers incorporated at every step of their social work journey.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
And I'll just speak from my own experience. I have multiple degrees, so I have a degree in psychology, a degree in criminal justice. I have a master of divinity and my master of social work. And the reality of it is it's the master of social work that really affords me all of the skills to be that communal change agent. So it's social workers. We're trained as generalists. So we have a little bit of knowledge about the vast majority of topics and scenarios and situations around us. So we're called to the task to be the brokers. When an agency or community is looking for someone to serve as that mediator or that liaison, it's social workers that are really being called to the forefront. And so my social work degree actually prepared me to be a better pastor, to be a better community advocate because I have that knowledge of the resources. I have the skills to create the relationships.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
We've been trained in cultural competence and cultural so know how to work within groups that have various intersections. And so, for me, I will say the degree in social work was transformative for me. And I know that it would be transformative for students. We hear it in the classroom now that, they're already feeling this transformation that's happening as they see our generalist model and the preparation that we are really giving them to step into the community and to take these hot topics. I'll give you an example, in my community, within the last couple of days, there was a video released with regards to a law enforcement encounter and a young man whose leg was severely damaged because of the canine. And we see the community as really calling on the pastors, the black clergy, to kind of step up.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
And the question that I had for myself was, is why is the black clergy so silent. And after I sat there and I kind of pondered a response. I said, "You know what, maybe it's me, maybe it's the social worker who's also a pastor that's equipped to stand up and not only identify the changes that need to happen, but to network with other agencies and to also pull not only the clergy, but the community together for a response that's going to heal the community." Because there's so much divisiveness. And it's the social work training, it's the experience that I have garnered as a social worker that I really feel prepared me and will prepare students to really get into the communities, identify those issues, do those needs access and build those strengths that our community needs to respond.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
I want to shift gears a little bit. I mean, we've been talking a lot about social work and community response. I think one of the things that we should also really unpack for the people who are taking their time to stick with us is this idea of social justice. That's a big thing. And depending on who you ask, the definition of social justice can shift. So I always encourage my students. And in fact, in one of my classes, I have them break down and develop their own definition of social justice using scholarly as well as social sources. But one of the things I find interesting is that right now, because of where we are as a country and the fact that this wound, sin, catechism of racism is so ingrained in our country, that when we think social justice, people tend to only think in racial justice.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
And not saying that racial justice is something that we should not attend to. I mean, both of you know me very well and you know that I am a racial scholar, and that's really where my heart is and how we can do and move forward. And yet I think about race in a way that it layers under these other things, class, access resource. So let's talk about, for a minute, that idea of social justice because people hear that buzzword and they don't know what to do with it, they don't know how to think about it, but I want us to unpack beyond racial justice. So for each of you, and we'll start with Professor Cazanave since, Dr. Mirra, you closed out on the last one. Each of you, just kinda tell me what your general thoughts are about social justice. What does that mean to you? How do you unpack that?

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
For me, when I think of social justice, I change the word around to social injustice. So when I'm in the class and we're talking social justice, social justice, I say, "That's where we're striving for. But what we're really tackling is the social injustices, things that are keeping individuals from opportunities, from equal access, and for not being able to have the fundamental rights that other people have. So then I always get the question of, "But we already do that, we're equal in so many things." And I say, "Okay, so let's take the example of public schools." Public school is accessible for all. That's equal, and we're all equal in that, but does everybody receive the same education? No. That's an injustice. Why is it that certain districts, certain communities, certain neighborhoods get better education than others. And let's, in part, break that down more. What's the income level, what's the race, what's the gender, what does it look like?

