Director & Professor, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS. Born: Halifax, NS.
Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard joined Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Social Work in 1990 and was appointed Director in 2001. Her research with Black men and the violence of racism, particularly in the criminal justice system, has had significant impact on not only academic work but also agency and community-based practice. She has made major academic and professional contributions to the field of Black masculinity, to the investigation of Black women’s health and well-being, and to an Africentric understanding of the strengths of Black families, including Black men’s experience of mothering and othermothering.
She has provided leadership in developing culturally relevant services and culturally specific programs in the health professions; she has organized numerous conferences and workshops meeting the requests of various academic, practitioner and community groups for anti-racist, Africentric perspectives on community issues such as violence, gender, and health. She has been instrumental in the development of community-based research teams in her field and has documented the challenges of participatory action research, especially in an academic context. She has participated in the innovative, multi-media dissemination of research findings focusing on media representations of African Canadians and domestic violence in the Black community
Dr. Bernard has worked over the years to foster links among academics, frontline practitioners, and the community, in particular the African-Nova Scotian community. Her multitude of invited presentations, keynote addresses, professional development workshops, and community outreach activities provide concrete evidence of her dedication to educating others about the need for further investigation into African-Canadians’ health and well-being, including the provision of health services that will encourage increased access from marginalized populations. As she has become more established in her academic field, Dr. Bernard has been able to translate her productivity and leadership in community and professional activities into innovative and challenging research productivity.
Community: Active in the church and with community groups; founding member, Association of Black Social Workers; previously involved with Black United Front and National Black Coalition.
Honours: Several, including inclusion in Who’s Who in Black Canada 2 (2006); Member, Order of Canada (2005); WP Oliver Wall of Honour, BCC (2005); named “Rebel with a Cause” by the Elizabeth Fry Society, Nova Scotia (2005); Human Rights Award, Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (2004); Governor General 125th (1992); Volunteer of the Year, Halifax United Way (1992).
Works: Articles and essays in First Nations Women/Black Women/Women of Colour and Health (2005); Mothers of the Municipality (2005); Handbook for Working with Children and Youth: Pathways to Resilience (2005); Mother Outlaws: Theories and Practices of Empowered Mothers (2004); Working with Men for Change (1999); Canadian Women’s Journal; Canadian Social Work Review. Co-authored and edited books: Race and Well-Being: The Lives, Hopes and Activism of African Canadians (2010); Fighting For Change: Black Social Workers in Nova Scotia (2006); Broadening Horizons: International Exchanges in Social Work (2003).
Education: PhD, Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield (1996); MSW, Dalhousie University (1977); BA, Mount Saint Vincent University (1975).
Favourite book? The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. I love this book because it tells our history in an amazingly vivid, yet sensitive way. Told through the voice of a woman, a former slave, who was endured so much trauma, but remained strong and resilient. That is the sort of resilence I want to help contemporary citizens of African descent recieve, and that book helps to create a sense that it is possible.
Favourite quotes? 1) “Lift as you climb.”‘ – bell hooks 2) “Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Ghandi
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? I have no ‘bucket list’, as I have been privileged and blessed to have done all of the things that I have wanted to do. Anything that comes along now is just an added blessing and privilege. I always love a challenge, and opportunity to effect change.
Who or what inspires you? I have been inspired by a number of people, too numerous to mention here. However, the type of person that inspires me is one who maintains integrity and positive energy in spite of incredible challenge, one who dares to take a stand on challenging issues, and/or one who gives back.
Why do you do what you do? As noted above, I stand on the shoulders of many great women and men that went before me, and made it possible for me to be who, and where I am today. I have faced adversity in my life, and have survived through the support, advice, love and grace of others. I must give back, in thanks for those who have given so much to me. I try to ‘lift as I climb’ everyday, and I try to lead the change I want to see in the world.