‘They’ Are ‘Us’: Shining a Light That Enlightens and Unites

Sandy Banks, former Los Angeles Times Columnist, reflects on her learning and writing while standing in the shoes of those who let her share their stories.
Date: April 6th, 2016 at the 216 CSWA (California Social Welfare Archives) Awards

“We lose if we lose the stories of ordinary people who have something to say and to teach us.”
“I know what I know…if I knew better I’d do better.” (mother about her parenting mistakes)
“What we know relies on the limits of our experience.”

(0:31) – Introduction of Sandy Banks by Esther Gillies, President CSWA
(1:19) – Her early life and career
(2:45) – Transition after leaving the LA Times
(3:17) – Becoming and being a columnist – The world in black/white/grey
(4:55) – Moving from Ohio to California – and becoming “one of us”
(5:55) – Fundamentally connecting with her readers
(6:20) – Being the only black family in her neighborhood, embracing diversity
(10:10) – Personal observation of problems in the foster care system
(14:30) – Stories she was able to record, and like CSWA, archive; for example, the experience of a man being gay in the 1950s, a mentally ill woman asked to leave a coffee shop, Korean cultural reaction to riots
(19:10) – Q&A Session begins
(19:20) – Were any of your columns ever censored? How did you handle the feedback that comes in such a negative way? Writing about the 1965 riots and discrimination her relatives faced; interviewing Senator Barack Obama
(24:25) – How did you handle severe criticism?
(27:10) – Interviewing Barack Obama about race

The California Social Welfare Archives (CSWA), established in 1979, is a non-profit organization operating under the auspices of the USC School of Social Work and affiliated with the University Libraries. It collects and preserves documents and personal histories of significant contributors to the evolution of social welfare ensuring their availability to future generations – students, teachers, historians, and researchers. Collection activity includes gathering, preserving, and making available social welfare materials of historical significance, conducting oral history interviews with contributors to social welfare solutions in California, and creating events to publicly recognize significant contributors to California social welfare.

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