Sunday, July 23, 2006

Growing Together and Apart in the 1970s

Early '70s photo, when Alex was just beginning to experiment with fashions
This collection is a mix of family photos from the 1970s. My brother, Alex, was constantly innovating with different fashions. Alex was usually dressed sharply in the 70s with platform shoes, wide collared pastel-colored shirts and puffy sleeves. On the other hand, I was known for having no taste for fancy clothes, often wearing raggedy jeans, hiking boots and wrinkled T-shirts. An adult friend of the family once observed that “One boy looks like he’s walking out of the pages of GQ magazine, while the other looks like he’s in Popular Mechanics.”

Two brothers with very different styles of dress and taste

My father was also fond of noting the contrast, not only in our style of dress, but also in our personalities. He called my brother the “diplomat,” saying that Alex never wanted to be offensive and always tried to please. On the other hand, he called me “rebellious,” for being very blunt and sharp-tongued. As adults we both moderated our distinguishing traits somewhat. Alex is certainly much less diplomatic than he was as a child and teenager, and I am less blunt. These days Alex often accuses me of being the “conformist” due to my church affiliations and work with academic institutions; neither of which he has much taste for.

Also our positions on the clothing spectrum have shifted somewhat. I still find it difficult to wear formal attire unless absolutely necessary and generally hold the middle ground on clothing by wearing business casual fashions. Alex, on the other hand tends to wear casual attire, often consisting of jeans, a hoodie and a T-shirt.

Cousin Jeffery, Uncle Jake and Aunt Dot

The photo above is of my cousin Jeffery Pounds and his parents Uncle Jake and Aunt Dot. They lived in East Orange, New Jersey, but often came to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. They were related to Bishop Turner, who was my grandmother’s second husband after Matthew Emanuel died. We called my mother’s father “Pops” and my grandmother’s second husband “Pop-Pop.” We always called my grandmother, “Grimmommy.”

In many ways Cousin Jeffery was like a third brother during the times he would come to Pittsburgh, but as an only child he was also shy. I remember one time when we visited the Pounds in New Jersey and it was time for us to leave. Rather than come down and say good-bye Jeffery stayed up in his room and watched us pack the car from his window. He hated to say good-bye.

Two brothers: constrasts and similarities in the 1970s

The picture above is of my brother and me, probably in the late 1970s. I am on the left, in typically casual attire, wearing blue jeans and a blue running jacket. Alex is uncharacteristically casual with blue jeans and a beige turtleneck sweater.

My father, the Reverend Doctor A.A. Hawkins, Sr.

The above photo is my father, who was not only a college professor but also a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. My mother didn’t want to be a preacher’s wife and my father promised not to go into the ministry if they got married. They had, however, a difficult time conceiving the first child, and my father made a promise to God that if he could have a son my father would enter the ministry. Every generation on my father’s side of the family has produced AME ministers since the late 19th century, but despite the fact that he had two older brothers, my father’s generation was in danger of being the first generation not to produce clergy. So, my father prayed about it and soon afterward my mother was pregnant with Alex, Jr. After Alex was born, and proved to be a healthy baby, my father kept up his end of the bargain and took up the ministry. He mostly ministered to small churches on the outskirts of the city, and always donated the preacher’s salary to the church. He continued his ministry until the day he died.

The above is a photo of my brother and me with my mother, and photo below is a bit out of place – it is a photo from the mid-1960s from elementary school days. We were attending Lemington Elementary at the time, a school that had recently made the transition from being a primarily working-class Italian school to a school that was predominately African American. The Lincoln-Lemington area in which we lived had become a working-class African American neighborhood with a few whites still remaining.

I was probably in the 3rd grade in this photo
I think Alex is in the 5th grade here


By the mid-1970s both of my parents were on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh in the School of Social Work. My father’s area of specialization was criminal justice, while my mother specialized in children and youth. My father pushed hard to keep the profession of social work involved in the rehabilitation of prisoners, even during a time that states were moving away from an emphasis on rehabilitation. My mother was instrumental in promoting the role of social workers in schools; she realized that children came from a larger context of social and community influences that impacted a child’s physical and psychological preparedness to learn. I remember many dinners where they would talk about the politics of the university. It was “boring adult talk” as far as I was concerned; I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. But through these conversations they kept each other sane and were able to coordinate their activities in what I later came to understand was a highly political and often duplicitous environment that, outward images to the contrary, was not always favorable or encouraging when it came to minority achievement.

