POV: you’ve just completed the biggest and longest consecutively run Race Against Racism in the nation on April 29; you’re feeling energized by the cause, excited to be part of such an incredible community, and eager to be part of the work moving forward.
So, what now?
Every day, YWCA Lancaster is proud to partner with you to strengthen the movement to eliminate racism and empower women. There is no one, right way to take action after the Race Against Racism, but here are four ways to continue your journey:
1) Register to vote and get ready to make your voice heard on May 16!
May 1 is the final day to register to vote in the upcoming primary! YWCA Lancaster’s voter education initiative Lancaster Votes is proud to provide ongoing support for anyone who wants to register, find their polling place, and help get the word out about upcoming elections and ballot initiatives.
2) Read the Equity Profile of Lancaster County and get involved in the action group
Earlier this year, YWCA Lancaster in partnership with local organizations launched the Equity Profile of Lancaster County. This first of its kind county-wide deep dive into social inequities has helped fuel the creation of an action team dedicated to raising awareness about the findings of the profile, as well as tackling the opportunities before us to create a more just Lancaster County.
4) Be part of our upcoming Racial Justice Institute
Be part of this unique, interactive, and impactful experience that will provide in-depth grounding for your personal journey towards addressing internalized biases and prejudices, as well as challenging the systems that have socialized them into our every day lives!
4) Join a committee and help shape YWCA Lancaster’s work
Our mission can only succeed if it’s guided by the community. We need your help to shape, inform, and improve our work. We have committees on a range of topic and issue areas, from mission, to finance, to marketing and more!
Thank you again for being part of the work of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. We couldn’t do it without you, and while we have a long way to go to build a just future for Lancaster County, we know that with a community as extraordinary as this, a better world is possible.
On April 6, YWCA Lancaster had the privilege of partnering with the UPMC Pinnacle Foundation on an evening of conversation and community building through their Diversity Dialogue Dinner series. The series, made up of a slate of events with regional YWCA’s, featured a catered meal with facilitated conversation at each table centering on issues of race, representation, and how to better advocate in our own networks to create a more welcoming and equitable Lancaster County.
The Diversity Dinner Dialog aimed to create a safe and brave space to engage in meaningful conversations on the sensitive issues of race, bias, identity and belonging. diversity, equity and inclusion. The conversation followed general question prompts and allowed participants to learn about others’ experiences and share thoughts, feelings, and ideas while maintaining respectful, solution-oriented facilitated dialogue.
Discussion questions focused on a range of topics designed to create empathy and personal connection as we all grapple with how to best fight against bias, oppression, and white supremacy. Groups discussed questions such as:
What does your circle of influence look like?
Have you explored your racial identity or family history?
What are the positive qualities or characteristics of your community? How can you leverage those attributes to strengthen your community?
What does your community need and what can you do individually and together to address those needs?
The need for more ways to connect was a recurring theme in the evening’s conversations. YWCA Lancaster is committed to providing more ways than ever before for community members to get involved, take action, and be part of the movement to eliminate racism and empower women.
Thank you to the UPMC Pinnacle Foundation for partnering with us on an engaging and inspiring night of connection with our community!
YWCA Lancaster’s Center for Racial and Gender Equity partnered this month with Franklin & Marshall College’s new Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation center to train college house advisers on how to facilitate racial healing circles.
It was an incredible experience to facilitate alongside the folks at the core of the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Center: Dr. Gretchel Hathaway, F&M’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and YWCA Lancaster board member; Courtnee Jordan-Cox, assistant dean of student affairs and Roschel College House dean; Jorge Mena-Ali, visiting assistant professor of biology, director of faculty diversity initiatives, and Roschel College House don; and Christian Perry, director of diversity, equity and inclusion.
What is a racial healing?
We have been using resources from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, which defines racial healing as “a process that restores individuals and communities to wholeness, repairs the damage caused by racism and transforms societal structures into ones that affirm the inherent value of all people.”
Why is it important?
Racial healing does a few important things. It helps affirm the inherent value of all people, cultivates a culture of belonging, deepens our understanding of one another’s differences; and supports relationship building, trust, authenticity, constructive dialogue, and repairs the damage caused by systemic racism. It builds community.
