Last month’s edition of BC Social Work’s annual Pinderhughes Diversity Lecture stayed true to this year’s Diversity theme of Powerful Women, as longtime Boston media personality Pam Cross delivered keynote remarks. Cross, who spent 35 years at WCVB as a reporter and anchorwoman and now heads her own strategic advising business with BC Social Work’s own Ron Ancrum, spoke on “What Phenomenal Women Know.”
Cross began her talk by asking the packed Shea Room at BC’s Conte Forum, “what would a phenomenal life look like?” before going on to tell the life story of a remarkable woman she got to know during her work as a journalist. Cross spoke about Isaura Mendes, a mother who has lost two sons to violence and yet has earned the moniker Mother Mendes in the prison that houses the murderer of her eldest Bobby. Not only has Isaura forgiven Nardo Lopes, but she has devoted her life to improving his life, and the lives of other men who are locked down, by teaching and mentoring inmates at various correctional facilities across New England.
Cross then asked her audience to reflect on what Mendes’ story might mean for them. “We don’t have such tragic circumstances, most of us,” she said. “But we have issues. We’ve all got something. What happens when you get a difficult or devastating medical diagnosis? Your career is not growing the way you want it? Your partner wants a time out? You’ve got an unruly child. What do you do? The answer is not easy. It’s similar though to what Isaura Mendes does. You look at the problem. You think about your options. You choose one.”
When faced with these options, continued Cross, “you take the leap of faith to try one, and if it doesn’t work you try again. That’s the only way to find the phenomenal life. Intentional living.”
Cross finished her lecture by defining intentional living, paraphrasing the words of the incomparable Maya Angelou, and her poem, Phenomenal Woman:
When you see me there’s a reason that my heads not bowed.
I don’t have to jump about, talk real loud.
When you see me passing it ought to make you proud because she’s figured it out.
She’s a woman phenomenally. A phenomenal woman. That is me.
The Pinderhughes Lecture honors the distinguished career of Professor Emeritus Elaine Pinderhughes, whose vision, voice, and compassion have enriched BCSSW for decades. Professor Pinderhughes was honored by the Council on Social Work Education with the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Education for her impact as a scholar, role model, and mentor to countless faculty and practitioners. 2017 marked the 11th time the lecture has been delivered. Past speakers include: Boston College Law Dean Vincent Rougeau, cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, UConn Social Work Dean Salome Raheim, and Professor Pinderhughes herself.
National Association of Social Workers (NASW) CEO Angelo McClain, PhD ’01, provided remarks celebrating the Pinderhughes Fellowship award, which provides financial assistance to outstanding African-American doctoral students at BCSSW. This year’s winner is Melissa Bartholomew, a uniquely well-rounded lawyer, minister, and now, PhD candidate who recently graduated from Harvard Divinity School and delivered their student commencement address.
McClain also reminisced about his time in the classroom when he, himself, was a PhD candidate at BCSSW under the tutelage of Professor Pinderhughes, relating her unique ability to teach up and coming social workers and academics about the dynamics of power.
Pinderhughes was in attendance with her fellow authors of her recently published book from the NASW Press Understanding Power: An Imperative for Human Services, Vanessa Jackson and Patricia Romney.