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Three Big Questions with: Hannah Short

We’re back with another installment of “3 Questions”, a monthly feature highlighting members of the YWCA Lancaster team!

This month’s 3Q is with Hannah Short, our new Equity Training Coordinator for the Center for Racial and Gender Equity.

1)What motivates you to do racial justice work in Lancaster?

Growing up in Lancaster City wishing I could change the social climate motivated me to do racial justice work. I love having the opportunity to give back to my community and be part of the solution to making it a more welcoming place to live.

2) What’s your CRGE super power?

My CRGE super power would probably be contributing innovative ideas that bring people together!

3) What gives you hope about the future for our community?

I am hopeful that with the future generations having access to knowledge faster and in accessible ways through the media that there is a chance for them to be conscious of the flaws in our community’s history and do their best not to perpetuate those habits of harm. There’s a chance for our community to rebuild the structures and standards passed onto us, so I’d love to see a future with embracement change!

We’re so excited to have Hannah as part of the YWCA Lancaster team, and can’t wait for you to see her in action at an upcoming Racial Equity Institute or YWCA Lancaster event!

Join our next Racial Equity Institute launching next week:

3 Quotes from PHRC’s visit to YWCA Lancaster

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!

Download PHRC slides

Includes an overview of PHRC’s work as well as relevant links for filing complaints.

See more

Read the Equity Profile

Check out the first ever county-wide Equity Profile in PA

See more

Equity Profile Workshop and Talkback

Join us August 10 for a workshop and community building around the Equity Profile.

Learn more

Join the Action Team

Join a group of community members working to raise awareness and action on the Equity Profile

Learn more



3 Questions with: Tess Feiler

Welcome to 3 Big Questions, a new series where we uplift the voices and insight of our team!

This month’s 3BQ features Tess Feiler (they/she), our Equity Training Coordinator with our Center for Racial and Gender Equity. Tess is moving on from our team to their next adventure, will continue to partner with CRGE on antibias and antiracism trainings!

While YWCA Lancaster has been doing antiracism work for generations, you were part of the first generation of the Center for Racial and Gender Equity as it now exists, what do you think adding this center did for our mission?

I think that adding the Center provided a walk for our talk. The Center allowed us to put our values and mission around anti-racism into some serious action. I also think it met community needs as antiracism education was certainly a need for the populations within Lancaster who wanted to get to a more equitable place with their companies and organizations, but lacked the understanding of how to get there.

I believe, more importantly, that the Center also provided accountability for us, internally. How can we be practicing what we preach? It created opportunities for us to take a hard look at ourselves, and I hope that accountability continues to occur and that those opportunities continue to be taken advantage of.

What was something that has really challenged you about your time here, and something that gave you hope?

I don’t know if there were specific things that challenged me here, but maybe a better framing for it is how I was inspired to be a better person, colleague, friend, and co-conspirator.

I was inspired to be accountable and own my mistakes not from a place of shame but from perspective of love and liberation. One should strive to be accountable, in general, but I think especially working in the Center, accountability is necessary to personal and collective liberation.

I also gained a lot of perspective as well as an appreciation for nuance. To honor our beloved “felt, found, feel” activity: I used to feel like doing anti-oppression work was very clear-cut and easily laid out if one would simply follow the instructions. Then, I found out that there is no framework for being in real relationship with people, and that no community is a monolith. Now, I feel that it is important to break out of rigidity (and that those frameworks really only exist to provide an easier experience for those in positions of privilege and NOT how to actually love someone who has experienced harm). I learned how to honor space for nuance, love, and raw human feelings that transcend oppressive systems.

When I ponder on “something that gave [me] hope”, I think of how during dark seasons where I was experiencing a lot of loss and confusion and grief, I saw the power in our need as human beings for community. I felt hope in knowing there was support and that during times where I felt alone- personally and professionally- all I had to do was look around and realize I had people who wanted to support me. So, community. And love. That gave me hope.

What has your time here taught you about what is possible for the future of our community?

I think this is the most frustrating thing to me. How we have SO much capacity in the community of Lancaster- even across non-profits alone if we looked at it that way. We all have so much that we could do if we could own any and all harm we’ve caused, share and listen to what one another needs, identify the barriers and find creative solutions, and combine our resources and platforms to solve the problems…not for our own benefit, but for our collective benefit. Meeting so many leaders and community members across the county through my time here, I see how much potential our county has to do the things we want to see happen. We just have to get out of our own way, listen (REALLY listen) to the needs of the most vulnerable, and do the brave thing.


Learn more about our Center for Racial and Gender Equity

Share your ideas and insights state-wide leaders!

