Social work students explore gun violence at James L. Stone Legislative Policy Forum

Students in Syracuse University’s School of Social Work in Falk College recently explored one of the most complex and difficult issues in America today: the unsettling interactions between gun violence, community relations, trauma and racial justice. With a focus on implications for public policy, community responses, and social work practice, the 18th Annual James L. Stone Legislative Policy Forum brought students together with neighborhood, community and political leaders, and other experts to discuss the trauma, pain, and disruption of gun violence, and what is being, and should be, done to address this issue.

“As social workers, we understand that the reality of gun violence in our society cannot be ignored. It is a major issue that is fraught with competing elements. The unthinkable trauma experienced by children, mothers, fathers, and community members, in general, must be acknowledged and treated,” says Keith A. Alford, associate professor, School of Social Work chair and graduate program director. “As a society and even as a local community, we must sadly recognize, not always in an accusatory way, that certain communities have been marginalized and in many cases, forgotten. Proactively addressing rage resulting from feelings of powerlessness and igniting resilience will be crucial if we really want to see positive turnarounds. It is a collective matter that requires our full attention, compassion, sensitivity, and follow through. This is the clarion call we all must answer,” adds Alford.
Keynote speaker, David Alexander Bullock, presented, “The Crisis and Trauma of Gun Violence in the City.” Bullock is the pastor of the Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Highland Park, MI, and founder of the Change Agent Consortium, a national coalition of faith, labor, civil rights organizations and active citizens committed to social change by combining the power of direct action, public policy, and local projects.

Of the event, MSW student Jen LoPiccolo noted, “as social work professionals, it’s imperative that we stay abreast of the political landscape paralleling our work. The Symposium provided an opportunity to listen to unwavering community leaders building an anti-violence movement and creating a space for student activists to contribute. As a native Detroiter, the issues of gun violence, racial justice, and community activism are personal and important to me. This was a humbling and invigorating day that challenged participants to ask themselves: how will I influence policy and be an agent for change?” Guest speakers and panelists included Pam Hunter, Assemblywoman, New York State Assembly, Timothy “Noble” Jennings-Bey, Founder and CEO, Street Addiction Institute, Inc., and Helen Hudson, Syracuse Common Councilor at Large and President Pro Tempore, among many other community leaders.

The day-long event, held at the Onondaga County Courthouse, was organized by Professor Kingson, in collaboration with Professors Keith Alford, Kenneth Corvo, Nancy Mudrick, Matthew Spitzmueller and other social work faculty, and MSW graduate assistant and conference coordinator, Jelilat Williams as well as Sandy Lane, a professor in Falk College’s public health program whose work has addressed the conference topic for more than a decade. School of Social Work alumnus, James L. Stone, MSW ’64 created an endowed fund to support this event into the future and was involved in this year’s event.

“Once again, the School of Social Work has brought together an informative panel of experts, law makers and committed community leaders who bring clarity, understanding, and passion to a significant issue that is relevant to social work practice and policy. We are indebted to James Stone for his generosity in endowing this event,” says Diane Lyden Murphy, Dean, Falk College.

Falk College has on-going collaborative efforts in the community to assist those impacted by violence. In addition to developing trauma-informed care programs in the community and preparing future practitioners in this area, including a Certificate of Advanced Study in trauma-informed practice, research and practice in the field of trauma are a focal point in Falk College.