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We Demand Accountability

1 Mar

The video of an Asheville Police Department officer harassing, beating and tasing Johnnie Jermaine Rush is sickening and disheartening. We stand with the victim and his family through this traumatic experience. This type of racial discrimination and abuse of power cannot be tolerated. We will not normalize racism.

YWCA Asheville has been and will continue to advocate for use of force policies and de-escalation training with Chief Hooper and the Asheville Police Department. However, the violence and racism displayed in this video, and complicity by all officers on the scene, make it painfully obvious that much more work needs to be done. Our community needs assurance that officers are accountable for upholding the dignity, rights, and safety of People of Color.


Visit Asheville Citizen-Times to view the body-worn camera footage and read more.

Where Are All the Black People?

20 Feb

Fellow 3 insideBy: Lexus Walker, Tzedek Mission Advancement Fellow

Asheville – a progressive city known for its beautiful mountain views, skilled artisans, vibrant food scene, and a large selection of craft breweries – has attracted many progressive thinking families and individuals over the years who have made Asheville their home. Our beloved city is now a tourist hotspot, drawing visitors from all over the country, and now – the world.  One question native Ashevillians often hear from both tourists and transplants alike is “where are all the Black people?”.

Born and raised in Asheville, with family roots dating back generations,  I’ve seen areas like Montford, East End and Southslope transform from Black neighborhoods, into gentrified, wealthy white neighborhoods. I’ve heard stories about Eagle Street and the Black business district before it was stripped to nothing. And, today I see gentrification continuing to reach its claws deeper into Asheville’s remaining Black neighborhoods. “There are no black people in Asheville,” is a lie I’ve heard  – and a lie I’ve told.

This language of erasure used to talk about Black Asheville is dangerous and damaging. Over time I’ve internalized the deceptive untruth that there are no Black people in Asheville. This very lie contributes to the shrinking of Black Asheville. This lie also keeps Black folks from moving to Asheville. This lie was enough to keep me disconnected from Black Asheville for many years.

It was not until I began my year as a Tzedek Social Justice Fellow that I was able to truly see the ways that this kind of language was harmful to me and my community. Internalized oppression happens when folks with marginalized identities begin to believe the negative messages they hear about their marginalized identity. In my case, internalizing the message that there are no Black people in Asheville kept me from seeking connection with other Black Ashevillians.

During my orientation with Tzedek, I was reconnected to Black Asheville. In meeting other Black fellows who were new to Asheville, I became aware of the importance of seeking connection with the Black community here.  As a group, we went on a Hood Huggers tour and my eyes were opened to even more of our history as we learned about the community building still happening through the Burton Street Community Garden, the Edington Center, and the Shiloh Community Garden. Through a connection with the Center for Participatory Change, I learned about Black Love Day, a monthly gathering at the Edington Center and a healing space for Asheville’s Black community. There is food, music, sometimes dancing, and sharing of what amazing work is being done by our community.

Black Love Day

Black Love Day – Hosted by Center for Participatory Change at the Edington Center

My fellowship placement with the YWCA has also taught me about the long history the YWCA of Asheville has in serving our Black community and I see every day the ways in which the YW has built and continues to build community. Through our Foster Grandparent program, I’ve met folks who have been involved with the YW for many years, who remain involved with the YW because of the strong connection they feel. As a child, I took swimming lessons at the YWCA of Asheville and as I walk through these halls today, as I work in my office, as I help our after school students with their homework, as I attend our Community Dinners, I am reassured that in fact there are Black people in Asheville. We are here and we are seen.
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Honoring the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

18 Jan

By: Gerry Leonard, Racial Justice & Outreach Specialist

To honor and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., YWCA Asheville hosted our annual MLK Day of Service on Monday, January 15, 2018. To emphasize MLK’s passion for service of others, we invite volunteers to spend the day with our Primary Enrichment Program (PEP) students. Together they work on activities that emphasize the importance of the civil rights movement, MLK’s lasting impact on our society, and YWCA’s continued work to eliminate racism.

For 12 members of our community, this MLK holiday was very much a “day on” where they chose to give their time and make a lasting impression in a child’s life. Volunteers worked with our PEP students to create posters that included images of MLK, inspirational quotes, and whatever creative desiIMG_3598gns and drawings the students were inspired by!

As they worked on these posters a wonderful dialogue between our PEP students and volunteers took place. As students wrote out quotes from MLK, the volunteers would ask, “What does that quote mean to you?” Rich conversations took place around why MLK, and black and brown people, were treated unfairly and PEP students shared that they are having conversations about race and racism in their schools. In our current social and political climate, it feels of the greatest importance to provide a space for our youth to build a greater understanding of the role MLK plays in our lives to this day, and how much work must still be done to achieve his dream of equity, justice and fairness.

