Your Partners in Racial Justice: YWCA – 162 years (and counting!)

June 17, 2020

The United States is facing a reckoning moment when it comes to racial justice. But what does justice actually look like in practice? Is it equity? Equality? Is it allyship? Is it liberation? The work of justice takes many forms, and we’re proud to have lived out this mission for over one hundred and sixty years. The work of justice isn’t simple – and we’re proud to have carried the legacy of doing what is right – even if it isn’t easy.

In solidarity with all that is happening in the United States, we are proud to share the resources we have developed and refined for over a century to promote racial justice. Many of these are on the ground at our 200+ local associations, but some have been instituted at the national level as we advocate for legislative policies that will contribute to a more just and fair world.

Last year, we launched YWCA University, an online racial justice course for our local associations, as an opportunity for deeper conversations on race, racism, white supremacy, intersectionality, and more related terms for association leaders and staff to engage through an academic lens. This “train the trainer” model provides opportunity for racial justice teachings to proliferate throughout our network, and across the country, further supporting the other racial justice programming at our local associations.

On the ground, YWCA Boulder County launched Reading to End Racism, ,a “racial justice program that uses trained volunteers to read with children in the classroom at school-wide visits in Boulder County.” These conversations incite age-appropriate discussions about racism and racial structures, and since its founding in 2011, has reached more than 24,000 students.

YWCA Metropolitan Chicago conducts workplace trainings in its community (which has the third-largest labor pool in the United States) through their Inclusion Chicago program. This initiative seeks to make Chicago’s labor market wholly inclusive and enable everyone regardless of race to thrive. Inclusion Chicago offers a variety of services that are targeted to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion with partners, with a specific focus on racial equity assessments and understanding unconscious bias.

At YWCA Central Alabama, they proudly support the repeal of HB-56 and other racist, anti-immigrant state legislation. They recognize that state-level politics has the potential to interfere with their racial justice priorities and mission, and they are committed to “eliminating racism on an institutional and individual level.”

At the national level, we uplift our annual Stand Against Racism campaign every April, designed to raise awareness of racial injustices and encourage the public to take a stand for racial equity. In typical (non-socially distant years), our local associations host events, rallies, and races in their communities against racism. Typically, our racial justice programs engage more than 140,000 people each year. This year, we were proud to host a Tele-Townhall to an audience of over a thousand viewers, which featured a special appearance from singer, songwriter, and activist Janelle Monae, and a panel of diverse women leaders from the nonprofit sector including: Melanie Campbell, President & CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; Valerie Jarrett, Co-Chair of United State of Women and Board Chair of When We All Vote; and others who work to achieve racial justice – especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Another critical part of YWCA’s work is to drive change on issues of racial equity and justice. We do this actionable work through supporting measures that promote equal protection and equal opportunity for people of color at the national, state, and local levels. The impact of our work is profound – and we’re motivated more than ever to continue.

Further, we’re working in the legislative space to advocate on behalf of policies that impact people of color. We actively stand against police brutality and support the Justice in Policing Act – which would introduce a ban on racial profiling, strengthen the pattern and practice of investigations by the Department of Justice and State Attorneys General, and provide limitations on the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies and data collection on the use of force. We know that many voices have the potential to make a difference, and we’re proud to use our legacy and platform for lasting change.

Additional policy priorities in the racial justice space include supporting: The End Racial and Religious Profiling Act, ending school discipline disparities and the “school to prison pipeline,” and ending mass incarceration. We know how significant the intersections that women of color and Black women (in particular) face – and we will continue to stand up and do this work of justice.

We’re proud of our legacy supporting women at the local, state, and federal level. We’re also proud of our tenure working as valuable partners as we work towards racial justice. We know we have a long way to go. But just as we’ve done for over 160 years, we’ll continue to get up and do the work of justice. We look forward to a day when women, children, and people of color are treated equally under the law and in person. Until then, we will continue to show up, advocate, and do the right thing – even if it isn’t always easy.