How can I host a racial healing circle?
If you have a group of folks ready to have a racial healing conversation and you would like to have trained individuals come to facilitate that conversation, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
On March 24, YWCA Lancaster was honored to join with our community to celebrate the New Choices Career Development Program at Taste of Success: a one of a kind event bringing together inspiring success stories from New Choices, as well as a culinary showdown from Lancaster County Career and Technology students! Thanks to your support, we raised more than $50,000 to support Lancaster County residents in transition!
See stories from the evening
Throughout the night, we shared stories from New Choices students and graduates, demonstrating the immense power we all have as a community to make a change in our career and life path and find success.
Check out the stories below:
Letters from New Choices
Thank you to everyone who attended Taste of Success, and for all those in the community who continue to support our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. Miss the event but still want to support the work of New Choices?
And get ready for the 25th Race Against Racism on April 29!
What part of theEquity Profile of Lancaster Countyspeaks to you? What do you want to see change in Lancaster County to make sure we have a just future for us, our children, and future generations?
There is no one right answer, but YWCA Lancaster is committed to supporting our community as we work together towards solutions.
Whether you’ve seen the report in our communications, from partner organizations, or on the front page and editorial section of LNP, there is no shortage of energy, curiosity, and enthusiasm about helping our community meet the inequities highlighted in the Profile.
The Profile is not the end of the work: it’s a foundation to help us build a just future together. And because of that, what we do now is up to all of us.
On February 16, 2023, we met with other community members who want to get started on taking action about the Profile. Together, we discussed the big takeaways from the report, amplify work already being done in these areas, and began to plan the next steps we can take as a community.
We plan to continue to hold space for anyone in the community who would like to join this meet-up happening every third Thursday at YWCA Lancaster from 6-7:30. We will be doing a mix of discussion, as well as meeting with local leaders who are working on different indicators highlighted in the profile to connect community members with people in the grassroots movement(s) to create change in Lancaster County.
All are welcome! We hope you will join and be in community with us.
“If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time.”
— Dorothy Height
On February 23, YWCA Lancaster had the honor of hosting “Ripening the Times”, a panel discussion featuring local Black leaders across generation, experience, and perspective to share some of talk about the past, present, and future of Black history in Lancaster County and beyond.
Here are 5 quotes that stuck out to us from the more than hour long conversation. We hope you watch the entire recording below!
Click the play button next to the quote to hear audio
1) “We need to let [kids] know now that their voices are important and deserve to be heard.”
“The biggest thing for me is the voice of children we need to allow them space in these conversations, we need to allow them spaces and voices in the conversations that we’re having within our family dynamics. Because that child will one day be one of the leaders of that family, be one of the leaders of that community, be one of the leaders of whatever they decide to be a leader of. And we need to provide them with the affirmation and the validation that their voice is important now, at five years old, at ten years old, at fifteen years old, we need to let them know now that their voices are important and deserve to be heard.”
2) “Disrupt the narrative that we are just trauma.”
“I don’t get the funding because we have African American in our nameBut look at what it’s doing for the community and bringing people together and disrupting the narrative that we are just trauma, like that Black excellence and that Black joy is liberating all of us. So where are the dollars that we’re putting into people in this community who are doing that renaissance? I see it, it’s beautiful, but I’m finding that you’re not getting the money.”
-Dr. Amber Sessoms
3) “Being active in the community was something that was passed down in my blood.”
“That showed methe impact that they were providing to a community that people were living in. And what triggered me the most is, they were providing outlets in the community that they lived in…and as I grow older, we see that drugs is a trait that can pass down through generations, diabetes is a trait that can go down [through generations]. As I grew older I was like, being active in my community was something that was passed down in my blood. It might not have been what I wanted to do, but as I grew I looked back at the people and my family that have been involved in the community, being Black leaders, being role models for other Black kids and Black and brown people, now I see why I’m so passionate about it: because it affects me now.”
-Vincent Derek Smith
4) “What is the narrative that you are telling yourself that makes it okay with me to accept [racism]?”
