Let's Be the Change We Want to See

Thanks to Annice Johnson we now have a forum to begin our dialogue about art therapy and social justice! This endeavor began when Lonni Ann Fredman, an art therapist in Albuquerque, spotted a news article about labor disputes at the Sacramento Hyatt Hotel where the 2010 AATA conference was being held. Lonni Ann, Janis Timm-Bottos and I began a discussion of possible responses. I contacted Susan Corrigan, our Executive Director and Joan Phillips, Board President, who made our concerns known to the Hyatt. We were also in contact with union organizers from Unite Here including meeting with organizer Tino Barejas in Sacramento. Because it was very close to the conference and it was unclear whether our actions would hurt workers more than help and we were unwilling to place AATA at financial risk, we did not call for a member boycott of the Hyatt. We personally chose to stay in hotels that have good labor practices. (Unite Here has a guide on their website to Union friendly hotels.)
We were reminded of the fact that every dollar we spend has implications for justice in the world. While we know members expect AATA to negotiate for the 'best' rates for us, it is time we look at what that means. The simple raising of labor issues when negotiating the contracts for our meetings  raises awareness. Unite Here gave us a guide for negotiating such contracts with workers considerations in mind which we have passed on to Susan. As consumers, every dollar we spend is a choice and the choices made by our professional organization are our responsibility as well. I made a resolution, which was enthusiastically passed, at the 2010 AATA conference (honestly I forget the careful wording, next post!) charging the BOD to take issues of social justice into consideration when making decisions on our behalf. What I learned in the process is that without such language being in our mission statement, the BOD can't actually officially do so.
Other groups are waking up to this issue, the American Sociological Association just pulled their August 2011 conference out of Hyatt Hotels in Chicago because of the poor labor practices as reported in the Chicago Tribune yesterday.
There are many directions this work can take and I hope many of you will step up and embrace different aspects. This blog is the first step in a dialogue about social justice in art therapy. What does  that  look like? Many of us are engaged in related work in our daily lives. How can our profession begin to take the lead and share our knowledge to raise awareness? What is already being done by our members and how can we highlight that? I invite you to check out the websites of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and Counselors for Social Justice  both groups have been at this a long time and we have much to learn.
Please post your thoughts and commentaries here. There were over 100 people at a 7:00 am forum on art therapy and social issues that I facilitated at the conference, the time is now! Let's be the change we wish to see.
Pat B. Allen, Ph.D., ATR, HLM


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