IU School of Social Work BSW (‘16) and MSW (‘17) graduate, Rosie Bryant, initially pursued a bachelor’s degree in nursing because her mother along with others felts that her willingness to help people would make her a good nurse. However, Rosie was not sure if it was the right profession for her. When Rosie began her nursing degree, many obstacles came in the way, including her mother being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Through the help of a career services counselor at IUPUI, Rosie was able to find social work. Rosie solidified her decision to receive a degree in social work when she had an experience with the low-income housing she was residing in. When Rosie was awarded a scholarship at IUPUI, her apartment complex decided to use the scholarship as income, increasing her rent to an unaffordable amount. Rosie used this experience as motivation to fight for policies that didn’t punish people for being poor. Now, Rosie is a practicing social worker at Faith in Indiana as the Lead Community Organizer, and she has been actively working in the social work field for three years.
Currently, Rosie works on a macro–level as a community organizer. In her role, Rosie works closely with the city (in partnership with faith communities, business leaders, and law enforcement) to make Indianapolis safer without racial profiling, militaristic policing in targeted neighborhoods or the mass incarceration of young black men. Some of Rosie’s accomplishments thus far include grassroots leaders and clergy hosting 55 virtual meetings with government officials, a 250-person prayer vigil, and a statewide digital forum with Mayor Joe Hogsett. Many of the events were held within the first few weeks of the Covid-19 shutdown to center the needs of Black people and Latinos hardest hit by the virus. Additionally, 1,493 people trained have been directly impacted by mental illness, gun violence, and incarceration to engage 12,945 community members to hear their stories, test support for policy proposals, and invite participation in community change campaigns. Rosie has also helped to change how people talk about race and criminal justice. Rosie’s community leader teams generated 162 media stories that reached 13 million people last year. Additionally, Rosie arranged and managed dozens of meetings between grassroots leaders and Mayor Hogsett and his staff to talk about criminal justice reform. Rosie organized meetings between clergy, members of local congregations, and the city prosecutor’s office, city-county councilors, and others around responses to gun violence. Rosie also organized a 300-person meeting in 2019 with the Mayor’s OHPS to call on him to contract with national experts for the Group Violence Intervention program, persuaded the mayor to launch a program for Covid-19 testing, treatment, and contact tracing in the Black community, negotiated with the mayor’s office to win the creation of a Covid-19 rental relief fund available to everyone, including homeless and undocumented residents of Marion County, and won the first in the nation civilian oversight board that gives civilians the majority to change and make policies within Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
According to Rosie, the benefits of being a social worker are when people talk to her. This way, Rosie can hear what people are not saying. This skill is unique, and it allows Rosie to guide others to unveil their masks of sorrow, grief, trauma, etc. For some, unmasking themselves can lead to their liberation of healing, justice, and peace in their lives, making Rosie’s work fulfilling. Learning about human behavior has helped Rosie to be able to develop this skill and it is invaluable to her area of focus. According to Rosie, the field of social work has a huge emphasis and focus on clinical work, which makes it difficult to obtain macro-level training and support. Most of Rosie’s macro–experience and training have come from outside the field. Rosie believes that many social workers do not know what a community organizer is or what they do. Rosie finds this disappointing given the field of social work was founded on community organizing. Rosie’s hope is there will be changes to this soon so others that have chosen a macro–focus can gain the support they need. Rosie says that the field of social work is so diverse, so think and dream big about what you can accomplish in it. Rosie also says to never allow anyone to tell you that you can’t do something because if there is a will, there is always a way.
Favorite Quote: “Always aim high because if you fall short you won’t be far from what you aimed for” – Unknown.