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
So I think of that terminology, social justice, it's flipping it and saying, "Where are the injustices and what are the reasons for?" is it because I'm choosing because that's different. I have the right to participate or not participate. But social justice is allowing me to have that right. Some people don't have that right. Some people fundamentally said, "Nope, stop here. You can't go any further because of the systems in place, because of the culture in place, because of the ideas in place." And that can be a plethora of different topics and ideas. And each one of us and each one of our students is going to look at an issue and put that under their social justice advocacy. I need to fight this.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
All right. Well, I definitely agree with Professor Cazanave. And when I think about social justice, what comes to mind for me is we talk about equality, but there's also equitability, and then there's access. But if I peel back just a layer deeper, because Professor Cazanave, so eloquently in her definition, kind of covered some of the things that I kind of had at the top of my brain is this implicit bias that is deeply embedded within in the system. So the systemic issues around us, the implicit biases there. But when I think about social justice, it really is about bringing awareness to the fact that this bias exists. It's about creating safe spaces where this implicit bias cannot only be brought to the forefront, but then we can bring together groups to talk about how we can tackle the systemic issues that exist, the systematic processes, for example, that are warding equitability or equality.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
Because the reality of it is equality doesn't always equal equitability. There'll be some issues with regards to access. When I think of social justice, I think of being in the community and championing the safe space to talk about culture, cultural differences. Let's move away from this melting pot of assimilation and began to talk about those things that are deeply embedded in the system, the biases that we have that are subconsciously driving some of the decisions that we're making, the policies that we're pushing, those side lint, undiscussed, undisclosed relationships that exist within our communities that are not talked about but are so divisive.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
And so for me, social justice is really pulling at the root. We're no longer looking at the tree and the branches, but we're starting to dig around the root of the issue because we know that the tree is really being nurtured by what is in those roots. So let's get down to the implicit bias, let's get down to some of the family dynamics and some of the issues that have been prevalent in our communities, for many, many, many generations, that are still there, but we don't want to talk about those things. So for me, that's social justice.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
And I think Dr. Mirra just took us a little bit to church.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Yes, she did. As always. As always. And I agree. So I feel like when we think about the shoulders that we stand on, what I call those social advocacy, social justice warriors. And I'm talking, we can go way back to Mary McLeod Bethune. You know what I'm saying? We can dig in the weeds, we can get back to Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. In the black community, in particular, we've been at this for a minute because we've had to. But less we forget that this struggle of justice and combating social injustice, as Professor Cazanave said, it doesn't only lie on the backs of black folks. And I think that's the thing, in America in particular, what we think about. We forget about the fact that in the seventies, we also had a huge Chicano youth movement where we had 10,000 Chicano youth walk out of class in protest to racial injustice. These were high schoolers.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
When we think about what Dr. King started and that movement with the Civil Rights, he wasn't only pushing for racial equality, but he was pushing for labor and employment equality as well. And that was the next tier when he was assassinated. So unfortunately, he didn't get to delve into that work as deeply because he was gone too long. And I think about these giants who we stand on and are continuing that work. I know I'm a bit older than both of you, but as a gen Xer, one of the things that I often say, "Why are we going to go there?" Because this is significant. We were taught literally that civil rights happened. They marched, we could go to schools, we deserved our place at the table, we were all there, it's time to sing kumbaya. But the message wasn't given that we still had work to do.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
And I think in part, that's why we're still seeing some of the mess that Dr. Mirra brought up. We've been dealing with the branches and we've been dealing with the tree, but we have not yet gotten to the root. And I think when we think about polarization, one of the reasons that it feels so icky right now is because just as our students are bringing us to task, like Professor Cazanave was saying, students pushing her in class, I think that we're all in this place, those of us who are committed to working on injustices in the place where we're saying, we need more, we need to go deeper. And that's uncomfortable. if you have a wound and you're debreeding it, that hurts.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
I just want to say this. I think you are absolutely bright, but I think you're giving credit where sometimes credit shouldn't be given. Think about it, and we've talked about this where, as you said, in your perspective as a gen Xer, you were taught civil rights, they marched, this is what happened, but they arrived.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Woo hoo.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
Right. And then you were inside, but there's more work to do. At least it was told to you because there are many individuals, including myself, who grew up where it wasn't really talked about. And the only time talked about it was in your US history class which covered about maybe a paragraph or two. And it really was about the signing of the civil rights legislation. And then that was it. So you got more than a huge amount of individuals who are now saying, "But I thought this was taken care of. I thought this was done. What is going on?" So I feel like, yeah, you're right. There was a disconnect there, but there's a huge disconnect in which we have never been forced to look deeper into the issues because we just bypass the issue altogether. So we're playing massive catch up with such inaccurate information.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
And a historical information where people are feeling guilty about history. It's history. You can't do anything about it, yet we need to know it and we need to understand those lessons.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
Right. Right. And that's something, as social workers, we do teach from. We look at that whole perspective, not just with our clients and their families because we go back. Tell me about your childhood. Tell me about the house you grew up. Tell me about the neighborhood you grew up. Because all we know all those experiences really form how people make decisions, their relationships, their health now. But we do that with the longer perspective when we're trying to create advocacy at that larger scale, the community scale, the organization scale, what is the history here, and what did you not hear from the history. And acknowledging that history does exist and that we can't ignore it and we can't keep it and shy it away, we acknowledge it is, and we do what we can, but make the guarantee promise that we won't do that again. Which is why people hate politics because they don't learn from it. All they do is put in a new present with a new bow, say this is a new idea when it really isn't.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Right. Right.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
One of the things that I do have such a deep appreciation for with regards to historical generations is when he do search the history, you see the importance of the comradery across the different professions. So when I think back to the civil rights movement, it wasn't just the communities, but there was collaboration from multiple entities because they realized what the cause and they had unity. And everyone wasn't a part of it, but there was a lot of unity within that timeframe when it came to the church, when it came to the community, when it came to educators. And so one of the beautiful things that I think we can learn from what you were taught, Dr. Perez, that I think is really incumbent upon us now is to look at that model, to go back to that model and say what worked, what made that particular movement so effective and so transformative.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
Because like you said, we got to the point where it was like, "Okay, wow, we did it. This is done. No more work to be done." We're going to have to go back to that model and say, "Okay, who were the stakeholders? Who do we need to bring to the table?" Because it's not just, African-Americans. We need a culturally diverse group. And that's one of the things that I loved about Dr. King. When you go back and you look at the marches, you see diversity. And so when we talk about being change agents, because social workers as superheros. It is in us-

