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Stand Against Racism: Our Power, Our Mission, Our Future

5 Apr

The YWCA believes everyone has a role to play in the fight for racial justice. Throughout the month of April, community members in Asheville and Buncombe County will have a multitude of opportunities to connect with others in anti-racism work to learn, understand and collaborate as part of YWCA Asheville’s annual Stand Against Racism.

“Every year, YWCA Asheville and our local Stand Against Racism partners coalesce on a national campaign to raise awareness around the negative impacts of institutional and structural racism, and our community continues to be one of the most active Stand sites in the country,” said Gerry Leonard, YWCA Asheville Racial Justice & Outreach Specialist.

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“YWCA Asheville has been participating in Stand Against Racism since 2011 and our goal is to build off of the momentum of previous years, rallying around a specific theme each year.” Said Leonard. “Last year, our theme was Women of Color Leading Change and we sought to elevate the voices and visibility of Black and Brown women in leadership roles. This year continues centering Women of Color in our movement work – with the focus around political representation and civic engagement.”

Voting rights and civic engagement are and have always been, core components of the YWCA’s racial justice work. During this pivotal time, as civil rights continue to be attacked and eroded for communities of color, YWCA is focusing this year’s Stand Against Racism campaign Our Power, Our Mission, Our Future on supporting full access and engagement for women and girls of color in the political process.

At the core of the YWCA’s work is the recognition that not all women or all people of different races are treated equally. Our mission and history are a direct embodiment of a movement that is intersectional, working from the inside out to abolish discrimination. In 1965, the national YWCA Office of Racial Justice, led by civil rights icon Dr. Dorothy I. Height, worked to ensure that integration was a requirement of all YWCA Associations nationwide. And, in 1970, the YWCA adopted the One Imperative, committing itself to “the elimination of racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary.”

“There is a saying amongst YWCAs across the country, ‘We’re not new to this, we’re true to this,’ and that notion certainly holds true for YWCA Asheville as our leadership and commitment to racial and social justice has been at the forefront of our work since 1907,” said Leonard. “In an ever-changing social and political climate, we understand that any paradigm shift requires our organization to be nimble in our approach to direct service, issue education and public policy when working to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy.”

YWCA USA March for Black Women and March for Racial Justice

This common thread unites YWCA associations across the country in a commitment to racial justice and civil rights. Through the combination of programs and advocacy YWCAs work to dismantle discrimination and expose prejudice in policy and practices. YWCA Asheville is committed to this racial justice work at the local, state and national level.

During the 2017 YWCA National Conference, YWCA Asheville was recognized as one of three finalists for the YWCA Association of Excellence Award for Racial Justice. The nomination, out of more than 220 associations nationwide, drew from their work on the local level including the development of a monthly Racial Justice Workshop, a robust Stand Against Racism campaign, and leadership with the Racial Justice Coalition – fourteen organizations working together to become a national model for best practices and improved police-community relations.

North Carolina is one of three states to pilot the YWCA Statewide Advocacy Initiative. The YWCAs of North Carolina includes leaders from YWCA Asheville, YWCA Central Carolinas (Charlotte), YWCA Greensboro, YWCA High Point, YWCA Lower Cape Fear (Wilmington) and YWCA Winston-Salem. The aim of these sister associations is to use their unified voice to identify, address and advocate for the communities they serve across the state. The YWCAs of North Carolina 2018 Advocacy Agenda, focuses their collective efforts on the unjust treatment and criminalization of people of color with the belief that when community members come together, they can come up with solutions that benefit everyone and create safer communities for all.

As part of a larger racial justice strategy, YWCA Asheville joins associations across the country each year on the Stand Against Racism campaign; building community among those who work for racial justice and raising awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism. Last year, more than 54 partners hosted a Stand Against Racism event in Asheville and Buncombe County. Together as a community, we hosted more than 86% of the total Stand events in North Carolina, which totaled over 10% of the events nationwide!

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“The construct of racism has been around for centuries, and we, unfortunately, do not undo that overnight,” said Leonard. “Our goal is to make racial justice an orientation and framework for everyone, because the ways in which structural racism has been held up and perpetuated over time influences our attitudes, values, beliefs and cultural representation – so we have to constantly reorient our minds to this work, and Stand Against Racism is one aspect of changing that narrative.”

Although Stand Against Racism events vary year to year, examples of what’s been available in the past give community members an idea of the types of opportunities they will have this April. Public events, most of which are free, include panel discussions, lunch-and-learns, nationally recognized speakers, and artist workshops. Last year, Francine Delany New School for Children held a film screening of the documentary “13th”, which focuses on the intersection of race, justice & mass incarceration in the US. The film was followed by a facilitated talk-back to encourage conversation among those who attended. And, the MLK, Jr. Association of Asheville & Buncombe County and Residents Council of Asheville Housing Authority honored local women of color leaders during “Standing on the Shoulders of African-American Women Pioneers.”

Some events are not open to the general public but are designed for internal discussion and learning within a specific business or organization. This past spring, Carolina Day School professional development days focused on Implicit Bias and Micro-Aggression training. Since then, the Carolina Day School community has continued to take a stand, educating and empowering staff, students, and parents to take a lead in dismantling racism in our community. Also in 2017, the Asheville Jewish Community Center invited their members, including students and families, to learn about Kavod (honor, dignity, respect) through music and to pledge their support to stand up for Kavod in our collective community.

The YWCA has been working for justice for 160 years, and 110 years right here in Asheville and Buncombe County. While not new to this work, the organization acknowledges that our country and communities are experiencing a watershed moment in the fight for racial justice. YWCA Asheville calls on each person to get involved now to promote racial equity in their schools, businesses, organizations and community as a whole.

Visit our website for a continuing list of upcoming Stand Against Racism events in the area. For more information on hosting a Stand Against Racism event, email Gerry Leonard, YWCA Racial Justice & Outreach Specialist.

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.”

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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.

 

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.

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

YWCA of Asheville Summer Camp Children Respond to Charleston

13 Jul

Our YWCA Summer Camp kids sang a song in response to the tragedy in Charleston.

Video by Katie Christie, School Age Director. Song written & produced by Rickey Payton & Voices United.

“Black is beautiful when you understand
It’s not the color of your skin, a woman child or man
White is beautiful together we are free
We are one we are family”