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Alumni Spotlight Q&A with Elizabeth Haberer, MSW ('00)



August 3, 2019

(HOUSTON, TX) -- On July 21, 2019, GCSW alumna and adjunct professor Elizabeth Haberer served as lead coordinator for Never Again is Now (Houston) at the site of the newest detention camp for migrant children at 419 Emancipation Avenue. The center is less than three miles from the University of Houston where Elizabeth honed her social work skills.

The event which drew 150 people, was part of a nationwide day action that took place in several cities across the country. According to the oranization's website, "As Jews, we’ve been taught to never let anything like the Holocaust happen again. Now, with children detained in unacceptable conditions, ICE raids targeting our communities, and people dying at the border while seeking safety in the US, we are seeing the signs of a mass atrocity. We refuse to wait and see what happens next."

In this Q&A, Elizabeth Haberer shares how her time at the GCSW has influenced her activism.

"One of the most valuable gifts I take with me from my time at the GCSW is the imprint of upholding social justice as a foundational component of my work." – Elizabeth Haberer


Name: Elizabeth Haberer, LCSW, CGP, E-RYT

Year of Graduation from GCSW and Concentration area: 2000, Children and Families

Current position (employment): Psychotherapist in private practice and founder of THRIVE Trauma-Informed Yoga

How long have you been involved in immigration and migrant rights issues? I have worked with migrants since I graduated from the GCSW. Early in my career, I advocated for migrant families and children in the system and clinical and community mental health settings, as well as in the court system. This administration has made community organizing feel like a necessity for me.

Why was it important to you to organize the protest? As a Mexican immigrant with holocaust survivor grandparents, observing the systemic atrocities perpetrated by our government to migrants is not an option. I felt that this was too much like a repetition of the history my Jewish ancestors lived when an entire group of people were stripped of their human rights.

Who or what inspired you? I was inspired by the deep understanding that it is my community's obligation to act when I see history repeating itself. I am also fueled and inspired by the social work mentors who shaped my social work heart, such as Kay Schiller and Sandra Lopez.

Did you work with any organizations on the protest? NeverAgainAction provided me with guidance from a wonderful national coach, who guided me throughout the organizing process. Ally organizations such as Indivisible, Surj, FIEL, and Free los Ninos also were instrumental in helping ensure the action was a success.

What social work skills did you use while organizing the protest? Great question! I believe the protest put all my social work skills to work! I used organizational skills, organizing, listening skills, empathy, critical thinking, setting boundaries (important when working with multiple people and organizations!) and service.

Tell me about your role from inception to completion. I chaired the process throughout! It was a humbling and enriching experience. As a lead coordinator of the action, I assigned lead roles for the action, booked speakers, made logistical preparations, provided the place for the training for civil disobedience with an attorney to ensure the civil disobedience team knew their rights and would be supported on the day of the action if they chose to risk arrest, coordinated with ally organizations, facilitated conversations between leads, obtained materials for the protest (posters, banners), coordinated a poster-making event. On the day of the event, I made the opening speech, led chants, coordinated with the leads, played the role of marshal and made sure the civil disobedience team was safe when the police presence was heavy.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned about social justice while a student at the GCSW? One of the most valuable gifts I take with me from my time at the GCSW is the imprint of upholding social justice as a foundational component of my work. This means that the work for me lies in reminding myself of the wonderful but sometimes isolating and privileged nature of my private practice work. I am incredibly lucky that I have the ability to enrich and diversify it with ongoing organizing, activism and coalition building in my clinical and broader community.

Who is your personal social justice inspiration? Having just completed intense work with March for Our Lives young organizers, I am very present to my social justice fire currently being fueled by the young and old grass roots activists and organizers who are doing the grunt work, uplifting communities, and building coalitions day in and day out.

What advice would you give to others who want to work on this social justice issue? To be consistent, assertive and use coalition building. Organizations in our community are open and ready to work with us. Also, we must not treat social justice as a “trendy” or “hot topic” issue that is later pushed to the back burner. Migrants and asylum seekers will continue to need our work for a long time to come.

Please share anything else you feel would be of value to other social workers and anyone interested in working to achieve social justice. Power and humility can coexist. You can cultivate a powerful and effective voice in your social justice community and use humility to keep learning- it is integral so that you can create truly inclusive and safe spaces.


RELATED STORY: GCSW Faculty Member, Jodi Berger Cardoso, Joins Panel Discussion at Harvard to Address Public Health Crisis along U.S.-Mexico Border