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Yes, we are.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
... as being a social worker.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
I think he was all herd.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
One pastor isn't a social worker. But to think about it and to look at that model and say, "What can we extract from that historical movement that would drive that strength in transformation?" So I love the fact that you brought that up, Dr. Perez, we can pull from that moving forward.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Well, and I think that we started to see some of that. With all of the tragedy that happened and all the difficulty that has happened in 2020 and that we're still kind of dealing with, one of the beautiful things I saw was that when you looked at who was in the movement and who was saying, "This is enough, we got to stop," it wasn't one culture of people, there were Americans out there, period. They were black, they were brown, they were white, some were native born, some had migrated to this country. It was all of us together. And that gave me, no pun intended, the audacity to hope. And I think that as a social worker, that is one of our super powers for real, is that we have the audacity to hope and to love so deeply that we are critically looking for ways to improve.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
I need you to get out of my head because that's what I was going to say. I think if you look over the last two decades, there has been so much herd on all of spectrums. And what we've done with that herd is pushed it to polarizing sides, and that's why we are where we are. But I think what makes this last year so remarkable is that concept of hope. It takes believing in hope, hope that we can create change despite the culture of democracy that we see it, that we will collectively agree to open our ears and our hearts and our minds and work together to recreate those solutions. And the solutions that fundamentally, we believe in the core. Yes, we get frustrated. Yes, we feel at times, as social workers, "I can't do this anymore." And I think we've all had those moments and we've all had to say, "But if you don't do it, who's going to do it."

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
But most importantly, it's that hope that we can get to a point where... And I know I use this line a lot where it says all men are created equal, but we want to get to the point where it's all people are created equal with access and the same opportunities and the rights. And that hope and that belief that we'll get there is why we keep doing the work that we are doing, on top of the fundamental piece that we've all spoken to at one point in in our profession that it's a calling for us. We all have said social work called on us. I can say I didn't know what social work was when I came to, well, Saint Leo University. I didn't know what that was when I came as a student, let me clarify that. But I just knew I wanted to help. I saw what the world was going to for my experiences and I wanted to help.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
And it took another social worker and now colleague to say, "Well, that's what you are meant to do, and that's under the umbrella of social work." And social work allows me to look at social justice issues in so many different perspective where I can collaborate with you, Dr. Perez, and your movement for anti-racist and anti-racist actions. And Dr. Mirra, you looking at it, the perspective of how social work and religion have come together, and we need to do a better job as religious institutions. And for me, looking at it from the perspective of policy and advocacy, and especially right now, and really champion the idea of women's rights.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Where we three can come from very unique perspectives in how to tackle these issues, but fundamentally, it's coming back to whole idea of we fight because we believe in that hope. And we believe in the power of one another. Not just the three of us here in this conversation, but in the power of other people. I believe that we can do this. And because I believe that, I'm going to give it my all.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
Right. Because if we can tackle anti-racist issues, then it can help with gender and women equality, which is going to help bring the church back into the position where they should be in helping these communities. So if I can work on your issue, your issue is going to help my issue because we fundamentally see how everything's connected.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Connected. Connected. Absolutely.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
I think, though, it really is about creating this space that we have to get past this notion of just cultural awareness. We have to mature even past cultural sensitivity. In fact, I truly believe that we have to get past mere cultural competence. We can not see or have this belief in individuality, and we can not get to this foundation of belief in purpose until we can get to the place of cultural humility. It's not about us agreeing, but it's about having respect for one another that we can disagree and yet still be amicable because love really does cover.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
A multitude.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
I don't have to agree with you, but love really does cover a multitude of sins. I may not agree with what you're doing, but my love will cause me to transcend that. And so there's certain ways I won't treat you and there certain things I will never say to you. There's certain ways I would want to never make you feel because when we can get to the place of cultural humility, then there is this respect for God's creation to be able to look at another human being and understand that just like me, that person was created in the image of God and because they bear the image of God. Then there's a certain level of respect that I must hold even if I don't agree.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
And I think for me, that's where we have to be. And I think that we stopped at cultural competence. We think that having all of this knowledge about different cultures equips us to interacted, to understand, and to be impacted, and it does not. We have to go a step further in the journey because humility is practical application. It is making this thing a part of your walk. It is character. And I think when get there is where we're really going to see the change when we can feel what the other person is feeling, when we can respond to them from that place of, if I say, "Belief in divinity and understanding their place and position in God and with God, created by God," then that changes our response so much.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Dr. Mirra, it's funny, like that coming into it. I think about when you think of all of the "major" religions or any spiritual movements, there's that push and that connection to unity, no matter what you name that universal being. So I think sometimes people, when you get into the principles of things and they want to even try to label these basic human principles and you're like, "Yeah, no, this doesn't just belong to Christians or Jewish people or Muslim folks. This idea belongs to all of us. It's part of first nations culture. It's part of who we are just as entities walking around." Oh my gosh, this is absolutely fabulous. I could do this all day.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
I'm pumped it. I am pumped.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
I know.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
So what are we going to do next, like storm castle. What are we doing now?

