Those of you who attended the Seventh International Congress in San Francisco, Birth and Violence: The Societal Impact, will doubtlessly join me in congratulating the organizers, Barbara Findeisen, William Emerson and a dedicated planning committee headed by the Executive Secretary, Maureen Wolfe. Perhaps no theme could have been more timely or more significant. In this issue of the Journal and in several succeeding ones, various papers, addresses and keynote speeches from the Congress will be featured. This issue includes Dr. David Chamberlain's Presidential Address, comments by the organization's founder, Dr. Thomas Verny, and by Dr. Beatriz Manrique, the recipient of the Thomas Verny Award for her "comprehensive program of enrichment for pregnant mothers and fathers involving more than 600 families" in the slums of Caracas, Venezuela. Insightful papers by Wendy L. Pomeroy, M.Div, MBA, who examines The Relationship Between Trauma and Violence, and Dr. John Sonne, who explores Prenatal Themes in Rock Music, complete this edition.
When I assumed the editorship of the Journal, I suggested to various colleagues that recognition of the impact of crimes against mothers and children would become a leading political issue in the late twentieth century. The 100,000 million or more children living in poverty and degradation worldwide and the increasing numbers of traumatized and unparented children and victimized women in American society make me wish that my predictive capacity had been less accurate. Newspaper and magazine articles, films and public opinion are finally beginning to acknowledge the societal impact of early trauma, the area of research in which many of the conference presenters have been pioneers. Daniel Goleman's best selling book Emotional Intelligence, for example, acknowledging research by Joseph LeDoux, states "that the interaction of life's earliest years lay down a set of emotional lessons based on the attunement and upsets in the contacts between infant and caretakers," while a chapter entitled The Family Crucible maintains that what is "most troubling . . . about abused toddlers is how early they seem to have learned to respond like miniature versions of their own abusive parents." Despite the separatist and even demagogic implications which I deplore, during the Million Man March, between 400,000 and 875,000 African-American men (depending on whose statistics are followed) did gather in Washington, DC with the avowed aim of assuming or reinforcing their role as Fathers. A subsequent Journal issue will explore the power of Fatherhood as a means of reducing societal violence.
Recently I saw the film Losing Isaiah which, as many of you know, depicts the abandonment and later adoption of an African-American baby born addicted to "crack." Despite extensive travel in a number of developing countries, which I thought would have inured me to any form of culture shock, the opening scenes of this film brought home clearly the almost overwhelming nature of the problems connected with the Congress theme of Birth and Violence. Yet Ms. Minnie Thomas, who addressed the San Francisco audience not from a prepared text but from her heart, has developed five centers in California which are successfully dealing with the rehabilitation of drug addicted and severely deprived mothers and babies. Nothing could more vividly illustrate the sorrowful need for additional facilities like these, which offer counseling, education and revitalization, than her description of these women who come to her dragging their children down the street ". . . walking on the backs of their shoes." Ms. Thomas and her staff help the women who live at the centers develop self-discipline and self-worth. From Ms. Thomas' description of the results of her strategy, "tough love" works and many of the women leave with sobriety, skills and a degree of certitude. For her remarkable accomplishments, Ms. Thomas received well-deserved cheers, a spontaneously collected donation and the conviction of the audience that her methodology offers both hope and results and should be duplicated nationwide.
Thanks from APPPAH to all of you who joined us as presenters and participants at this exciting conference and a special welcome to our new Board members, Dr. Robert Oliver, Dr. Michael Trout and Phyliss Klaus, CSW. I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the outgoing Board members David Cheek, Elaine ChildsGowell and Elizabeth Noble and our incredible Washington, DC consultants and cheerleaders, Lisa Findeisen, Steve Kemp, and Don and Sandy Whyte as well as a remarkable and loving group of volunteers. Finally I would like to honor the legacy of a life of dedication exemplified by the late Leah La Goy.
Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books, pp. 22 & 199.
Ruth J. Carter, Ph.D.