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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

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.

Getting Ahead Graduation

16 Dec

On December 15th, 12 new graduates of the Getting Ahead In a Just Gettin’ By World program celebrated completing the 16 week curriculum.
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This group of ladies – ranging in age from 19-80 – have explored the causes of poverty, the hidden rules of class, and the importance of language and communication.  They have all formed plans to achieve the ‘future stories’ they have planned for themselves.

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The YWCA will support these graduates through follow-up support for  the next 18 months, and we can’t wait to see what they accomplish!

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Here is some of what the graduates had to say about their experience in the program:

It has been amazing to learn about everyone’s stories! I have learned a lot of tips of how to get ahead in my future!

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My overall experience was wonderful. I was able to learn many things that can help me in the future….The class was never a “sit and read the book” experience. It was a pleasant place to be.

This class has reshaped my thinking process – the way I approach situations as possibilities, not as obstacles.

I liked the friendly, respectful atmosphere I encountered with the other Getting Ahead Investigators!

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I learned to plan ahead and think about my actions before I actually do something.

Getting Ahead was a great experience to learn about how I came into poverty and it wasn’t all my fault. But how easy it is to get yourself out and it can be done. I love the class and the people, you all are so supportive.

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Beginning now I am going to take control of my finances and get them under control. And by that I mean to pay them off one by one or get help and do it right and fast.

The Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World program is made possible through funding from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina’s People In Need grant, as well as the Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina Foundation. Thank you!

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

Why Do We Take a Stand?

21 Apr

The YWCA’s Stand Against Racism brings people together to raise awareness that racism still exists and can no longer be tolerated. This April is the 7th years we’ve held the Stand in Asheville, and we’re proud that Buncombe County is one of the most active sites – with currently over 70 participating sites and 29 different public eventsMs. E

We are truly appreciative of the community’s support of the YWCA and the Stand Against Racism initiative. Here are some examples of solidarity with the YW Stand:

A-B Tech Community College and the YWCA partnered to bring a community-wide Stand Against Racism kick-off event on Thursday, March 26. The event included Jacquelyn Hallum as the keynote speaker, a panel discussion of community leaders including Beth Maczka, and a host of information tables representing the the organizations that comprise or the Racial Justice Coalition.

The College’s value of inclusiveness and its strategic plan priority, cultivate collaborative relationships to promote and increase a culture of diversity among students, faculty, staff and community stakeholders, speak to A-B Tech’s commitment to doing this work,” says James Lee, Workforce Outreach Coordinator at A-B Tech.061

A-B Tech wants to bring people of all races, classes, and states of employment together — the unemployed, under-employed and employed, as well as decision-makers who can offer employment opportunities. The activities were designed to help participants understand how racism impacts employment and have discussions about solutions and best-practices.”

WNC Adoption Resources hosted filmmaker and Korean adoptee, Barb Lee – who grew up in WNC – to Asheville, for a day-long workshop based on her films’ ‘Adopted’ and ‘Adopted: We Can Do Better.’ The event explored parenting a transracial family, fostering positive identity formation, clarifying parental intentions, and navigating the politics of adoption.

ChristyChristy Tate, Co-Director of WNC Adoption Resources says: “WNC Adoption Resources is an organization dedicated to increasing awareness, education, and support for adoptive families, many of whom have adopted transracially and must address issues of racial identity and racism. We hope that by encouraging dialogue about racial issues with help from individuals such as Barb Lee and her colleagues –  who have personal as well as professional experience and knowledge –  that we will raise consciousness, sensitivity and understanding, which will promote action for positive change. We feel that by taking part in the Asheville YWCA Stand, more of us will know about, have access to, and support programs that will help bring peace to our families, communities, and world.

Spellbound Children’s Bookshop in conjunction with the Stand Against Racism, will create an in-store display of books featuring characters of diverse races and ethnicities. The Saturday morning story time (for ages 3-7 years) will focus on diversity and there will be giveaways of Stand Against Racism buttons and stickers.

“Books are often the first way that children encounter new situations, different places, and different kinds of people,” says Leslie Hawkins, owner of Spellbound Children’s Bookshop. “We look forward to the annual Stand Against Racism as an opportunity to remind parents and other caregivers that books play an important role as both mirrors and windows. For that reason, we are also using this year’s Stand as an opportunity to support the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. Children of all colors and backgrounds need to see themselves reflected in books they read, and they also need to see characters who don’t look like them at all. We sometimes hear customers say ‘I don’t think my child will relate to that book’ when shown a book featuring a character of a different race. That’s doubtful, first of all, as there is always common ground, and if you really think that’s true, then you should be making a concerted effort to introduce your child to people of different races and backgrounds in books and in everyday life. After all, we should all be able to relate to each other’s stories, shouldn’t we?”

Asheville-Buncombe County Relations Council has been an instrumental community partner for the YWCA and the Stand Against Racism imitative, in embracing responsibility for equity and inclusion.

“When working to address discrimination on a community level, it is imperative that community members collectively work towards resolving issues,” says Lucia Daughtery, Executive Director of Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council. “We see the Stand Against Racism Initiative as an opportunity for Asheville and Buncombe County to clearly and publicly state our commitment to ending racism, through participation in concrete collaborative action.”

Two upcoming Stand events include:

HoodTalk_1821 (1)

Jubilee_SAR_Flyer

You can view the full list of Stand sites on our website at http://www.ywcaofasheville.org/stand.