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Right. Well, we know we've got work to do. Particularly here at Saint Leo University, we are committed to social justice. Our president, Dr. Senese, he is committed to social justice. Our administration, our board, they really supported us, and so we thank them for that. And we have faculty on campus who are all in. We have staff who are all in, we have students who are all in. And so for me, that's one of the things that make Saint Leo a really special place is that we are working to embody this and to act it out and not just be words on paper or words on a website like we're doing it.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
So Professor Cazanave, I don't know, we got lots of stuff going on. So we'll keep the program and running, our activities and events on campus. Both of you have been involved in so many initiatives, and I thank you, and I honor you for that. It is a pleasure to work with you ladies, day in and day out. I am honored not just to call you colleagues, but also to call you friend and for just being a part of my community and my life and pushing on. Thank you so much.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
So I just want to thank you for me to be a part of this and reminding me about my own civic character, reminding me that we all live together in this public life and that we need to act in service of that common good. And that when we do that, we are striving for character in the collective. And you remind me of that on a day to day basis, so do you, Dr. Mirra, so thank you both for allowing me to join you today.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
And I have to thank you Dr. Perez for the invite. It is always a pleasure to engage in dialogue with both you and Professor Cazanave. But for me, I'm deeply appreciative to be a part of this clarity and call. It really is about our community, it is about transformation. And I know that when the three of us get together, there's strength and numbers, there are strength and the relationship and connection. So thank you for allowing me to be a part of this today and knowing that our university, my alma mater, for all of my degrees is a great place to come to learn, to grow, and to become transformative in our communities.

Dr. Ebony Perez:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you, ladies, so much.

Prof. Christina Cazanave:
Thank you.

Dr. Sha’leda Mirra:
Thank you.

Speaker 1:
To hear more episodes of the Saint Leo 360 podcast, visit saintleo.edu/podcast. To learn more about Saint Leo's programs and services, call (877) 622-2009 or visit saintleo.edu.

Episode Summary

In this episode of the Saint Leo 360 podcast, we feature an engaging and thought-provoking roundtable discussion with three panelists who teach in the Bachelor of Social Work degree program at Saint Leo University. The panelists are Dr. Ebony Perez, chair of the undergraduate social work program, along with Prof. Christina Cazanave and Dr. Sha’leda Mirra. The three faculty members discussed:

  • Why there is so much divisiveness in our society and how social media factors into this
  • Simple starting points on how we can bring more unity to our population
  • The meaning of the term “social justice” and what this concept represents in our society
  • Why “social justice” is so much more than racial justice
  • The diversity among the collective group who have shown support for social justice and unity over the past year
  • How Saint Leo University has supported the positive efforts of the social justice movement from the standpoint of these three social work faculty members

Links & Resources

Learn more about the Bachelor of Social Work at Saint Leo University.

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