Executive Director’s Message: Remembering Congressman Elijah Cummings

Congressman Elijah Cummings
1951-2019

By: Janlee Wong, NASW-CA Executive Director

Born in Baltimore, son of sharecroppers, Mr. Cummings graduated from a Baltimore high school in 1969, then from Howard University in 1973 and the University of Maryland School of Law in 1976.  His political career included the Maryland General Assembly and then in 1996 being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a crowded field.

Mr. Cummings personifies not only the struggle of historically oppressed people but also the triumph of what one can accomplish regardless of racism and white privilege.  His lifelong devotion to Baltimore, to its poorest and most disadvantaged populations exemplifies the best of social action and social justice, one of social work’s highest ethical tenets.

His finest work at the end was his political action, chairing the House Oversight and Reform Committee and taking on President Trump.  When the target of a Trump attack tweet calling Baltimore a “rat and rodent infested mess,” Mr. Cummings didn’t back down and blasted him back decrying Trump’s racism.  No one can eliminate racism and white privilege and Mr. Cummings fought it long and hard.

Social workers would love to see poverty and inequality eliminated but we don’t live in that kind of world…yet.  When we struggle for social and economic justice, we can be uplifted when we think of Mr. Cummings, rising out of poverty and oppression, and not forgetting his roots and his community.  We are inspired by his grace and courage in standing up to a bully in the White House.  Thank you, Elijah Cummings and your life has strengthened our resolve, as social workers to fight for a fair and just society.

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