By Xochill Azmitia and Michelle Baek, CSUN MSW Candidates
November 3, 2017 was a sunny and beautiful day in New Orleans. MSW students, community organizers, community members, educators, social workers and advocates came together to engage in dialogue, education, healing and growth at the 2-day 12th Annual Liberation-Based Healing Conference (LBHC), founded by the Institute for Family Services (IFS), held at Southern University at New Orleans. IFS “is a team of family therapists committed to producing change that embraces safe, respectful, nurturing and empowering relationships for all individuals, communities and families.” IFS is well known throughout the nation for its innovative programs, and has a philosophy to embrace the resilience that all families and individuals bring to therapy and create a landscape of liberation in resolving life’s struggles. IFS excelled in holding a safe space for attendees at LBHC.
This year, the conference was titled, “Staying Awake: Resisting Dominance & Mobilizing Hope.” What was so special about this particular trip to LBHC was the number of California State University, Northridge (CSUN) students interested in being a part of the conference. Eighteen CSUN MSW students had the opportunity to attend and participate in the conference with the invaluable support of NASWCA Region G.
CSUN MSW students clearly represented their social work department and were given the opportunity to participate in student panels discussing critical consciousness, decolonization and intersectionality. Students were also able to collaborate with Professor Paez, a CSUN MSW Professor, in creating a video discussing their own experiences of learning within a Eurocentric educational system and the importance of telling one’s story and engaging in alternative ways of learning, working, healing and engaging.
As third-year MSW students, it was a valuable experience for us to engage in dialogue and to learn with a diverse group of students, social workers and educators. We gained invaluable skills and knowledge, and came back with a rejuvenated sense of passion for why we do the work that we do. We were exposed to new interventions to utilize in creating space of healing for our clients and communities such as expressive dance, music, spoken word and storytelling. We had the opportunity to absorb the incredible culture of New Orleans. To be surrounded by fellow social workers passionate about advocating, empowering communities, resisting dominance, mobilizing hope and creating change was absolutely amazing.