On July 17, YWCA Lancaster was thrilled to host the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter to learn about PHRC’s mission, their work to prevent civil rights violations and provide support for individuals facing discrimination, as well as hear from community members in Lancaster about the issues that are concerning them. The event featured a presentation from Executive Director Lassiter, followed by a townhall style Q&A where community members could share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns directly with PHRC team members.
As Pennsylvania’s top agency for protecting civil rights, the PHRC is committed not only to making their services more accessible to all, but also to stay responsive and pro-active to emergent community needs, and launched a Statewide PHRC Beloved Community Tour hoping to make stops in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania.
Here are three quotes that resonated with us from the visit:
1. “No hate in our state.”
A simple creed, but one that is more necessary than ever. With nearly 75 active hate groups operating in Pennsylvania, it is vital to unite against hate–whether it is racism, anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, antisemitism, and more–to build a collective culture of welcome in our state.
PHRC is committed to offering as many onramps as possible to allow community members to report ways that they have been the victim of racism, sexism, homophobia and more in their workplaces, housing searches, and community life. You can view their full PowerPoint with resources on how to contact the PHRC, file a claim, and more below!
2. “We come to every context with a pretext.”
Many of us–whether through lived experience, or through our work in the community–have seen the deep inequities that exist in Lancaster County. In order to tackle these issues at a systemic level, we also need to understand them at a human level. Creating intentional space for conversation and community is a great first step to build collective language around the issues facing each of us. We are all on an individual journey towards being better neighbors, community members, and residents to each other, so understanding and reflecting on our own personal growth areas is an important way to begin the work of understanding the challenges and opportunities before us.
PHRC offers multiple ways to engage, from personalized trainings, to Social Justice Lunch and Learns, to Diversity Speaks Series to build community with other folks throughout the state. They have also launched a Social Justice Ambassadors Program for community members to take a leading roll in their neighborhoods and networks to advocate for PHRC’s services and resources.
3. “We’re being as we continue to become…you are the experts.”
While PHRC works at the state and local levels to protect and prevent discrimination, their work–just like the work of YWCA Lancaster–is guided by the voices, insights, and ideas of the community.
During the Q&A section of the event, community members raised questions about the work being done on the availability of and discrimination in affordable housing, the PA Fairness Act, as well as the work being done to advance the findings of the Lancaster County Equity Profile, published by more than 10 local agencies this year. This input from the community is vital for helping to shape PHRC’s work, and assist them in responding to on-the-ground needs as they arise.
On a mission
The largest takeaway from PHRC’s presentation and tour stop remains that they are open and willing to support community members who are experiencing discrimination, as well as partner with any organization, business, or individual looking to build a more just community in their own backyard.
At YWCA Lancaster, our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women calls us to do the same. We are thankful for the opportunity to host statewide leaders in the movement for justice, and honored to have been in community with so many of you on the night. Check out the resources below to continue your learning, or get involved in our upcoming events!