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TSSW Pays Tribute to Dean Millie Charles of Southern University New Orleans

Dean Millie Charles poses in her home in 2014, the year she won The Times-Picayune Loving Cup. Photo by Dinah Rogers NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 

The Tulane School of Social Work sends its deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Millie Charles. As founder and leader of the School of Social Work at Southern University New Orleans, Dean Charles advanced social work knowledge and opportunities in New Orleans and beyond, and we appreciate her dedication to the profession and social justice. Several of our faculty members were immeasurably impacted by the wisdom and contributions of Dean Charles, and we are honored to share the following from a few of them.

“Dean Charles lived a life that embodied the spirit of resilience and purpose. Her leadership was driven by a long-term commitment to graduating social workers dedicated to serving the community. After joining the TSSW faculty, my research took me to various community agencies and groups including the local chapter of the Association of Black Social Workers. Everyone I met would uniformly speak with reverence and respect of Millie Charles as a person I needed to meet if I planned to do any type of research in the community. The profession of social work, children, and families in the city of New Orleans Community and state of Louisiana will continue to benefit from policies, practices and the teaching of this social work giant, Millie Charles." – Dr. Marva Lewis, Associate Professor

“First, I offer my deepest sympathy and condolence to the Millie Charles family. The light shining in the Social Work world is much dimmer today. Mama Charles was a mentor to me and many other social workers in this city. She was a fierce worrier for social justice and yet a compassionate human being. She was a powerful voice for the voiceless and could make change happen with a whisper. Mama Charles was an activist and advocate for marginalized people all of her professional life. Of the many memorable occasions I had with Mama Charles, the one that stuck with me the most happened seven years ago. Several of us planned a June 21, 2013 protest rally on the steps of the Federal Court building on Poydras Street because of the death of Trayvon Martin. Many TSSW students participated in the protest. None of the organizers expected Mama Charles to attend the rally. However, she insisted that her daughter, H.M.K. Amen, bring her to the protest. When her car arrived I stuck my head through the window and held her hand. And with that wide, beautiful smile she said, “Keep fighting.”  Mama Charles’ health did not allow her to speak at the rally or even leave her car. I think she was ninety years old at that time. Yet, the mere presence of her sitting in her car was an inspiration to many at the rally. Mama Charles’ words, “Keep fighting,” remain with me even to this day. And, as we say in the African American community, “Go on home, Mama Charles, take your rest, for a job well done.” – Dr. Reginald “Reggie” Parquet, LCSW-BACS, Clinical Assistant Professor

“Millie Charles was a pioneer in Community Social Work. When she spearheaded the Southern University at New Orleans Master’s level Social Work program she insisted on creating a program that was systems based, teaching their students to serve clients holistically. Understanding that systems were often barriers to the clients we serve, Millie navigated away from interventions that blamed the individual and family. She promoted proficiency in community based services and prepared students to work with disenfranchised and indigent populations. She challenged Social Workers to give 110% and to leave no stone unturned in service delivery and challenged me to think outside the box. She was a servant leader who taught by doing. Rest in Peace to a great Social Work Champion.” – Dr. Deidre Hayes, LCSW-BACS, Professor of Practice    

"If there is to be a pioneer within the New Orleans' African American community, it is Millie Charles. She was among the first to allow people of color in New Orleans to participate and gain access to social work education and empowered the African American community by instilling within us that we have the inherent right to be part of the process regarding decisions made for our lives, families, and community. May the spirit of Millie Charles continue to live within our daily social work practice. It is because of Millie Charles that I have been privileged to be a Social Worker in academia." – Dr. Candice Beasley, LCSW-BACS, Clinical Assistant Professor

With sympathy,

Dean Patrick Bordnick, Faculty, and Staff of Tulane University School of Social Work