Join us on July 17 for a special opportunity to meet and engage with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Executive Director and team!

The PA Human Relations Commission is our state’s first line of defense for civil rights, and is essential for our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

As part of the PHRC’s Beloved Community Tour, YWCA Lancaster will host Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter for a townhall-style event to learn about the work of the

The PHRC created the Beloved Community framework to assist communities of the commonwealth to intentionally build a culture of peace, understanding and tolerance despite our differences within the context of an increasingly diverse and interconnected world.

Each listening session will include a presentation on the Beloved Community framework and an overview of the services and programs offered by the PHRC. Lassiter will then open it up for questions from the community!

We hope you will join us on July 17 and have your voice heard about the issues facing Lancaster County!

YWCA Lancaster hosts diversity dialogue dinner

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!

Want to be part of what’s next?

A new partnership for racial healing in Lancaster

A new partnership for racial healing 

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 tfeiler@ywcalancaster.org.

Other ways to get involved:


Taking action on the Equity Profile

What part of the Equity Profile of Lancaster County speaks 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.


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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.

Want to get involved?

5 quotes from Ripening the Times

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.

The result was a brilliant and engaging discussion featuring some of our community’s brightest minds and fiercest advocates for justice: Vincent Derek Smith of the African American Cultural Alliance of Lancaster, Dr. Amber Sessoms of Natural Inclination, Brian Graves of Lancaster Changemakers Collective, and Barbara Wilson of the Lancaster City Housing Authority. The discussion was moderated by our own Starleisha Gingrich!

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.”

-Brian Graves

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.”

-Barbara Wilson

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!


YWCA Lancaster presents first county-wide racial equity profile in PA

Known as the refugee capital of the United States, Lancaster has long been a new home to resettled families from all over the world. But a new report on the state of equity in the county indicates that its residents of color face compounding barriers to reaching their full potential.

An Equity Profile of Lancaster County — released today by a coalition of the county’s civic organizations in partnership with the National Equity Atlas — is the first county-wide racial equity profile in Pennsylvania. It illustrates how ongoing inequities in Lancaster have fueled racial disparities in economic opportunity, housing, educational attainment, health outcomes, and civic power.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for all of us if we center the lived experience of marginalized members of our community,” said Deborah Wilson Gadsden, the board president of YWCA Lancaster. “We hope this profile helps illuminate the stories we already know, brings new questions to the table, and enables everyone to see themselves as part of a new opportunity to create systemic change in a county that is trying to live up to its branding: a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family for all.”

The report’s findings underscore how a combination of inequities in Lancaster has carried mounting costs for the entire community: The county misses out on an estimated $1.9 billion in economic activity per year because of racial economic exclusion.

Other key findings about Lancaster County, based on the most current data available, include the following:

  • The majority of the county’s residents are white, but the area is growing more diverse as people of color increasingly move into the area for school and work. People of color, particularly Latinx residents (both immigrants and US-born) and Black immigrants, accounted for 88 percent of the net population growth in Lancaster between 2010 and 2019.
  • Lancaster’s youth are much more diverse than its older generations. In 2019, more than 25 percent of young people (those under 18 years of age) were people of color, compared to seven percent of the county’s seniors (those 65 years and older).
  • Forty percent of workers in Lancaster are employed in three industries: health care, manufacturing, and retail. These industries are experiencing high growth in jobs. Despite this growth, wages have largely stagnated or declined for workers with the lowest incomes.
  • Nearly 50 percent of renters in the county spend more than a third of their income on rent. As a result, these families also face the constant threat of being priced out or otherwise displaced from their communities, while new housing developments in the county are largely geared toward higher-income earners.

“Making an honest assessment of where a community stands in terms of racial equity is a critical first step in planning for equitable growth,” said Abbie Langston, the director of equitable economy at PolicyLink. “This research reinforces that advancing racial equity in Lancaster is essential to fostering long-term economic vitality and shared prosperity.”

Local organizations are doing necessary work on the ground, but many continue to face barriers to accessing the funds and other resources they need to maximize their impact. Over the past year, YWCA Lancaster and the National Equity Atlas have partnered with a broad range of community residents, advocates, elected officials, and civic leaders to delve into the county’s challenges, document its assets, identify opportunities for meaningful change, and outline strategies to build a stronger Lancaster for generations to come.

“This is a vital coalition working to bring baseline data to light and inspire action,” said Samuel Bressi, CEO of the Lancaster County Community Foundation. “Our community can only be extraordinary if everyone has full access and the ability to pursue their dreams.”

Explore the full profile, including the data and tailored strategies, at equityprofilelancaster.com.