Month: August 2009

SSW Alumnus, Richard “Dick” Jackson Remembered

WEST HARTFORD – – Richard “Dick ” Jackson, a clinical social worker who in 1969 founded The Bridge youth service agency here that has since helped hundreds of troubled teens and families, died Monday after a four-year battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 75 and lived in Rhode Island and Florida.

Jackson, a West Hartford resident for years, had also been director of social services for the Bloomfield school system, had a private practice offering family and marriage counseling and led nonprofit efforts to build affordable housing. He also pushed for alternative high schools and was a special assistant to the CEO of The Hartford, advising on improving corporate-community relations by getting involved in social service projects.

“He had a more liberal outlook on what businesses and leaders should be doing for the community,” Nan Streeter, a former state senator and West Hartford mayor from 1975 to 1981, said Wednesday. Jackson advocated for people in power to be socially conscious and get involved in tackling problems facing the poor, she said.

In an interview with The Courant in 1995, Jackson emphasized the importance of listening to people to understand their needs. In that interview, he gave advice for any organization trying to figure out how to help troubled teens – “talk to the kids on their turf with no agenda, no goals, no time frames … ask them what’s the problem. Ask them to find a solution.”

George Hastings, friends with Jackson since 1970 when Hastings began volunteering at The Bridge, said that Jackson was a very intelligent, outgoing person with a lot of interests, including putting together racehorse syndicates to own and train horses that raced at tracks along the East Coast.

“I last saw Dick about a year ago,” Hastings said. “He was quite sick with Lou Gehrig’s disease but he was absolutely upbeat, no ‘why me,’ no complaints. He was still going to the gym, even though he wasn’t supposed to. People helped him. It was worth it to him for the human contact.”

Longtime West Hartford Resident Richard “Dick” Jackson Dies; Founded The Bridge Youth Service Agency, By BILL LEUKHARDT, The Hartford Courant

August 13, 2009

Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant

Dr. Frances Fox Piven to be featured speaker at SSW 60th Anniversary Celebration

Widely recognized as one of America’s most thoughtful and provocative commentators on America’s social welfare system, Frances Fox Piven is a political scientist, activist, and educator. She received her B.A. in City Planning from the University of Chicago in 1953. She also received her M.A. (1956) and Ph.D. (1962) from the University of Chicago. After a brief stint in New York as a city planner, she became a research associate at one of the country’s first anti-poverty agencies, Mobilization for Youth — a comprehensive, community-based service organization on New York City’s Lower East Side. At its height the organization coordinated more than fifty experimental programs designed to reduce poverty and crime. A 1965 paper entitled “Mobilizing the Poor: How It Can Be Done,” launched Piven and her co-author, Columbia University professor Richard Cloward, into an ongoing national conversation on the welfare state. Piven and Cloward’s collaborative work came to influence both careers, and the two eventually married. Their early work together provided a theoretical base for the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), the first in a long line of grass-roots organizations in which Piven acted as founder, advisor, and/or planner. Piven taught in the Columbia University School of Social Work from 1966 to 1972. From 1972 to 1982 she was a professor of political science at Boston University. In 1982 she joined the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She has co-authored with Richard Cloward Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare (1971); The Politics of Turmoil: Essays on Poverty, Race and the Urban Crisis (1974); Poor People’s Movements (1977); The New Class War (1982); The Mean Season (1987); Why Americans Don’t Vote (1988); and The Breaking of the American Social Compact (1997), as well as dozens of articles, both with Cloward and independently, in scholarly and popular publications.

Piven is known equally for her contributions to social theory and for her social activism. Over the course of her career, she has served on the boards of the ACLU and the Democratic Socialists of America, and has also held offices in several professional associations, including the American Political Science Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. In the 1960s, Piven worked with welfare-rights groups to expand benefits; in the eighties and nineties she campaigned relentlessly against welfare cutbacks. A veteran of the war on poverty and subsequent welfare-rights protests both in New York City and on the national stage, she has been instrumental in formulating the theoretical underpinnings of those movements. In Regulating the Poor, Piven and Cloward argued that any advances the poor have made throughout history were directly proportional to their ability to disrupt institutions that depend upon their cooperation. This academic commentary proved useful to George Wiley and the NWRO as well as a great many other community organizers and urban theorists. Since 1994, Piven has led academic and activist opposition to the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996,” (known as the Personal Responsibility Act), appearing in numerous public forums, from television’s Firing Line to the U.S. Senate, to discuss the history of welfare and the potential impact of welfare reform initiatives.

In corollary activity, Piven’s study of voter registration and participation patterns found fruition in the 1983 founding of the HumanSERVE (Human Service Employees Registration and Voter Education) Campaign. The Campaign’s registration reform effort culminated in the 1994 passage of the National Voter Registration Act, or the “Motor-Voter” bill, designed to increase voter registration, especially among low-income groups.

Michael Harrington, whose book The Other America helped focus the nation’s attention on poverty in the early 1960s, has said that Piven is “one of the few academics who bridge the world of scholarship and the world of activism.” Of this mix, Piven herself has said: “One informs the other, energizes the other . . . There are dimensions of political life that can’t be seen if you stay on the sidelines or close to the top . . .” The larger significance of both activism and academics in Piven’s life can be gleaned from her remark that such work “also has to do with comradeship and friendship, . . . with being part of the social world in which you live and trying to make some imprint on it, . . . with the real satisfaction of throwing in with the ordinary people who have always been the force for humanitarian social change.”

Her books:

  • Labor Parties in Postindustrial Societies (Oxford University Press, 1992)
  • The War at Home: The Domestic Costs of Bush’s Militarism (New Press, 2004)
  • Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006)

With Richard Cloward:

  • Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare (Pantheon, 1971, 2nd ed: Vintage, 1993)
  • Poor People’s Movements: Why they Succeed, How they Fail (Pantheon, 1977)
  • New Class War: Reagan’s Attack on the Welfare State and Its Consequences (Pantheon, 1982)
  • Why Americans Don’t Vote: And Why Politicians Want it That Way (Beacon, 1988)
  • The Breaking of the American Social Compact (New Press, 1997)
  • Why Americans Still Don’t Vote: And Why Politicians Want it That Way (Beacon, 2000)

With Lee Staples and Richard Cloward:

  • Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing (Praeger, 1984)