Both my mother and my father were sociable people. My father was known for his sense of humor and his love of stories, while my mother was known for her love of entertaining guests. She prepared elaborate dinners and attended to details to the point where some guests would express concern that she was not taking enough time to enjoy the meal. Both parents enjoyed company – my father played the role of the playful instigator. He knew how to get his friends worked up, but never in a demeaning or mean-spirited way. My mother would particularly come alive around children; she shared their openness and enthusiasm for life, and would take time to make sure they were enjoying themselves as much as the adults. They both shared and spread laughter.

Early 1970s

The family returned to Pittsburgh in 1968. Will eventually settled in Forest Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh. These pictures were taken during a vacation in Atlantic City, probably in 1971 or thereabouts (it could even have been as late as 1973). At that time Atlantic City’s big attraction was the beach and boardwalk. The Casinos had not yet been built. Most of the entertainment took place in small night clubs on a street near the boardwalk. Leftist political newspapers with national circulation were easily available in the college section of Pittsburgh (Oakland) and, as we found, on the streets of Atlantic City. We bought a copy of the Black Panther newspaper for about a quarter.
In the Oakland section of Pittsburgh a local hippie underground newspaper was in wide circulation called “Grock” (sp?). The newspaper feature articles on communes and growing Marijuana. Black nationalist newspapers, such as the Black Panther and Muhammad Speaks, featured articles on black self-determination, Pan-Africanism, and black ownership of land and factories (at least in Muhammad Speaks). The Black Panther and the hippie underground newspaper also gave tips on how to survive encounters with the police, although the papers didn’t usually refer to them as “police.”

St. Petersburg Florida 1967-68

My Father (r) was the first African American city executive in St. Pete Florida
In 1967 we moved to St. Petersburg Florida and remained there through most of 1968. During that time my father was the director of human relations. It was a turbulent time; one memory that stands out is that the sanitation workers in the city went on strike. The situation was not unlike that in Memphis, when Martin Luther King was murdered. The sanitation workers in St. Pete were mostly black and poor; they were demanding a better contract.

At one point there was a large rally in support of the workers. The protest had galvanized much of the African American community, as well as progressive whites. Even though the protest was non-violent, there were arrests. I was glad my mother was willing to take my brother and me to the protest, even though my father held a sensitive job at city hall and journalists from the local newspaper made note of our presence. I seem to recall that my father was not too thrilled about our presence there – it put him in an awkward position.

My father taught us to identify with the "underdog"

But the earliest lesson I learned from my father was a few years earlier – when I asked him why our family was supporting a candidate for governor of Pennsylvania who was behind in the polls and seemed destined to lose – I asked him, why don’t we just support the winner instead? And my father replied, “In this family we always back the underdog.”

It was a defining moment for me; it was a point that clarified my values that set me apart from the other kids at school. What he said has stayed with me and helped to give me a sense of my own identity and that of my family.

Although my father was busy during the week, he would take time on weekends to take my brother and me to professional wrestling matches which were held in Tampa, Florida. These trips were often accompanied by stops in the Cuban section of the city to eat “Cuban Sandwiches,” which were large sandwiches on French bread with different kinds of deli meat, hot peppers, onions, and cheese. Two evenings out of the week, my mother would take us to Judo lessons – since St. Petersburg was still racially segregated when we lived there the Judo lessons were on the “white” side of town, and we were the only African Americans in the class.

Andy Walker lived across the street
and was like a brother to us when we
lived in Florida. He went to wrestling
matches with us.

On Sundays, we initially attended the AME church in St. Petersburg but the Sunday services seemed to go on forever. I recall my parents agreeing that the pastor was “long winded.” Being a good AME minister himself, and a public figure, my father had to continue to attend the church, but my mother was free to take my brother and me to other churches. We visited a Lutheran church, but settled on Florida Presbyterian. This church was somewhat integrated, the services ran about an hour, and emotions were comparatively subdued. It was my first time attending a non-African American church on a regular basis, but I didn’t feel out of place and it didn’t require much of an adjustment.

