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Racial Justice Advocacy & Action in Times of Tragedy

12 Jul

We at the YWCA of Asheville are deeply saddened by the local tragedy of events resulting in the death of Jai “Jerry” Lateef Solveig Williams. We grieve with our community for the loss of another young African-American man.

RacismHurtsEveryone_BlackThis, compounded with the appalling deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of law enforcement, deepens our resolve to work towards dismantling systemic racism that undermines our society and threatens us all.
The mission of the YWCA is eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. While details are still emerging through the ongoing investigation of local events, the YWCA of Asheville is committed to working with our community as part of the Racial Justice Coalition to eliminate any and all forms of institutional and structural racism.
Read this statement documenting a meeting with Asheville Police Department Chief Hooper and members of community organizations including the Racial Justice Coalition. As leaders within the Racial Justice Coalition, the YWCA will continue to work closely with APD to ensure truth and accountability emerge from this investigation. Stay connected with us for further updates and dialogue through this Blog and our Facebook and Twitter.

We Stand with Orlando

16 Jun

The mission of the YWCA is Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women and Promoting Peace, Justice, Freedom and Dignity for all.  Powerful, meaningful words and the last two words are the most germane, given the evil that occurred in Orlando – “For All.”

…for people of all races and skin color,
…for people of all gender identities,
…for people of all sexual orientations,
…for people of all ages,
…for people of all religions,

That is why the Orlando shooting is so truly tragic on so many levels.  The shooter professed to be Muslim, the victims were mainly gay, and many were Latino and African American.

The intersectionality of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation can be difficult under the best of circumstances. And early Sunday morning became the worst of circumstances – the single largest act of gun violence in our Country’s modern history.

As we try to move forward in this country under the shadow of gun violence, systemic and institutional racism, and the irrational fear that is homophobia, it is our commitment to make substantive changes, to join with the YWCA USA in advocating for stronger gun laws, to stay strong for one another, and to be our best selves with each other.

We at the YWCA of Asheville stand firmly with our brothers and sisters in Orlando. We mourn the loss of their loved ones and family members. We want all of our staff and members to feel safe and supported, particularly as we navigate events so tragic, so incomprehensible, so horrific as the mass shooting in Orlando.  The YWCA of Asheville, its leadership, and staff, are committed to living into our mission, especially in these times of great sorrow.

 

The invisible child care crisis: school age children

6 May

 

Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO

Beth Maczka, Asheville Citizen-Times Guest Columnist

 

Last week’s op-ed highlighted the Invisible Childcare Crisis in early childhood, but the crisis doesn’t stop when a child enters kindergarten.

Access to affordable, quality childcare remains the biggest barrier to a woman’s economic security, even as her child transitions from early learning programs to school.

For Melanie, a childcare voucher for her two school age children allowed her to work and support her family. Working increased her self-confidence and supporting her family increased her self-worth. Ironically, earning a small raise tipped her over the income limit for eligibility, resulting in the loss of her childcare voucher. We call this an “income cliff” and it is very real in our community. Melanie’s situation is not unique. This is happening to hundreds of families in Buncombe County, and we all lose.

Parents lose opportunities to advance in their careers and support their families; employers lose valuable employees and are forced to re-hire and re-train staff. And children lose the chance to gain critical educational enrichment during their most formative years.

In the last 18 months alone, 242 of Buncombe County’s children lost access to school-age childcare.

A primary reason families lose school age childcare vouchers is due to income eligibility requirements being tightened during the 2014 NC legislative budget process. Previously families could earn up to 75 percent of the State Median Income (or $4,187 monthly) for a family of 4 to qualify for childcare vouchers for children ages 6-12. Now that same family can only earn up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (or $2,688 monthly).

For example, Joyce is a mother of three and makes $32,000 or $2667 gross monthly. That allows her three children to receive services valued at $412 per child per month for a total of $1236 per month. Joyce receives a raise of $500, and she is now making $32,500. Under the new income guidelines, she makes $ $20 over the monthly limit, causing her to lose the $1236 a month in subsidy. A raise of $500 a year means that Joyce will now need to spend an additional $14,100 each year for childcare, or 43 percent of her income. This is a crisis.

Another income cliff occurs when a child who’s been receiving a voucher from birth to age 5, turns 6 years old. The NC state income level for a younger child is $48,504 for a family of four, but when the child turns 6, a family with earnings over $32,256 will lose childcare assistance. This happens immediately, regardless of when in the school year the child turns 6, leading to disruption of care, relationships and routines. Parents still need to work and their children are not able to care for themselves. The crisis is growing.

School age childcare programs are essential for families needing care till the end of the work day or throughout the summer. And low-income children who most need support to participate in quality afterschool and summer camp programs are also most likely to be impacted by summer learning loss.