“And stop and thinkwhen you look at that data, stop and give yourself a pause and think: what is the narrative that you are telling yourself that makes it okay with me to accept that and to move on with my life? That should keep you up at night, but you are telling yourself something that allows you to be like ‘that’s their issue’, because it’s ‘they’ vs. ‘me’. We’re all in this together so how are you looking at it, what are you telling yourself; change that narrative in your head that stops making you think ‘that is not my issue that is a Black and brown issue, it’s their fault’, uh uh. These are babies that we are harming. That destructing of our life taking off because of racism. Literally years off my life, simply because of something made up.”
-Dr. Amber Sessoms
5) “Not against you. For us.”
“It’s a new day.And people aren’t standing back. They’re coming out with what they believe, what they feel, and what they find is true. And not against anybody. It’s just for us. Not against you, but for us.”
Thank you to Brian, Dr. Sessoms, Vincent, and Barbara for being in community with us, and for sharing your brilliance with us. We’re proud to be with you on Lancaster’s journey towards a just future.
View the full recording:
Remember to register for the 2023 Race Against Racism!
Taste of Success is a one of a kind culinary showdown celebrating the incredible impact of the New Choices Career Development Program while featuring a delectable food competition with the industry’s future tastemakers from Lancaster County Career and Technology Center!
While our eyes and ears will be taking in inspiring stories of success from New Choices students and graduates, attendees tastebuds will be experiencing sweet and savory creations from six teams of students.
Meet the 2023 Taste of Success competitors:
Gouda life: Brennan Lyon – Lititz Christian School, Kylee Shirk – Ephrata High School, Justin Arias – Hempfield High School
Big Blue Tonka: Jadyn Sumrall – Hempfield High School, Clark Wagstaff – Penn Manor High School, Ricko Brown – Penn Manor High School
Food Warriors: Violet Seymour, Pequea High School, Evan Ingold, Manheim Central High School, Christian Hess, Solanco High School
The Sweet Tarts: Arianys Rodriguez, Hempfield High School, Bradynn Radtke, Hempfield High School, Ellie Smith, Elizabethtown High School
Beach Babes: Jessica Sick, Manheim Central High School, Abigail Ingram, Penn Manor High School, Kailey Dale, Garden Spot High School
Cookies & Cream: Sierra Rowe, McCaskey High School, Ahnaija Heard, McCaskey High School, Azariah Cornish, Manheim Township High School
You can see (and taste!) these teams’ creations on March 24 as we gather together to uplift the incredible impact of the New Choices Career Development Program. Tickets are going fast, so make a reservation today for Taste of Success!
Nancy Huerta Ramirez is just one of the hundreds of community members who have found success with New Choices Career Development Program— an opportunity to access resume writing, professional/personal development, and even scholarship funds all without charge. We hope you will join us on March 24 for Taste of Success, a celebration of the incredible impact of the New Choices Career Development Program!
I was out of the workforce for a year to take care of my one and four year old sons.
My husband’s job requires him to travel once or twice a month out of state for the whole week, and I lack support from family and friends. I knew because of this I had to be creative if I wanted to work on my professional goals, but I did not know where to start. I had so many ideas in my mind about continuing education, future projects, and I did not know how to find a job that fit my household schedule.
I contacted Deb at the New Choices Career Development Program and explained not just my situation but my ideas. Through New Choices, I found a more than a career counselor, I found someone who understood my needs in the big picture and helped me to narrow/prioritize them.
Deb and New Choices provided resources, guidance, and job listings that fit my schedule during my job searching. Deb found a job that fit my schedule, I applied and got the job at Wellspan as a case manager on weekends. At the same time, Deb helped me to search for universities and colleges for my continuing education goal.
I applied to Millersville University for the MSW online program using the scholarship available to New Choices students to cover some of the fees. I have been accepted and am looking forward to starting my MSW in Summer 2023.
I have no stopped being creative, and having ideas. In the future I want to open a Cafe for moms and kids. Even though I will be taking some time for school, Deb has provided contact information for the person who can help me with this project, an it will be another reason to come back to New Choices for guidance when I’m ready to launch this idea.
There is no doubt this program empowers and supports women to grow in their community.
Celebrate New Choices at Taste of Success on March 24!
YWCA Lancaster is committed to ensuring that communities are safe places for women and families to thrive.