IMG_3612Next our PEP students and volunteers carried their posters as they participated in the MLK Peace March & Rally in downtown Asheville. Thousands gathered to hear speakers galvanize the crowd with speeches of justice and peace and there was a strong sense of unity and symbolism to have young people marching proudly side-by-side, chanting “we shall overcome.”

In many ways, the MLK Day of Service encapsulates what the YWCA works to achieve every day through our mission-based advocacy and programs. With a major component of this work being the empowerment of our youth, we hope to foster love and resiliency, and empower students to be a part of the movement towards racial and restorative justice.IMG_3608

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”


To learn more about the YWCA’s Racial Justice work, contact Gerry Leonard, Racial Justice & Outreach Specialist, at

A Conversation with Beth Maczka, CEO and Marsha Davis, Deputy Director

14 Sep


As Deputy Director, Marsha works directly with program leads to support our YWCA through grant writing and program development. YWCA CEO, Beth Maczka recently sat down with Marsha to talk about her role and passion for our mission.

BM: Tell me a little about your background.

MD: I went to Harvard and got a degree in molecular and cellular biology, but I am mostly interested in social justice work and how we empower communities that are marginalized. [In college] I used to run a theatre group for black students to highlight black playwrights and I worked at this organization called Project Health which [through hospitals and doctors] linked low-income patients to all these neighborhood social services. Although I got my degree in science, instead of becoming a doctor, it was really more important for me to work with underserved populations.

BM: What brought you to the YW?

MD: The mission, hands down. I love being able to say that I work at an organization that eliminates racism and empowers women – knowing that it is going to be the underpinnings of all of the work that we do.

BM: What do you like best about being Deputy Director?

MD: I have had the kind of career where I have gotten to explore a lot of things and this position is the first that I have had that allows me to take all of my skills and apply them in the same place. I get to use my science mind and I get to use my public health mind when we talk about the diabetes program. I get to use my affinity for numbers when we look at budgets. I even get to use my teaching and coaching skills when working with the folks I supervise. Everything that I have done before really positioned me well to be here.

BM: What is your approach and vision for the YW?

MD: To be as clear and vibrant with our mission internally as we are externally. I’d really love for everyone who works for the YW to have a clear sense of how their work is related to the mission.

BM: What is one of your proudest moments as Deputy Director?

MD: The YW’s Stand Against Racism Women of Color Leading Change panel was my favorite thing that I have done so far. It was a wonderful opportunity.

Bold Mission, Bright Future

21 Jun

YWCANationalConference2017Delegates from our YW in Asheville recently attended the YWCA National Conference in Washington D.C. where we convened with fellow leaders from associations across the country to share, discuss, advocate, and collaborate together. The energy was high and the intention clear. From workshops to powerhouse keynote speakers the YWCA held up the significance of embracing the intersectionality of our work throughout social justice movements and the imperative to uplift the leadership of young women and women of color.

CapitalHillDay2017_BethMaczka_LaurenWeldishoferWe turned Capitol Hill persimmon as hundreds of YWCA delegates met with their respective representatives in Washington to advocate for our mission, programs, and communities.Thank you to everyone who signed our petition and wrote postcards about potential Federal Budget cuts. YWCA of Asheville proudly delivered over 560 signatures to the offices of Congressman McHenry and Meadows and Senators Burr and Tillis. Our message was to highlight the importance of federal funds in programs that serve women, children and families and what a great job we do in leveraging additional funding to provide high-quality services to our community. The petition and postcards were well received. The general response from legislative staff is that the budget will be significantly re-written before it is finalized and that we should continue to stay in touch during the process – so stay tuned for more advocacy opportunities.

20170616_201132Also during the conference, YWCA of Asheville was recognized as one of three finalists for the YWCA Association of Excellence Award for Racial Justice. We were nominated – out of more than 220 associations nationwide – for the development of our racial justice workshops, our robust Stand Against Racism campaign, and our leadership with our local Racial Justice Coalition. Although we did not win, we congratulate our friends at YWCA of Rochester for their exceptional achievement and are inspired to work even harder for racial justice. Congratulations also to YWCA Greater Atlanta for excellence in advocacy and YWCA Brooklyn for excellence in women’s empowerment. 