During my experiences in the AME Church in Pittsburgh I had grown accustomed to my father’s services, which ran about an hour and a half. His sermons were always focused and he would quiz us on their content on the way home. While he had a rhythmic cadence to his delivery, he was strong on content rather than relying mostly on emotion. His favorite theme was the “Prodigal Son”, which he reminded us was essentially about a forgiving father.
My mother made the best of being in St. Pete, but she missed
her own mother, who still lived in Pittsburgh. She also missed
Pittsburgh's topography and four seasons.

On the right is a  picture of my mother in a fancy restaurant in St. Petersburg. Although she missed her own mother, who was still living in Pittsburgh, and the topography and four seasons of Western Pennsylvania -- she also didn't like being in the fishbowl of local media -- she made the best of our stay in St. Pete.

Below is a picture of the Solomons, a family that was progressive and politically active during the time. Our two families were very close in St. Petersburg. My grandmother is also in that picture, in the middle of the back row – this picture was taken during her visit – when we moved to Florida she remained in Pittsburgh.
One of many frequent visits with the Solomon family in St.
Petersburg in 1967-68. Such close interracial friendship
between families was rare, as the city was, de facto, still
largely segregated. 

My brother and me with the Solomon boys,
Richard and Robert (I’m second from the left).

The bottom picture shows me practicing my trumpet. I took trumpet lessons in Florida and played in the elementary school band. A highlight was the experience of marching with the band in a parade.

When I first tried out a trumpet during a music education class, the trumpet I was allowed to use, temporarily, was a shiny new instrument. But when my parents actually bought a trumpet for me to keep, it was smaller and was very dull. I was disappointed. The band was to play that evening for our first public performance, but I was too embarrassed to want to participate; although I went to practice, I did not want to debut with that dull instrument.

My grandmother, however, was visiting us at the time, and she found some silverware polish and went to work on the horn. By the time she was through it looked as shiny as the new instrument I used to have. I remember thinking that she had worked some kind of magic.

Naturally, I was proud to participate in the performance that evening. When the other kids saw the brightly polished horn, they were astonished at the transformation and asked, “what happened to your trumpet?” I told them a lie that best captured what seemed like the essence of the magic of what had occurred, “Oh, it fell in a bucket of water and came out with this shine.”

It seemed to me that the only thing that could make a horn shine like that was a good washing. Although I knew that was not what happened, the notion of metal polish was something I couldn’t quite grasp.

Assorted Old Family Pictures

These are early family pictures. The two photos at the left were taken of my mother in 1947. The picture on the right is of my brother (l) and me (r) in boxing gloves on Christmas. As I look over old Christmas pictures I am reminded that, as boys, we preferred boxing gloves, weights, robots, chemistry sets, train sets and things of that nature.

We also liked cameras and board games. I found a picture of my grandmother and me playing battleship which is not reproduced here. As I said before, she was a very patient woman – I can’t imagine that she had the least interest in the game, yet, in the photo, she looked thoroughly engaged. The bottom photos are of my brother, probably taken when he was in 7th grade, and me, when I was in 4th grade.

My brother, Alex Jr., when he was
in 7th grade (I think) in 1968
This might be a 4th grade picture of me

These are pictures during the 1950s of family and a friend. The picture at the left is my mother burping me. This picture was taken in 1957.

The picture at the right is my brother Alex, taken in 1955.

The picture at the below is my mother and Gladys Hayes, who, along with her husband Harold Sr., were good friends of my parents. They enjoyed getting together and playing bridge on Friday or Saturday nights. They also provided each other with a good support network to share information on child rearing and careers. My parents and the Hayes lived on Travella Boulevard.

My Grandparents

These two photos are of my maternal grandparents, Matthew Levi Emanuel (after whom I got my middle name) and Teola Prior Emanuel. Both came from fairly affluent African American families in northern Georgia.

He was a man who loved to walk, but he had a stroke in the late 1950s. After the stroke he would often become disoriented and would wander into busy streets in East Liberty, which was, perhaps, five miles from where we lived. My mother had her hands full with two babies, my older brother and me, and had been warned by an officer, who repeatedly brought my grandfather home, that if he got struck by a car and killed it will be on her conscience for not keeping him at home.

