S. Kent Butler, ACA’s 70th president

Hotep! I am excited to begin my term as the 70th president of this amazing organization. My own personal theme for this year is “Decades of My Life.” The significance of “decades” lies in the various milestones I have achieved throughout my lifetime. Speaking of which, it is my esteemed honor to serve as ACA president for the next 12 months. This year marks ACA’s 70th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD). I was 10 when AMCD was founded; magically, life has flown by, blessing me to see 60 this past May. 

Overall, life has been good to me, which is why the prior year presents as such an anomaly. The year 2020 should have promised spectacular vision for our future. Instead, it provided the world and the counseling community with a lot of drama and opened our eyes to the countless disparities that plague our nation. Each day seemingly topped the next with unprecedented havoc and traumatic experiences. Sadly, those experiences stemmed from human interactions — from people treating other people badly. 

But enough about the doom and gloom because I do not believe where we are today is where we need to stay. We are on the cusp of change and have about nine more years to dramatically improve this decade. Given where we have been, I know without a doubt that we are on an upward trajectory and destined for transformative justice. Counselors united! Ready to #ShakeItUp? Well, join me in making a difference because I am tapping you in. We are the game changers, so tap someone else in and begin the metamorphosis.

#ShakeItUp and #TapSomeoneIn are significant parts of my vision for the year. Each hashtag revolves around aspects of diversity and inclusion. It is time for us as counselors to sincerely embrace a social justice mindset that fosters community and creates equal access for all. In my multiculturalism and social justice journey, I have found that the narrative is frequently co-opted by fear and trepidation and that these factors often negatively influence meaningful communication and systemic change. I would like for counselors to be the impetus behind creating safe spaces for people to communicate openly and honestly about diversity and inclusivity initiatives related to equity and fairness. I am hopeful that ACA, along with our divisions, regions, branches and other assorted stakeholders, will seek to diversify leadership, shake it up a bit, and intentionally tap someone in to the governance pipeline through earnest leadership development and authentic mentorship.

I intend to create myriad opportunities this year for open and honest conversations that are nonthreatening. To this end, I am planning to host a weekly podcast dedicated to all things counseling, as well as facilitate (alongside ACA CEO Rich Yep) a monthly Virtual Town Hall series that will provide ACA members opportunities to receive real-time updates on the current state of the counseling profession and a space to voice their opinions, concerns and ideas in a constructive manner. I also have several task forces to announce (more on this in a future column). 

Lastly, I would like to throw out the idea of ACA sponsoring an “International Day” at the 2022 conference in Atlanta. I envision a one-day experience dedicated to attendees simply wearing an outfit that is rooted in their ethnicity/culture. Throughout the day, attendees would engage in intentional conversations centered on their various intersectionalities. In fact, it would be cool to see this become a yearlong endeavor encouraged at all ACA-sponsored events. It would be phenomenal if leaders would embrace this opportunity at Governing Council meetings, regional and state conferences, and other proceedings.

The fact is, we learn and grow most when we are open to our multiple intersectionalities touching, interceding, and informing us about each other’s worldviews and life experiences. When we touch each other’s lives, let our imaginations flow, ask ourselves what it is that we can do and then spring into action, we can accomplish anything. It only takes determination. 

I believe that the journey outlined above can lead us to transformative change. As a counseling community, we must allow ourselves to seriously get to the root of problems. I stand with you. As your president, I will open doors to important dialogues and provide ACA membership with the tools necessary to help create systemic change. Together, we will move beyond simply talking about diversity and inclusion and actually create and implement a sustainable pathway to achieving them — a masterful plan that creates a beautifully woven cultural fabric that is truly representative of our communities. 

#ShakeItUp and #TapSomeoneIn.

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