Dr. Clossey Speaks About Social Work & “The Other Wes Moore”

BY RONALD HANAKI
SC Staff Writer

The final evening discussion of “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates,” took place on November 6 in the Moore Biology Building.

As part of an effort to promote long-form reading, a committee led by ESU philosophy professor Dr. Peter Pruim selected “The Other Wes Moore” as the book to be read for ESU’s semester-long “One Book, One Campus” series.

The story juxtaposes the lives of two men named Wes Moore who grew up separately in the cities of New York and Baltimore.

After a rocky childhood, Wes Moore, the author, became a Rhodes Scholar, a White House Fellow under Dr. Condoleeza Rice, and later a successful businessman.

The other Wes Moore of whom the author writes about is currently serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder.

Dr. Laurene Clossey, Assistant Professor of Social Work, began the evening’s discussion by talking about early nineteenth and twentieth century social workers in the country like Jane Addams, who believed that social disorganization was something that could be overcome.

She said that contemporary social workers believed that there are structural causes to poverty including the lack of access to social capital, social stratification, social policies, and lack of economic opportunity that make it difficult for people born into poverty to overcome those hardships and succeed in life.

Clossey strongly disagrees with conservative political thinkers who believe that poor people are poor by choice and not by circumstance.

She went on to note that the inter-generational transfers of wealth and the access to social capital—the importance of who you know and meeting people who are placed well and are in a position to help you—are integral elements to personal success. Clossey believes access to this is limited if one is coming from an impoverished background.

After the author lost his father at age three, his mother moved his family to his grandparents’ home in the Bronx. Joy tried to enroll him in a prep school, but when that didn’t take, his mother borrowed money so she could send her son to a military boarding school in order to instill discipline in him.

The other Wes Moore did not have a similar support system.

Clossey then asked—can private charity be sufficient, or is there an unmistakable need for social programs?

She believes that social programs can work, but they take expertise, planning, and economic capital.

Clossey cited the Dudley Street Neighbor Initiative in the Roxbury/North Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston as a community-based development structure that seeks to organize and empower their residents with the goal of building a safe and successful community.

Their goal is to help people overcome difficult life circumstances in order to become productive and successful members of society.

Toward the end of the evening discussion, Dr. Clossey asked, “What is our social responsibility?”

For the author Wes Moore, it meant moving from New York City back to live in the city of Baltimore.

He has volunteered for Operation Oliver, a project like the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative whose mission is to revitalize the Oliver neighborhood of Baltimore.

Oliver is a section of Baltimore that is infamous for being a location where the HBO drama “The Wire,” a crime drama about drug trafficking, was filmed.

The author Wes Moore came to visit ESU on Tuesday, November 19.

Email Ronald at:
rhanaki@live.esu.edu

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