The officer did not know how strong-willed my Grandfather was (I think I picked up some of his traits in that regard). He would wait until my mother was bathing me to grab his cane and sneak out of the house for his walks – the love of long walks is something else I inherited from him.

In an attempt to keep him from escaping, my mother hid his cane in the bathroom while she had me in the tub. This irritated the man to no end. My mother was not one to disobey her father, who had be a stern disciplinarian when she was growing up, so it must have been difficult for her to defy him when he demanded his cane. She locked herself, the cane, and me in the bathroom and held a shouting match with him behind the bathroom door.

Eventually the family agreed that he had to be institutionalized for his own safety, but nobody felt good about this “solution.” The institution was a long distance from the city, making it difficult for the family to visit him once he was there. Although this was the common practice at that time, the family has since regretted that decision. Not much later he contracted pneumonia and died, without family members at his bedside, in 1958. My grandfather loved his freedom, was accustomed to being independent and had a strong will. My mother always regretted the lonely and confined circumstances under which he died.

My grandmother was an inspiration in my life until she died of a heart attack in 1976. She used to call me “the senator” in order to encourage my political aspirations since I was ten years old. I always felt that she never lost faith in me, even during times when I had doubts about myself. She was, to me, the clearest role model of unconditional love and infinite patience. She was a devout Christian. The Bible always had a prominent place in her home.

My grandparents helped my parents to buy their first home just before I was born. With a growing family they wanted to make sure that we had space to spread out and a large yard to play in. The family moved from the small row house to a much larger single family unit at 253 Travella Boulevard, near the Lincoln Park area. My grandmother eventually moved into a house on Upland Street, which was near Homewood. This meant that we were still close enough for frequent visits. Upland Street is no more than three miles from Travella Boulevard.

Early Family Photos (1955)

These photos were taken before I was born. They were taken in May of 1955. The photo at the top is a photo of my father holding my older brother, Alex Jr., who was about four months old at the time. The photo on the middle left was the row house my mother and father lived in at the time. The home was located in the Lemington section on the East End of Pittsburgh. Their home was near Lincoln and Lemington Aves. Note the piles of snow in this picture. It was probably taken in January or February.

The photo on the mid-left is of my uncle Clinton, who was visiting from Philadelphia. Uncle Clinton came over when both my brother and I was born. He helped to cook and paint and get things ready each time for the arrival of a new baby. My uncle Clinton was an avid reader with a strong interest in markets and investments. During the Second World War he worked as a welder in the ship yards. I think that’s what brought him to Philadelphia, were he settled for the rest of his life. He died of lung cancer in the early 1970s. The photo at the bottom is my father leaning against his car.

I believe my grandparents on my mother’s side of the family lived with my parents in the row house at that time. My grandfather was a Baptist minister who had also been a teacher and farmer in Georgia, before migrating to Pittsburgh in the 1920s. My father affectionately called him “Reverend.”

Being a farmer, my grandfather knew how to grow tasty vegetables and insisted on not over-watering the garden he was cultivating in the yard. One day, after admonishing my father for watering his garden when he thought it should be kept dry there was a sudden cloud burst and downpour. My father gleefully bounded up the stairs to my grandfather’s room and said, “Reverend, it looks like the man upstairs has decided to water your garden after all!”

This is a photo of my parents, Alexander A. Hawkins and Mable T. Hawkins, which was probably taken around the mid-1940s. The original photo was attached to a wooden block.

Hawkins Family and Friends in Pittsburgh in the 1950s (part two)

This second set of photos shows my parents’ social network in the early-to-mid 1950s engaged in leisure activities. I think the photo on the top left was taken in Atlantic City. Playing cards was a popular activity (middle left) and the automobile was a major part of American culture. Once again, I am struck by how well-dressed people were, even on informal occasions.

Hawkins Family and Friends in Pittsburgh in the 1950s (part one)

I am posting a series of family photos I have come across as I am going through family artifacts in our old home. These first photos were probably taken in 1955 or earlier. They consist of family members (I think) or certainly friends of the family. My father probably took most of these photos. I don't recognize anyone in them but they do seem to suggest something about social circles of African American professionals in the City of Pittsburgh in the early to mid-1950s. I note the clothing worn (even on casual occassions), the housing, and the sense of group co-operation that provided a social network that was mutually supportive.