Quality afterschool and summer camp programs keep children safe, provide nutritious snacks and meals, and provide essential academic supports including homework help, fun educational activities, and enriching field trips.

Remind your NC State representatives that school age children need afterschool care and summer camp to keep them safe and learning, and working families need access to year-round care for their school age children.

Ask your representatives to implement these recommendations immediately:

Make the income eligibility for early learning and school age programs consistent at 200% of poverty.

Create a system to pro-rate fees rather than forcing parents with all or nothing choices. If a family is $200 over the income limit, charge them a slightly higher co-pay rather than removing the full subsidy support.

Support the continuation of a child’s school age services for the school year during which they turn 6.

Working families need school age childcare now.

Beth Maczka is CEO, YWCA of Asheville.

This op-ed is endorsed by the following 5-star centers and child advocacy groups in Buncombe County:

Buncombe County Partnership for Children

Children First Communities in Schools

Asheville Jewish Community Center

Child Care availability is an invisible crisis in our community

29 Apr

 

Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO

Beth Maczka, Asheville Citizen-Times Guest Columnist

Cultures are judged on how they care for the most vulnerable. How will our community be judged when the care for our youngest children is considered? Early learning programs are essential to nurturing children socially and academically while providing critical support to working families.

 

We all know that we have a less than 1 percent vacancy rate for housing in our community. Did you also know that we have well less than a 1 percent vacancy rate for child care?

Affordable child care is the biggest barrier to women’s economic security. Without child care, you can’t look for work. Without child care you can’t work. Without child care it is difficult, if not impossible, to complete your education.

For Mary, finding an available child care opening meant being able to get, and keep, a job for the first time. Yet for hundreds of families, the lack of childcare spaces is keeping them from working.

Over the last year and a half, we have lost 176 slots from our community’s child care services. For a number of reasons, including a 5-month freeze on state child care voucher payments, three 5-star-rated child care centers and two family child care homes closed.

Even if you can pay full price, there are virtually no open places for children, with the longest waiting lists for infants and toddlers. And if you have a child care voucher, a state subsidy to support low-income working parents, there is no place to use that voucher.

A recent survey of child care providers revealed only six openings for children in Buncombe County out of a population of 4,160 children enrolled in full-time care. This is a crisis.

Child care costs more than in-state college tuition. Child care tuition for an infant is about $12,000 a year. In-state tuition to UNC Chapel Hill, including books, is $10,033.

Even at the cost of $1,000 per child per month (or higher), 5-star child care centers lose money on every child under the age of three, due to the high standards of care and the required adult to child ratio. No wonder some centers only serve 3- to 5-year-olds and existing centers can’t afford to expand infant and toddler rooms.

Add on the fact that the state child care voucher reimbursement rate for an infant in Asheville in a 5-star-rated center is $757, while the same state-funded reimbursement rate for an infant in Charlotte is $870 and $1,066 in Raleigh. Yet the cost of living is higher in Asheville than it is in Charlotte or Raleigh.

We also have a critical shortage in early childhood teachers.

Given the challenge of profitability, paying competitive, if not living wages, to these hard-working saints who care for our children every day is challenging. No wonder we are seeing lower enrollment rates at community colleges and at universities in early childhood education.

Centers are also faced with the rising health insurance costs, which are projected to increase by 16 percent this year. It is no wonder that centers have closed.

Remind your N.C. state representatives that we have a less than 1 percent vacancy for child care slots, a critical child care teacher shortage, and that these conditions are unacceptable for our children, our families and our local businesses.

Ask your representatives to implement these recommendations immediately:

Make the child care subsidy market reimbursement rates fair — based on cost and adjust the subsidy market rate allocation so that it is more equitable.

Increase support for teacher training and compensation for birth to 5 years of age. School age teachers are not the only ones that need a raise!

Our child care center infrastructure is fragile, and we can’t afford to lose any more centers or family child care homes.

Working families need childcare now.

Beth Maczka is CEO, YWCA of Asheville. The mission of the YWCA is Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women. The YWCA of Asheville provides 5-star child care services from birth to 12 years of age along with a range of programs that address disparities in education, health and economic security.

This Op-ed is endorsed by the following 5-star child care centers and child advocacy organizations in Buncombe County:

Buncombe County Partnership for Children

Children First Communities in Schools

Verner Center for Early Learning

Asheville Jewish Community Center Childcare Center

First Presbyterian Church Childcare Center

Mission Hospitals Child Development Center

April is Stand Against Racism Month

11 Apr

SAR_Logo_RGBStand Against Racism is a signature campaign of YWCA USA to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities.  This year, our theme is On A Mission for Girls of Color! We will amplify the national discussion about the impacts of institutional and structural racism on the lives of girls of color.

Last year, nearly 750 sites in 44 states participated. We are proud that Asheville-Buncombe County is one of the most active Stand locations with over 75 participating sites and 29 different public events in 2015.