As headlines and research make clear, gun violence is a major threat to our health and safety. From the hallways of Stoneman Douglas High School and Sandy Hook Elementary, to the social venues of the Las Vegas country music festival and the Pulse nightclub, to homes and communities across the country, women and female identifying individuals experience unacceptably high levels of gun violence that leave them at heightened risk of harm and death.
Women’s experiences of gun violence are inextricably linked to domestic violence. Some 4.5 million women in the U.S. have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner, and nearly 1 million women alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner. In an average month, 50 women in the U.S. are shot to death by intimate partners, and many more are injured. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed.
Gun violence is particularly dangerous for women of color, who are nearly three times as likely to be murdered with a gun than white women. Black women are shot and killed by a husband or intimate partner three times more often than by male strangers, and most often during the course of an argument.
Transgender women of color face an even higher increased risk of gun violence: transgender women are four times more likely to experience gun violence than cisgender women, and nearly 85 percent of transgender victims are women of color.
The connections between domestic violence and mass shootings are alarming. Most mass shootings in the U.S. — those in which four or more individuals are killed — are related to domestic violence: shooters killed intimate partners or other family members in at least 54 percent of mass shootings. While women make up only 15 percent of all gun violence, they make up 50 percent of victims in mass shootings, largely due to the correlation between domestic violence and mass shootings. Even when strangers are targeted instead of family members, there are connections between mass shootings and domestic violence: while most mass shootings occur in the home, the shooters in one third of the 46 mass shootings that took place entirely in public between 2009 and 2016 had a history of violence against women. Moreover, in 42 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016, the shooter exhibited warning signs that they posed a danger to themselves or others, and one-third of mass shooters were prohibited from possessing a firearm.
The significant links between mass shootings and domestic violence, and the disparate impacts of gun violence on women of color, are too often overlooked in the public narrative about gun violence. So, too, are the impacts of school shootings on girls of color. Like all students, youth of color face the increasing risk of school shootings. Frequently, when young people are the shooters in school settings, they have obtained firearms at home, likely because an adult did not store it locked and unloaded. However, it is primarily students of color who face the negative impacts of heightened school surveillance and security measures that have been implemented in response to school shootings. Such measures have not been applied equally across all schools, and schools with a preponderance of students of color are more likely to adopt strict surveillance and security measures which can further criminalize girls of color who already experience disproportionate punishment in school.
YWCA USA POSITION
YWCA believes that all women and girls deserve to live free from the threat of gun violence. To this end, we support systemic and structural policy changes that focus attention and resources on the places, spaces, and contexts in which women and girls–particularly women and girls of color– experience significant threats from gun violence: in their homes, as victims and survivors of intimate partner violence; in mass shootings, which are most often perpetrated by those with a history of domestic violence; and at school, where students of color both face the threat of school shootings and bear the brunt of harsh school surveillance and security measures.
To decrease gun violence for women and girls, particularly women and girls of color, YWCA USA endorses the following policy responses:
● Keep guns out of the hands of perpetrators of domestic violence, stalking, and other interpersonal violence
Prohibit those convicted of domestic violence and stalking from obtaining firearms, as well as those subject to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking restraining orders
Ensure that abusers and stalkers subject to a restraining order relinquish all firearms once they are prohibited
Establish mandatory licensing requirements, so that law enforcement and courts can more effectively identify when abusers and stalkers have firearms that should be confiscated
Oppose “concealed carry reciprocity” legislation, which would enable abusers to carry firearms across state lines into states that prohibit “concealed carry”
● Eliminate access to automatic weapons and high capacity ammunition
Ban the sale and possession of assault weapons, high capacity gun magazines (those with a capacity of more than 10 bullets), and bump stocks
More tightly enforcing laws on straw purchases of weapons, and limits on how many guns can be purchased in a month
● Protect students from the danger of school shootings
Mandate “safe storage” requirements such as trigger locks, and requiring that guns and ammunition be stored separately, especially when children are in the house