Friday, July 14, 2006

My Father and Social Work

NASW Pioneers: Alexander A. Hawkins, PhD.

By C. Matthew Hawkins

Alexander Amos Hawkins did his undergraduate studies at Moorehouse College in Atlanta Georgia during the early 1940s. He later completed his master’s degree at Atlanta University, and earned his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh. His area of specialization within social work was criminal justice. His first job as a social worker was with the Salvation Army in the city of Pittsburgh. He went on to practice social work at Western Psychiatric Institute, before becoming a faculty member in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh until he retired in 1987.

Hawkins’ family immigrated to the United States from the West Indies in the 19th century. His father was an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, as was his grandfather. His father and grandfather built churches as they moved to different parts of the state of Florida. Hawkins grew up in with his two brothers, George and Clinton. Their parents died while the boys were still young. Hawkins and his brothers spent much of their time living with different relatives, mostly in Jacksonville and Gainesville, Florida. For a while the boys attended a private boarding school.

While studying at Morehouse College, Alexander Hawkins met Mabel T. Emanuel, who was attending Spelman College. They married and had two children, Alexander Amos Hawkins, Jr. and Clinton Matthew Hawkins. Hawkins was ordained in the ministry in the late 1950s and initially became the pastor of Brown Chapel before being appointed to Bethel A.M.E. Church in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania. While serving as a minister, he continued as a social worker for the Salvation Army. The family lived in the Lincoln-Lemington section of Pittsburgh, a predominately working class African American neighborhood, before moving to St. Petersburg, Florida, which was still had racially segregated housing at the time. In 1968 the family returned to Pittsburgh to live in the historic African American community known as the Hill District before settling in Forest Hills, east of the city.

The work that Hawkins did in the field of social work reflected the twin values he held throughout his adult life: rehabilitation and reconciliation. These values originated from his family upbringing, his religious background and service in the ministry. They were also values he developed during his education as a social worker. His commitment to rehabilitation was expressed in his work within the criminal justice system, in which he focused on prisoner rehabilitation and improving police-community relations. His commitment to reconciliation was expressed in his work in community practice, particularly in the area of race and human relations in Pennsylvania and in Florida.

Hawkins worked to rehabilitate offenders during his employment at the Western Psychiatric Institute and the state corrections system in Pennsylvania. He continued this work after he was recruited to serve on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in the mid 1970s. Throughout his professional career he had a strong interest in preparing those who had been incarcerated for re-entry into society. He supported an approach to incarceration that emphasized rehabilitation, where this was possible, rather than merely punishment. In his work he saw evidence that when prisoners were adequately prepared to make the transition from incarceration to re-integration into communities the likelihood of recidivism was reduced. He worked to create programs that would allow prisoners to strengthen their ties to constructive and supportive community networks prior to their release.

Hawkins was also an effective and consistent advocate for continuing the role of social workers in prisons, even at a time when the State of Pennsylvania was moving toward minimizing such involvement. Hawkins chaired the criminal justice skill area at the University of Pittsburgh, and fought for continued preparation of social workers to work with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated populations, reasoning that the profession should not drop its commitment to those who needed its services, even though such services had fallen out of favor with public opinion and elected officials who allowed themselves to believe that working to rehabilitate prisoners was being “soft on crime.”

One of the contributions to the profession that he was proudest of was his critical role in helping to establish the Program for Female Offenders in Western Pennsylvania. The program was established to help female offenders make the transition back to civilian life while they were in prison, and by providing alternative settings for non-violent offenders. It involved him in working with a population that was generally overlooked, even among social workers who were involved in other aspects of criminal justice.

To promote reconciliation, Hawkins worked to improve race relations during a period when such conflicts were reaching a breaking point. While in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1968 – 69 Hawkins worked as the Director of Community Relations. He was the first and only African American to hold a position in city hall at that time. He found himself in a delicate and politically-charged position, in a racially segregated city. He worked to improve cooperation and communication between the different sides who were locked in conflict. The issues concerning race relations were compounded by issues of poverty and limits on economic opportunity. Hawkins maintained an office in the heart of the low-income African American community, in order to ensure that the voices of traditionally-ignored residents would be heard in city hall.

