Gloria James and her work with the UB Association of Black Social Workers

Gloria James.

by Jana Eisenberg

Gloria James, an MSW student, saw a need to start a UB chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW). After initial challenges connecting with the Buffalo chapter, she learned about university-specific chapters and took action. That’s a piece of Racial Justice Network’s intent, said Prof. Laina Bay-Cheng: highlighting the work that people were already doing; helping ensure that others are aware and can participate if they’d like. Mosaics spoke briefly with James about her work.

What is the general importance for universities to have organizations like ABSW?

Gloria James: Forming the chapter felt reactive—which, as social workers, we shouldn’t be. We should be aware—from UB’s point of view, it should have been happening already; social workers should be working against injustice. The university should look to and network with places like historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs); how they model their programs. From my macro social worker perspective, I want to look at things like admissions and how some requirements may limit Black students’ access to education.

Why did you start UBABSW?

GJ: After learning that neither Buffalo State College (where I got my undergraduate degree) or UB had a chapter, I felt like we were behind in addressing the disparities between students who are Black, white and other ethnicities. It was a way to push forward, especially in the academic environment. The UBABSW is now affiliated with the Buffalo chapter, which is on a path to grow. When I complete my MSW, I will transition to the Buffalo chapter. 

How does being affiliated with the RJN help?

GJ: When I started developing the chapter, I was unaware that the RJN was happening at the same time. I learned about it, and that Noelle St. Vil was an advisor. Laina Bay-Cheng contacted me, and after meeting with student services staff and Prof. St. Vil, everybody agreed that the UBABSW fit within the network.

UB is so vast. Especially during this time of social injustices, the RJN connection and support gives us insight and access to what’s going on. This includes other offices and groups, like the Graduate Students Association, the Student Association’s People of Color Council, and other racial justice projects, so we can collaborate and bounce off each other; set up opportunities to strengthen and facilitate our chapter.

Want to get involved in the UBABSW?

Email them; they are seeking members, sponsors, and other types of support.