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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.

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

We Will Not Normalize Racism

14 Aug

We are outraged, saddened and disgusted by the display of bigotry and hatred from the white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. This act of hate and terrorism was directly responsible for the death of a young woman, Heather Heyer, and injuries to numerous others who gathered to stand against racism in all of its forms.

YWCA Asheville stands in solidarity to grieve for the victims of this latest tragedy, including two law enforcement officers, and show our unrelenting dedication to the elimination of racism. While we hold this space, we keep in the forefront of our minds that this is not an isolated incident or an unprecedented one. Our country’s long history and ongoing legacy of racism continue to plague our country with violence, oppression and white supremacy.

We must listen, trust and empathize with people of color, LGBTQ people, faith communities and other groups who suffer under personal and systemic injustices of discrimination and inequities. We will not normalize racism. We will not normalize domestic terrorism. Every day we must work towards an ideal that all people are created equal and have the right to live a life without fear.

Our nation’s strength and resilience stems from our diversity and contributions made by people of different races, genders, faiths, sexual orientations and political beliefs. We call on our white allies to recognize white privilege and racial bias, and to commit to rejecting all forms of hatred, bigotry, and intolerance.

As stated in Heather Heyer’s last message to us all, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”


Read more in YWCA USA’s statement including words from association leadership at YWCA Central Virginia and YWCA Richmond.

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.