Hawkins was also active in recruitment and retention of African American students for the School of Social Work during a period in which the profession needed to expand the number of social workers who would work with the historically underserved black population. Hawkins not only recruited black graduate students, but provided direct mentorship, assisting them in developing research and writing skills. He was also instrumental in linking students to other faculty members in the university who would help them with statistical analysis and social theories. He did not, however, confine his efforts to assisting only African American students; he made his services available for students of all backgrounds, who found his assistance indispensable for their intellectual and career development.

For Alexander Hawkins, the most pressing issue when he entered the social work profession was the ongoing struggle for civil rights. His concerns in this area centered on the ability of African Americans to gain access to social services, public accommodations, voting rights, and to segregation in schools and housing. Over the years he developed additional concerns that included creating greater opportunities for students of all backgrounds to have access to higher education, increasing employment opportunities, to improve police and community relations, and to implement prison reform with a focus on rehabilitation. Throughout his career, due largely to his background in psychology and his early experiences within the social work profession, he remained an advocate for the humane treatment of the mentally retarded and mental health patients.

Upon his death in 1987, his wife established the Alexander A. Hawkins Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Pittsburgh. In 2003 this fund was re-named the Alexander and Mabel Hawkins Memorial Scholarship Fund. He was a loving and compassionate father, who is still dearly missed by his two sons.

My Mother and Social Work

NASW Pioneers: Mabel T. Hawkins, PhD.

By C. Matthew Hawkins

Mabel Teola Emanuel Hawkins, PhD did her undergraduate studies at Spelman College in Atlanta, approximately from 1940 – 44, and later did her masters work at Atlanta University, and earned her PhD at the University of Pittsburgh. Her area of specialization within social work was children and youth. Her first job, as a social worker, was to work with juvenile offenders. She later gained employment at Family and Children’s Services with a specialization on adoption before becoming a faculty member in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Hawkins grew up as Mabel T. Emanuel. Her father was Matthew Levi Emanuel and her mother was Teola Prior Emanuel. Her father was a teacher and a Baptist minister, who, upon migrating to Pittsburgh in the early 1920s, became a brick cleaner for the exterior of buildings that were covered with soot from the steel mills. Her mother was a hair dresser. Hawkins grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, an historic African American community, as an only child. She nonetheless had many cousins and neighborhood friends who functioned as extended siblings. Nonetheless, she said her passion for issues related to children, and eventually for social work, was being rooted in her desire for siblings when she was a child. Even as a child she had aspirations for opening an orphanage someday.

Although she came from a working class background and her family suffered extended periods of unemployment during the Depression, she had the benefit of parents who strongly emphasized the value of religion and education. Because the family had its origins in Atlanta, they would periodically make return trips to the south to keep in contact with other relatives. It was there that she first developed an appreciation for Spelman College, which was an African American women’s college. Her desire to attend the college, when she got older, became a strong source of motivation for her through most of her primary and secondary education years.

When a guidance counselor at the high school she attended told her she should forget about college and prepare to be a domestic because, according to the counselor, this was the only practical future for a black woman, her father marched into the guidance counselor’s office the next day and firmly informed the woman that it was his job to figure out how to pay for his daughter’s college education and it was their job to see that she was academically prepared to attend upon graduation.

While she grew up in a struggling working class family during the Great Depression, Mabel Hawkins later observed that she was unaware of her family’s poverty. Her parents filled the home with love and did not call attention to their financial situation. They did, however, encourage her to be frugal, and make wise choices. They let her know that she could not have everything she desired and they trusted her judgment. When she wanted both a bicycle and a typewriter upon graduation from high school they had her choose between the two. It was a difficult choice and she knew that her parents would honor her wishes whichever gift she chose. After considerable reflection she settled on the typewriter, convinced that it would be more valuable to her in the long run.

A college friend of hers, from an affluent family, commented during one of her visits to the Emanuel household, “your family may be poor, when it comes to money, but it is rich with love.” It was at Spelman College that she met her future husband, Alexander Amos Hawkins, who was attending Morehouse College at the time. Alexander Hawkins also became a social worker, earning his PhD. in education and teaching in the School of Social Work from late 1960s until 1987.

In college, Mabel Hawkins became friends with students from a wide range of social and economic backgrounds. Her closest friend was studying medicine, and eventually became a physician. Hawkins’ values and perspectives on social problems were primarily shaped by the humanitarian emphasis of her religious upbringing. It was this humanitarian background that provided her with a perspective that allowed her to interact with other students on the basis of their character, without regard to class distinctions. Her friends in college often said. “If Mabel can’t get along with somebody then nobody can.”

