BiographyAs partners in writing Transforming Racial and Cultural Lines in Health and Social Care: Listening, Loving, and Lifting Spirits When You Can, Jan and June share their interwoven biographies.
From an early age, June recognized human resilience amid human suffering. Her mother was an immigrant Japanese woman who embodied her ancestral Samurai spirit when she left Japan in the wake of the suffering inflicted by the atomic bombs. Her father embodied the strength and dignity instilled by his tribal kin - African ancestors who survived their enslavement and indigenous forebearers who survived genocide. She became skilled in seeing the light in others and herself and ultimately was drawn to a community of like-hearted social workers committed to uplifting the human spirit while lessening human suffering.
Years later, as a social worker in a predominantly white organization, in an overwhelmingly white state, she struggled to find the depth of authentic human connection and the synergistic life force with others that she needed to thrive. She had begun to notice increasing anger, bone-numbing exhaustion, and a deafening hopelessness building within her. Without a community of spirited and collaborative allies, she suffered. She found an unexpected ally in Jan, a white occupational therapist. As June shared stories of pain honed from experiences of isolation, racism, and rejection, Jan listened with love, compassion, and hopefulness. Missing was the denial, guilt, shame, helplessness, or shock that I was familiar with when sharing those types of experiences with white people. In ever-increasing collaborative exchanges, June and Jan both transformed. June found with Jan a most powerful partner for life - a co-conspirator committed to transforming pain and suffering into healing and flourishing.
As a young white female of Irish, German, and Scottish heritage, Jan was inspired by the kindness, generosity, and humor in my mixed Catholic/Protestant white family and friends. Yet she also saw harshness, pain, disconnection, and the pull to addictions. Racism, sexism, and classism also reared their ugly heads and left her indignant. She felt particularly pained by racism and felt lost about how to interrupt it. Catholicism connected her with an awareness of the pain and suffering in the global human family and offered her hope and community in the fight for a better world for all people. Fortunately, when she discovered occupational therapy, her chosen profession became an additional vehicle for social change. Joining with occupational therapists and other health professionals to fight for better lives for all people, particularly for people with disabilities, people with mental health labels, and for all oppressed people, became a richly rewarding journey and deeply meaningful occupation.
On this journey, she found building open, honest, and loving friendships with people from all backgrounds, but particularly with Black and Indigenous people, profoundly changed her life. They corrected her when she made mistakes, teased her about her whiteness, held out that she and other white people were good, and that they needed much healing from the damage of racism. Over time, they opened up about the hurts of multiple oppressions in their lives. When she met June, Jan felt an immediate kinship between them. June was as determined as she was to take action to end racism and all forms of oppression in the world and to place connection and enjoyment at the center of that work.
Jan and June’s Journey of Transforming Racial and Cultural Lines
Over time, Jan and June shared about the painful experiences of oppression in their lives. Racial and cultural divisions between them dissolved into tears and laughter as they listened, loved, and lifted spirits with each other. They became committed to sharing this process with other health and social care practitioners. Out of their relationship, they gave birth to their book, Transforming Racial and Cultural Lines in Health and Social Care: Listening, Loving, and Listening Spirits When You Can.
More About June
June received her B.S.W and her M.S.W in Social Work from the University of Kansas. Her expertise is in clinical social work with an emphasis on cultural diversity. An activist, June brings a social justice perspective to her work. Believing deeply that the personal is political and the spiritual is at the core of the personal, June incorporates an understanding of the nature of oppression, emotional healing, interpersonal dialogue, and group processing, in a spiritually grounded approach.
More About Jan
Jan received her B.S. in Physical Education (Pre-Physical Therapy) and Psychology from the University of New Hampshire and her Masters in Occupational Therapy from Boston University. As an occupational therapist, she worked primarily in the mental health field. In this work, she became increasingly aware of the profound influence of trauma on the mental health and wellbeing of her clients. Ongoing classes on the art of listening and peer counseling informed her of the widespread nature of both trauma and oppression in the lives of all humans - including herself. As an occupational therapy practitioner, she blended artful and compassionate listening with the transformative power of occupation to promote recovery, growth and healing. Positive outcomes in clinical practice combined with successful adjunct teaching experiences sparked Jan to pursue a full-time academic position at the University of New England where she has been teaching since 1989. In her role as associate professor of occupational therapy, Jan is continually Inspired by colleagues and clients of color to expand her understanding of the impact of trauma and oppression (particularly racism, sexism, mental health, and disability oppression) on health, wellness, and engagement in occupation. She infuses her teaching and scholarship with theory about the art of listening, the nature of oppression, and the process of healing and recovery.
BSW, Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 1978
MSW, Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 1983
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
June is known for her efforts to expand the boundaries of systems thinking to address issues of social justice, anti-Black racism, and equity including issues of culture and race. Her ongoing theoretical and practice work pushes the boundaries of the dominant world of psychotherapy to consider white privilege and internalized racism as a major influence within the therapeutic process. June’s scholarship includes op-ed publications in local newspapers and in self-published blogs on www.Medium.com.
June’s interests include hiking, yoga, learning Japanese, joining her daughter Dylan and her partner Jake in renovating their school bus, laughing while watching social commentary comedy, experimenting with Japanese hot pots, blogging, op-ed writing, Buddhism, and chanting.
Published: Sep 11, 2020 by Portland Press Herald
Authors: June Thornton-Marsh
Subjects: Health and Social Care, Social Work
In the current political climate, as women increasingly claim their power and leadership, some men, feeling threatened, are retaliating while other men stand by as silent observers. It is important to understand how male silence is ultimately connected to the violence that young boys experience. When society conditions young boys to ignore the pain of self, they often become men who ignore the suffering of others. This socialization impacts all of us—men and women alike.
Published: Aug 14, 2020 by Medium
Authors: June Thornton-Marsh
Subjects: Health and Social Care, Social Work
Ever notice the necks of Black people are of particular interest to white people? As a Black—Japanese heritage woman, I have noticed this. Remember George Floyd. There was particularly forceful and deadly attention put on his neck. Yes, the human neck is an impressive sight to behold. Some Asian and African cultures have a tradition where they honor the neck by wearing neck rings to create the appearance of a stretched neck. An elongated neck is the ideal of beauty.