A-B Tech Stand

Panel discussion featuring: Stephen Smith, Philip Cooper, Vanessa James, Brent Bailey and Dana Bartlett

This year’s Stand is sure to be just as successful with several exciting events taking place throughout the community. Our kickoff off event took place last Thursday, April 7th, at A-B Tech Community College. This event titled, Ban the Box: Promote Employment Fairness, featured two panel discussions that explored efforts to remove the box that asks about criminal records from employment applications.

Here is a list of upcoming Stand events in April:

  • Pack’s Tavern will Stand Against Racism by hosting Pack’s Day on Monday, April 18th, from 11 am – 11 pm. 10% of all proceeds from this day will benefit the YWCA of Asheville.
  • Pour Taproom will take a Stand by donating 10% of all proceeds from Thursday, April 21st, 6 pm – 9 pm to benefit the YWCA of Asheville.
  • Africa Healing Exchange will host a multicultural celebration and benefit to raise awareness and support trauma healing on Thursday April 21st, from 6-9:30  pm at White Horse Black Mountain. This event will feature grammy-nominated singer Laura Reed, with notable guest performers including African-inspired dancers, artists and speakers. African cuisine provided by Kente Kitchen (cash purchase); full bar; vendors featuring coffee, tea and artisan products for sale from Rwanda.
  • The Asheville Chamber of Commerce is joining with the Buncombe County Government, YWCA of Asheville and Mission Health to take a Stand Against Racism by helping businesses better understand how bias shows up in the workplace. Join Lisa Eby and Lakesha McDay on Thursday, April 28th, 11:30 am – 1 pm for “Grey Matter: Understanding the Brain and Bias”. Have you ever wondered where our biases come from? This session will give you insight into the “grey matter”, the brain, and you will learn that we are ALL wired to be biased! Through an interactive workshop, you will see how bias shows up in each of us and leave with concrete steps to minimize the effects of bias in you and your workplace, making Asheville a more inclusive community.
  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville Buncombe County and the Stephens-Lee Alumni Association are co-sponsoring a Stand Against Racism event on Friday, April 29th, 12 pm – 2 pm at the Stephens Lee Center. This program will focus on African American educators that have paved the way for people of color. The panel discussion will discuss the impact of segregation in the Asheville School system, integration, highlight African American educators, and discuss the role that the Stephens-Lee High School played in the education of African Americans.
  • Jubilee! Community will screen the movie “Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity ” and host a round table discussion on Friday April 29th from 6:30-8:30 pm. The film invites America to talk about the causes and consequences of systemic inequity, features moving stories from racial justice leaders including Amer Ahmed, Michael Benitez, Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo, Joy DeGruy, Ericka Huggins, Humaira Jackson, Yuko Kodama, Peggy McIntosh, Rinku Sen, Tilman Smith and Tim Wise.
  • Black Mountain Stand Against Racism will host a public event at White Horse Black Mountain on Sunday, May 1st from 2:30-4:30 pm. Award-winning performer Kat Williams, joined by acclaimed musician, author and speaker David LaMotte, will talk & sing about ways to “Stand Against Racism”. Also participating will be Rev. Hilario Cisneros of La Capilla de Santa Maria in Hendersonville, and Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, who pioneered online postings of actual slave-ownership records. The event will be interspersed with Kat’s inimitable music. Tickets are $10 or $8 for students under 21; available online at http://www.whitehorseblackmountain.com or call (828) 669-0816, with net proceeds going to Kat’s fund for young black men and women.
  • The YWCA of Asheville will take a Stand Against Racism through a series of Racial Justice Workshops for staff, board and volunteers. The Racial Justice Workshops will be held in the Multipurpose Room on the following dates: Monday, April 25, 6 – 7:30 pm, Tuesday, April 26, 6 – 7:30 pm, and Friday, April 29, 12 pm – 1:30 pm. The goals of the Racial Justice Workshop are to learn shared language and concepts related to racial justice, become familiar with the YWCA’s racial justice framework, and grow more comfortable talking about race and racism.

For more information about these events and a full list of Stand Against Racism events visit StandAgainstRacism.org

A-Team Stand SelfieWe encourage you to take a Stand Against Racism by participating in one of these community events, organizing an event of your own, or simply dining out at Pack’s Tavern or having a beer at Pour Taproom to support the YWCA.

Any group of any size can become a participating site of the Stand Against Racism. Participating can be as simple as hanging a poster or wearing your “Stand Against Racism” t-shirt and tagging the YWCA of Asheville as part of our Stand Selfie Campaign. Or you can host a public event, rally or day of service. No matter what shape the “stand” takes in each participating site, you can unite our community in a bold demonstration that delivers a clear message: We are on a mission to eliminate racism.

