While a global pandemic touched everyone in the community, our YWCA Lancaster board, staff, and volunteers continued to learn, unlearn, and envision what eliminating racism and empowering women looks like through art, books, and pop-culture. Here are some things we especially appreciated in 2021, and what we’re looking forward to in 2022 as we continue to work until justice just is.
Our Dorothy Height Social Justice Club read two powerful books about sexual assault and the systemic oppression that victim-survivors face. Chanel Miller’s Know My Name and Briana Jonnie’s If I Go Missing both started as viral letters, and both were adapted into powerful books. In 2022, our club will continue to center the voices of BIPOC women as we read Unbound by Tarana Burke and Lancastrian Zetta Eliot’s collection of poems, Say Her Name.
We are so grateful for our Dorothy Height Club partners, The Lancaster Public Library, Aaron’s Books, and Red Planet Books (the only Indigenous-owned comic book store in the world). If you’re able, please try to support mission-driven and BIPOC owned stores. Aside from Aaron’s Books, in Pennsylvania we have Good Brothas in Harrisburg, Harriet’s in Philadelphia, and our own Read Rose Books in Lancaster. In 2022, we’ll also be reading Let the Record Show by Sarah Schulman, Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore, and Disability Visibility.
And of course, we will continue our focus on early-childhood literacy as we host our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at YWCA Lancaster, supported by Willow Valley Communities.
2021 saw a much needed explosion of local BIPOC artists in our community. Our own Black Artist Waystation commissioned art from local Black artists Shelby and Jordan Wormley, Gracie Berry, Gerri McCritty, and Nathan Gadsden. Lancaster so was lucky to have artists such as Kearasten Jordan, Keisha Finnie, Salina Almanzar, Chynaah Doll, and Dominique Jordan Miller share their gifts with us.
In 2022, we are looking forward to partnering with Starleisha Michelle Gingrich’s Disrupt Theatre Company on a performance of Dominique Morriseau’s Mud Row, and can’t wait to see what this year’s Black Artist Waystation artists create.
It was so exciting to see nuanced conversations about race and much better representations of systemically marginalized populations on screen. Two reboots, The Wonder Years and Gossip Girl, were especially exciting. The Wonder Years showed us the tumultuous 60s through the eyes of a Black family in Alabama, and Gossip Girl gave us a new look at New York’s financial elite that broke down hetero and gendernormative barriers with a racial lens that the original never did.
Two shows featuring Indiginous writers and stories also broke ground in 2021. Rutherford Falls made us laugh and think about stolen Indigenous land while Reservation Dogs gave us a view into reservation life that didn’t cater to white audiences.
We also had the final season of Issa Rae’s incredible Insecure. We’ll miss the laughs and drama that the show brought, but are also really looking forward to a new season of Donald Glover’s Atlanta in 2022. Like Reservation Dogs, these two shows unapologetically portray modern BIPOC communities in ways that are sharp, intelligent, emotional, and full of joy.
2021 saw BIPOC, transgender, and female athletes advocate for their own mental and physical health in ways that we’ve never seen before. The Wildcat Strike in the NBA, WNBA, and MLB after the murder of Jacob Blake showed that despite their paychecks, professional athletes are not here just for our entertainment. Simone Biles bravely faced waves of patriarchal and racist criticism as she decided to sit out events at the Olympics, and athletes and allies everywhere fought for transgender rights in sport and school. We were especially thankful for the woman-led podcast, Burn it All Down for providing keen analysis and exposure to these issues in sport, and we loved having host Dr. Amira Rose Davis at our own Dorothy Height Club in April discussing the documentary Athlete A.In 2022 in the wake of an eye-opening gender equity report from the NCAA, we’ll be watching to see how the NCAA fixes the vast inequality between men’s and women’s sports, along with cheering on our favorite activist athletes in the WNBA, NWSL, and beyond.