During the Second World War she worked in the summer as an office clerk for the Pentagon. During her studies for her Masters’ degree at the University of Pittsburgh, her internship was with Juvenile Court. While she appreciated the importance of professional objectivity in social work, she also felt it important to connect with her clients on a human level. Her field placement supervisor noted that this distinguished her from others who had been placed at the site.

Upon completing her Master’s degree, she worked for a while in the field of child adoption until she had two sons of her own, Alexander A. Hawkins, Jr. and Clinton Matthew Hawkins. She took about five years off from work until the youngest of her children entered Kindergarten, which allowed her to gradually re-enter the workforce.

Upon entering the field of social work, the key issues that she encountered centered on racial discrimination and poverty. Mabel Hawkins became a professional social worker during the post-war years, when the civil rights movement was gaining steam in the south and having an impact across the country. In the north, she could see, first hand, the effects of post-war exodus of whites to the suburbs and the growing concentration of poverty in the inner cities. Through her work with youth she became aware of the relationship between the poor living conditions and lack of nutrition that children received at home and behavioral problems as they were manifested in the schools.

While she was studying social work, Mabel Hawkins learned assessment skills and the importance of seeing the client within the context of a larger community. This knowledge led her, in later years as a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work, to establish a series of community-based tutoring programs in the Hill District and in Homewood Brushton. Graduate students and younger students still in secondary education staffed the tutoring programs she initiated. These programs were as much an education for the tutors as they were for the tutees, because it gave the tutors an opportunity think about and respond to the social conditions in the surrounding neighborhood. This was a reflection of the systemic perspective that Mabel Hawkins gained through her social work education.

Her approach to the tutoring programs she initiated was holistic, allowing graduate students to play a significant role in making hiring decisions and in designing activities and the program for education. Both tutoring locations recognized the importance of child nutrition as being essential for a student’s willingness and ability to learn. Inexpensive breakfasts and lunches were included in the programs. In Homewood Brushton there was a heavy emphasis on community engagement, to point where the tutors met with the parents of the younger students in their homes and talked with them about their children’s lessons. They also assisted some of the parents in registering to vote.

In the early 1980s Mabel Hawkins was elected second Vice-President of NASW. In this capacity she pursued her interest in encouraging at focus in social work education aimed toward preparing students to have an awareness of family dynamics and the continuing role that racism plays in American society. She traveled widely and sought first-hand experience with people from different groups and sub-cultures. Her thirst for knowledge led her to embark on a Semester at Sea upon retirement, in which she took classes on a ship and traveled around the world. She also continued her education by studying and writing poetry and supporting African American cultural events in the city of Pittsburgh.

Mabel Hawkins repeatedly emphasized that social workers should understand the importance of strong family and community networks for individual clients. Through her activities young people, she emphasized the importance of intervener being interested in the things that interest the client, while using such opportunities to strengthen the client’s discernment skills. In her retirement years she became engaged in volunteer work for a Mime Ministry in her church because she could see that young people were interested in dance. She took the opportunity, during this ministry, to expose the members of the troop to the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes, among others. When she organized activities for young people to attend plays or movies she built in time for debriefing sessions so that they could talk about, and think through, what they had just seen. As she traveled around the world she brought back distinctive children’s books so that she could broaden the perspectives of young readers.

Toward the end of her life, Mabel Hawkins expressed several concerns that she felt were comparable to, and extensions of, the challenges she faced when she began her career. Central to her concerns was the deterioration of the social fabric once facilitated greater communication between generations. She was concerned about the break-down of families and the increased difficulty in transmitting wholesome values to emerging generations. She observed that young people seemed to be more easily distracted than in the past, and had a shorter attention-span. She also saw evidence that African American males were increasingly being stigmatized and marginalized in ways that diminished their opportunities for education and employment.

She played a central role in establishing the Alexander A. Hawkins Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Pittsburgh. Upon her death in 2003 this fund was re-named the Alexander and Mabel Hawkins Memorial Scholarship Fund. She was a loving and nurturing mother, whose presence and warmth can never be replaced.