Ban the sale of firearms to people under the age of 21
Focus responses to school shootings on fostering positive school climate, instead of arming teachers, expanding police presence, or other attempts to fortify schools
Increase the number and availability of counselors and other specialized support personnel in schools
Expand the availability of restorative practices in schools to build healthy communities, decrease antisocial behavior, repair harm and restore relationships
Hold adults responsible for negligently storing firearms
● Strengthen methods for screening and removing firearms from individuals who pose a significant risk of danger to others
Establish and enforce gun violence restraining orders – “Red Flag Restraining Orders” / “Extreme Risk Protective Orders”
Improve background checks
Require universal background checks for all gun sales
Ensure all necessary records are updated in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
Hold states and federal agencies accountable for accurately reporting records to the NICS database
Increase training and technical assistance to state and local jurisdictions to improve firearm removal and storage
Carefully distinguish between individuals who are mentally unwell or experiencing a crisis and may pose a safety threat, and those who are mentally ill yet do not pose any increased risk of violence
Ensure that accessible, high quality, culturally competent mental health treatment is provided in communities
● Remove legislative restrictions on gun data collection and sharing, including:
The Dickey Amendment, which currently prohibits research by the Centers for Disease Control
The Tiahrt Amendment, which requires the FBI to destroy all approved gun purchaser records within 24 hours and prohibits the National Tracing Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from releasing information from its firearms trace database to anyone other than a law enforcement agency or prosecutor in connection with a criminal investigation, and thereby precludes gun trace data from being used in academic research of gun use or utilized in civil litigation against gun dealers or manufacturers.
YWCA USA opposes policy responses that further stigmatize individuals with mental health conditions, or that expand police presence in schools and the criminalization of youth of color, including proposals to arm teachers with firearms and to “fortify,” “harden” or “militarize” school facilities.
YWCA Lancaster is proud to announce its 2023 Black Artist Waystation participants, joining a community-run collective of artists celebrating and uplifting the Black experience, and helping to define the movement toward freedom and recognize the many efforts that brought us to this moment. Exploring the link between Lancaster as a waystation on the Underground Railroad and the freedom seekers who rested here, these artists are living embodiment of the beauty, brilliance, and joy that makes our community extraordinary.
The awardees will receive $2,500 to support their work, as well as receive opportunities to showcase their craft at events throughout the year, while receiving mentorship (Conductors) from previous Black Artist Waystation participants, as well as other community members.
2023 Black Artist Waystation Awardees:
Keisha Finnie (she/her) Keisha work explores the journey of evolution as not only an artist but as a woman of color. Interpreting my personal experiences and observations. Nurturing and visualizing her determination and resilience through touch and a strong vibrant color palette.
Keisha has been artistic since she could remember in her first art class at Ross Elementary School where her 2020 mural “Nurture Your Mind” resides. She’s had work displayed all over Lancaster City from galleries, murals, pianos, food trucks as well as neighboring cities.
Thunda Khatt (she/her)
Thunda Khatt is a Writer and Spoken Word Poet from Baltimore MD based out of Lancaster PA that tells the stories of the unheard. She lifts her voice to amplify those before her that could not speak and encourages those after her to never forget the power of their voice.
Dominic Jordan (he/him)
Sir Dominique Jordan the Prolific One is a poetic vanguard hailing from Lancaster, Pennsylvania; whether it spoken word or on a page, he uses his unique verbiage to inspire others to use their vulnerability as a ‘super power’. He identifies as an Artivist, and teaches across the country about how Hip Hop culture and general creative expression are tools that can be used in the classroom/neighborhood to enhance the overall educational experience. He loves to challenge people to make a difference in their community as they see fit. The Prolific One is also the lead vocalist of the sensational, funky Hip Hop and R&B band, The Prolific Steppas. Lastly, Sir Dominique Jordan is the founder and CEO of both The Artivist Corp. (a social enterprise dedicated to youth mentorship) and Nobody’s Pen (a poetic writers collective). Find him and his efforts on social media using the hashtag #WhatThatImpactDo
Kearasten Jordan (they/them)
Kearasten Jordan is a Black Queer Artist born and raised in Lancaster PA. They enjoy art, music, and being a problem.
There are two upcoming events to celebrate the Black Artist Waystation awardees, with more coming later in the year:
February 3: A meet and greet at EsoArts from 5-7pm
February 24: Artist showcase at PCAD from 7-9:30
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