Q. Prof. Bailey, why did you choose social work as your profession?
I did not choose social work, social work chose me. I always knew that I wanted to work directly with people. My parents (especially my mother) were very much engaged at the community level and in retrospect my mother was a non-credentialed community organizer.
My parents who waited late to have my brother and myself by the standards of the day (I was born in 1955 but my parents were born in 1916 and 1919 respectively) they had grown up under the yoke of apartheid in this country and instilled in my brother and me a sense of pride in who they were and where we came from. They held us accountable for making a difference and making a contribution which would lift us all up.
My parents had planned that I would be a physician and my younger brother an attorney. My brother practices the law (he is a public defender) and I went into social work. My mother would always say that I was “like ” a doctor and I always told her I felt that the social work profession for me was better than being a doctor. I felt that I could help more people.
I was introduced to professional social work via a winter intersession course at Tufts University in 1977 taught by a social worker whose name is Jane Greenspan, MSW. Hearing her talk about her work in this class opened a door for me which has never closed. I knew as I listened to the way she described her work with people that this was what I was supposed to do. That plus the charge from my family to make a difference made it all come together.
Q. What is your proudest professional achievement?
I think that my proudest professional achievement was when I received my MSW in 1979 from Boston University School of Social work. I had made so many good and dear friends and had so many wonderful experiences there. I was on top of the world, my mother had come from Cleveland for the ceremony. I remember that the morning graduation featured the late Sen. Ted Kennedy as the large commencement speaker and my mother was such a fan of the Kennedy’s and so happy. I graduated with someone who is still a very dear friend also from Cleveland though we only met one another in graduate school. His mother was there as well and I can still see our moms beaming as we went up on stage to receive our degrees. It also turned out that his mom like mine was from Chattanooga so we later went back and had a magnificent feast of phenomenal southern food, lots of laughter! The world seemed full of possibility and promise!. Twenty five years later I was back at BUSSW this time giving the commencement speech. I took that opportunity along with several friends from my graduating class to recommit myself to the profession by being re-hooded.
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