Throughout the conference, YWCA of Asheville was posting quotes, insights, and photos in real-time to the YWCA audience nationwide. Read our Social Media Ambassador’s reflections on the YWCA USA Blog.


Celebrating Our 110th Anniversary

12 May



Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO and the 2016/2017 YWCA Board of Directors


Since 1907 the YWCA of Asheville has been at the forefront of social and racial justice movements in our community. The first location of the YWCA in Asheville was founded to support and house single white women moving into the city to work. A few years later in 1913, a group of black women started to meet and created the Employment Club. And, in 1921, the African American Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the YWCA was opened.  Officially integrating in 1967 and merging under one roof on South French Broad Avenue in 1971, the YWCA of Asheville continues to serve women and families in our community, proudly living into our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women every day.

To honor our rich history, highlight those currently making a difference, and share a vision for our future, the YWCA held an event in May 2017 to celebrate our 110 Year Anniversary. Thank you to all who came and made the evening so special. Held at UNC Asheville, guests enjoyed a reception to gather, share memories and view many of the newly archived YWCA photos on display. During the program, we showcased our partnership with UNC Asheville, which helped us preserve and identify historical images and collect new oral histories from YW members. Presenters from both the YWCA and UNC Asheville shared historical timelines, themes, and stories captured during oral history interviews conducted by university students and from our community picture viewing days for over 400 newly acquired YW photos. Our past board presidents and executive directors wrapped up the evening by sharing their hopes and dreams for the YWCA to send us off looking ahead into our bright future.

Visit our website at for links to explore the Asheville YWCA Oral History Project from the UNC Asheville History Department, view the YWCA of Asheville Archive at Ramsey Library at UNC Asheville Special Collections and access the new Asheville YWCA Digital Photo Collection through the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, NC Collection at UNC Chapel Hill.

Member Spotlight: Susan McBride

9 Aug
Susan has lived in Asheville for 16 years and has been a YWCA member on and off much of that time. With a little motivation and support from our LiveFit pilot program – Susan is back!
What brought you to YW originally? I wanted a quiet, clean work out space. I had joined the YMCA when I first moved here. Honestly, the YMCA had too much “M” for me. Guys would be working out on the weights, letting them drop, lots of grunting and groaning. Macho peacock displays of toughness weren’t something I was craving. Also, there would be folks waiting for the machines with impatience. I’m not sure if it’s still like that now. The YWCA health and Fitness Center was more appealing to me. The gym is clean and I rarely have to wait for a machine. The staff is kind, welcoming and helpful. There’s a broad range of people who use the gym and lots of little kids coming and going. It’s a lively, happy place. The group fitness studio used for yoga and other classes is also very nice.
How did you get involved with LiveFit? Out of the blue, I was contacted to be part of the pilot program. At first, I thought it was a promotional call, but it was a real offer to be part of something I was greatly in need of doing.
Tell us a little about your LiveFit experience:  I was looking to get back into a healthful routine after years of stressful work and family situations involving caregiving. I had fallen away from taking good care of myself, stress was ruling my world. Working out for me was a walk to the grocery store to get ice cream or wine. I was demoralized at being out of shape and overweight again – and the only person who could change that was exhausted, depressed me. Being part of this group was a gentle way to motivate into a more healthy routine, including good nutrition advice and support in exercising in many different ways.
Have you met any health & fitness goals yet? I have committed to working out 3 times a week and I’m sticking with that for the most part. I am also eating more healthy food. I’m a work in progress. (Aren’t we all?!)
What are your future goals? I want to do strength training and get comfortable with more equipment in the gym by working with a YW personal trainer – hopefully with Fran [who was an instructor with the LiveFit program.]
Who inspires you? People who are older than me, who are in great shape, quietly and humbly doing their thing in the gym. People who are ill, but continue to come to the gym and do their workouts. I am inspired by the staff as well. It’s good to see them working out too.
Favorite workout/class/machine:  The elliptical is a good cardio workout and easy on the knees. I also like the rowing machine and free weights.
What else do you like most about the YW? I love the childcare program. My daughter did an internship when she was a junior in high school and had an amazing experience caring for infants and learning about community outreach. I like to stop by and see the babies sometimes. They are so loved at the YWCA childcare center. I also love the officer who takes care of everybody at the YW. (That would be the one and only, Charlton Owens!) He tells folks to “get the car in gear and drive it like they stole it!” Then gives a military salute. He makes me laugh, he’s a great person.
Anything else you would like to share? Thank you for reaching out to me. The personal phone call to be part of the LiveFit pilot program was out of the ordinary and got my attention. Talking to real people about taking care of myself has been a gift!