Remembering Paulette Hines

To the Family Therapy Community


We want to let the community know that we have lost our beloved Paulette Moore Hines, our friend, colleague and “life mate” for many decades, with whom we worked and laughed, and struggled over how to change ourselves, our communities, and our world. She made so much difference in our lives and did so much to strengthen us and make us better people. Paulette has now become one of our ancestors. Saying her name aloud keeps her at the table so we can talk with her. She is on our side for all eternity. We are grateful to have her wisdom and strength as our ancestral angel. 

With so much love from us at the Multicultural Family Institute: Monica McGoldrick, Nydia Garcia Preto, Charlesetta Sutton, Barbara Petkov and Sueli Petry

A quote from Paulette from Revisioning Family Therapy:

“We…can find guidance regarding how to protect and heal our bruised spirits by turning to the wisdom of our ancestors, through whatever means this knowledge has been preserved…We…can be empowered by reaching into and beyond ourselves and tapping our cultural legacies. “

Paulette Moore Hines, PhD

There is no one you would rather have in your corner when you are at the most complex, difficult, trying moments of your life than Paulette Moore Hines.

She had the most dazzling ability to keep her feet on the ground and her heart open to others’ needs, personal stress, and pain, while staying focused on the task at hand. She could manage an immediate conflict with phenomenal diplomacy, while thinking up three levels to what an organization could do to transform itself to create a more responsive context for tomorrow’s children’s education and to prevent problems years down the road.

She could remain diplomatic, strategic and loving in the tightest, most polarized discussion, while never retreating from the hard realities that need to be addressed. She lived out her beliefs with all who knew her. Paolo Freire once said that while seeking the deepest why of his pain he was educating his hope. For Paulette, seeking the deepest why of her pain meant educating the hope of all of us. Her ability to maintain and spread hope has been a deep inspiration for all of us who knew her for many decades.

Dr. Paulette Hines was a visionary and collaborative change leader for her whole career. Brilliant, loving and committed, she had a deep sense of caring for people, especially the disenfranchised, for whom she worked tirelessly from the beginning of her career in the 1970s. She saw clearly the work that needed to be done and strove always to draw others together to support individuals, families, communities, and larger systems- including AFTA to function in a more healthy and just way.

She did not let herself become distracted by others unwitting lack of appreciation.  She would joke about being repeatedly called by the wrong name or being the one expected to initiate the conversation about race, even when she was the only person of color in a group.

She was an extremely effective President for AFTA during her term and for many years before and after she struggled to help the organization become more equitable.

She never stopped trying, to help people recognize how white supremacy blinds us to the context in which we are operating, and what we can do to help transform our lives, our relationships, our organizations and our society. She never stopped believing that together we can make the difference and pull ourselves forward toward a more equitable world.

Her commitment to develop collaborative support for those who have been kept at the margins was daunting. She worked within our Mental Health complex with many of us, Charlee Sutton, Nydia Garcia Preto, Monica McGoldrick and many other family therapists for decades, and she persevered, working from within, when we peeled off, staying so she could continue trying to draw resources from a large and wealthy medical organization to create innovative programs to help struggling families and communities. She made tremendous efforts, more than anyone will ever realize, to help minorities connect or stay connected there and at AFTA. But she never stopped worrying that she hadn’t gone far enough or had left some stone unturned.

At the same time, she expended more energy than any of us can ever appreciate to connect with those of us who are part of the dominant groups in our organizations and in our society, to diplomatically connect with us and coach us toward better collaboration for everyone’s sake.

Her caring and commitment came from deep within her. Her grandfather, a Baptist minister, used to say to her, “Never say you can’t.” And she was listening. She never said “Can’t.” And, as she often put it, “It’s not about being grandiose. It’s about keeping on keeping on.” How often we all heard her repeat: “When life knocks you down, land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up.” This expression is so typical of the humor and the perseverance of how our Summa Cum Laude friend lived her life and concentrated on the many challenging aspects of the change she always sought to accomplish.

Paulette at her UMDNJ Retirement with her Niece

Paulette’s commitment was always to working with vulnerable populations, swimming uptide and walking into the wind. She never took the easy road. Her commitment was to changing the world one person, one family, one friend, one community and one organization at a time, never forgetting those she was supporting to keep up their hope and find their sources of resilience so they could pick themselves up for one more day.

From top: Charlee Sutton & Jay Lapin, Betty Carter & Ken Hardy, Chinwe Achebe Joyce Richardson, Bottom: Monica & Evelyn Lee.

She struggled hard on a daily basis with the misjudgments of others, who often chose her to have a person of color in the room rather than because they really cared what she had to say. But she stayed at the table and she kept working at collaboration. The real power of her contribution to our field was her collaboration with others to move forward ideas and practice that can only be done by working tirelessly together as a team.

We were blessed to be at least marginally on her team since the 1970s when she came to our mental health center as a Psych Intern-. And we have been blessed to work with her and have her at our side for almost 50 years now. We collaborated on writing and training projects and most of all during the years of our involvement with a statewide cultural competence training project, which was a culmination of training we had been trying to evolve for many years previously at our Mental Health Center.

She was always the one who pushed to keep the broadest possible focus- never letting us think of families apart from their context. And she was the one who kept hope alive when there were cuts and it would have been easy to give up and just focus on private practice. She always pushed us all toward the big picture.

She was tireless in her efforts to design and disseminate culturally based interventions that empower people to not only survive, but to thrive. She was a pioneer in the area of prevention services, generating millions of dollars for ground-breaking research and training grants to improve mental health, prevent violence and promote the well-being of children, families and communities. She had an amazing ability to build partnerships with mental health agencies, schools, faith-based institutions, and the juvenile justice system to improve the quality of life of underserved and vulnerable populations. She developed programs such as the New Jersey Youth Corps, Healing and Recovery from Trauma, Peacekeepers, Making Better Choices, and SANKOFA, a program she, Charlee Sutton and several others developed to equip youth with the knowledge, attitudes, skills, confidence, and motivation to minimize their risk for victimization owing to violence, alcohol and other drug use and other negative behaviors, promoting resilience and survival in difficult and even life-threatening situations. SANKOFA, an Akan word from Ghana, means reaching back to the wisdom of the past in order to move forward. It is based on the idea that healthy functioning is closely linked to always holding on to one’s basic principles, especially within an oppressive context. So she worked with schools, job centers, and every sort of organization she could think of to develop programs to strengthen those who have the fewest resources and the least acknowledgment in our society. She focused on prevention rather than waiting for people to fall off the cliff and need crisis intervention.

Such ideas were at the core of Paulette’s efforts for her whole career. She made the same efforts with AFTA as she had throughout her professional career, focusing always on building partnerships and models with fragile communities, groups, and families.

Her loss leaves a hole in our hearts and those of many others. But we must keep in our minds her profound will to make the world a better place and try to keep her efforts going. Her person is not here with us but her spirit will continue to shine and give us hope.

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