If you would like more information about Stand Against Racism or are interested in becoming a participating site, please contact Gerry Leonard at 828-254-2706, ext. 219 or gleonard@ywcaofasheville.org.

Video Highlights from the Intergenerational Conversation on Race

10 Nov

On October 1, 2015 the organizations Elders Fierce for Justice, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the YWCA of Asheville hosted an inter-generational conversation on racial justice.

The panel discussion was moderated by the Rev. Michael Carter, of the Unitarian Universalist of the Swannanoa Valley.

The panel of elders was composed of community activist Issac Coleman, the Rev. Jim Abbott, retired minister at  St. Mattheas Episcopal Church, and Jacquelyn Hallum, director of education at the Mountain Area Health Education Center.

The youth panel was composed of Raekwon Griffin, class president at Asheville High School, Felicia Blow, community organizer for the Campaign for Southern Equality, and Michael Collins, a representative of Showing Up for Racial Justice and staff member at the YWCA of Asheville.

Speakers focused on the persistence of racial in injustice and what can be done about it. Watch a 12-minute video of highlights from the conversation below.

Sponsors for this event
YwcaofAsheville.org
OLLIAsheville.com
email Elders Fierce for Justice at eldersffj@gmail.com

Video production by Studio Misha
studiomisha.com

Standing in Solidarity with Charleston

30 Jun

The YWCA of Asheville family has been grieving for the 9 victims of the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC and their families.

Solidarity with Charleston 002

On June 19, Beth Maczka, our CEO, made the following statement:
“At the YWCA board meeting last night we learned that one board member lost a relative and another lost three Delta sorority sisters in the Charleston shooting. We are all connected – and if we are to prevent future shootings, we must begin acting like these are our family members. Be angry, be sad, be outraged – but feel something and do something. Be a witness, be an ally, be a light in the darkness. Prayers for our sisters and brothers in Charleston.”

Stand 2 (1)

We then called for our staff, members, and supporters to wear their Stand Against Racism t-shirts and join us for photos in front of our marquee sign on S. French Broad Ave, where we had a message of support for Charleston.

IMG_8861

In addition, we invited people to write a reflection for our version of the Wailing Wall in the YW lobby. Sticky notes were available with the following prompts: I feel… I wish… I pray… I need… I will…

Solidarity with Charleston 006

Here is what people responded:

I feel devastated and sad.
I will stand against racism.
My prayers go out to all the families. Bless everyone.
ENOUGH
I will start a conversation about race.
I will continue to spread awareness
Praying
The perpetrator was caught, but the killer is still out there.
#takeitdown
I will not let people around me make racial jokes or comments without my intervention.
I pray for change.
Black lives matter. Life matters, period.
I will pray for you Charleston!
God is good
I pray for peace and love to prevail!
I will speak and act for equality and healing among all races
No more guns in the hands of disturbed young males. Period.
I pray for single mothers everywhere. Stay strong.
I feel love
Kindness is a choice
I pray for world peace
Black lives matter
Let’s go down to the river to pray, studyin about those good ol’ days…
Take down the confederate flag and step into the 21st century!
I am sad and I am angry. Enough is enough!
I feel solidarity with Charleston and awe at the thoughtful and loving way the response has unfolded. You have changed the U.S.
I pray to the good people of the south to stand together and rid us of the confederacy. Pray to move on —
I will… keep asking hard questions
Stand up for peace!
I wish for LOVE and kindness for all people
Black lives matter!
I hope that this tragedy will be followed by justice, peace, and meaningful change!
I will… listen
The time is now!
I will not be a silent witness! I will speak up.
Love will triumph over hate.
My love and prayers are with you all.
Black people count!
Wishes for peace and caring.
I feel we do not live in a ‘post racial’ society
I pray for better dayz (Tupac Shakur)
I need the world to change
I will forgive and pray.
I feel sad when a person comes and kills people in god’s church.
I need a system that does not foster hate behind closed doors.
I will always remember.
I feel… betrayed
I will… sign every petition
I wish… for no more reasons to feel pain
I feel sad
I pray that this will never happen again!
I wish it never happened
I will pray for everyone
I wish awareness will be spread!
I feel like we have to take action – together – as a community.
I wish – it never happened. It would stop. It was never like this. America was not raised racist!
I will forgive, but never forget! Love to Charleston
Be the change
I feel sad
I need… a safe place
I feel disgusted (they were in church!!!)
I am sad!
I pray for peace, clarity, and understanding
We are sending love to everyone affected by this tragedy
I wish we saw only love not race
We shall overcome
True Christianity is shining through the hate.
I don’t understand
Take it down!
It feels like we’re stuck. Why can’t we move forward?
I will start a conversation
I will forgive and pray for the people who had to die
Some things just do not make any sense. We worked too hard to turn back now