Statement in Support of Dept. of Labor Overtime Regulations

YWCA USA applauds the Department of Labor (DOL) for proposing the long overdue and much needed regulations to expand overtime protections to 5 million workers across the country, with 56 percent of the affected workers women.  By raising the overtime salary threshold up to $50,440 per year, working women will be eligible for time and a half for every hour worked over 40 hours per week. This new regulation will improve the economic security of women and their families and reduce income inequality by compensating workers for a fair day’s work.

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Remembering the Charleston Shooting Victims

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YWCA USA extends our deepest sympathy to those impacted by the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC Wednesday night.

We especially want to uplift the friends and families of the victims: Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Myra Thompson.

In a statement from YWCA Greater Charleston, we are reminded that the church’s Pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a good friend of the YWCA. In fact, on April 26th, in the wake of the shooting of Walter Scott, “Mother Emanuel” AME Church hosted the local YWCA Stand Against Racism: Requiem on Racism: A People’s Mass. As a tribute to and in solidarity with the people of Charleston, we encourage you to view this powerful anti-racist event. We are particularly moved by Rev. Pinckney’s opening prayer where he exclaims: “only love can conquer hate!”

 

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Police Violence Against Black Girl in McKinney

by Loryn Wilson

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In McKinney, Texas, 14-year-old Dajerria Becton was slammed on the ground while she was wearing nothing but a two-piece bathing suit. Her friends rushed to help her and then one of the officers drew his gun. Most of the teenagers involved lived in the community where the pool party was held or were invited guests.  It has been reported that white members of the community instigated the entire chain of events by yelling racial slurs and assaulting at least one of the teens.

After by-stander video of the event went viral, Dajerria was released from jail without charge and Officer Eric Casebolt was given administrative leave because of his actions. In the wake of national and local protests, he has now resigned.

In discussions about incidents like this one, many players, including the media, take the event out of its broader context. The fact is that this incident did not happen in a vacuum. From start to finish, every element of this incident has its roots in a history of racism in the United States. For example, the U.S. has an ugly history of segregated swimming pools and attacks on Black Americans when they fight for integration of and access to pools and other public spaces. There are several famous photos of a White pool manager pouring acid on Black youth after they attempted to swim in a segregated pool.

What happened in McKinney last week is history repeating itself. Not only did the police interfere and assault Dajerria and her friends, but race colored the way White community members reacted and targeted teens as well.

Too often, Black youth in general and Black girls in particular are seen as less innocent and perceived to be adults more often than youth of other races—it was true for 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was killed after he was mistaken for an adult male, and it is true for the police response to 14-year-old Dejerria Becton. For girls of color, the chance to be viewed as children is not a given, as discussed in a recent Huffington Post article.

The YWCA educates people about the full spectrum of violence that impacts the lives of women, girls, people of color and their communities. There are many types of violence and not all violence is acknowledged or responded to equally—especially as it impacts women, girls and people of color. This spectrum of violence includes institutional and structural violence enacted by our political, economic, and legal systems.

The recent events in McKinney, TX are yet another example of women and girls of color being targets of police violence, and it is another reason why the End Racial Profiling Act can’t wait. YWCA advocates for laws that hold police accountable for their actions and provide consequences for officers who abuse their power and target women and girls of color unfairly. If you believe you have observed racial profiling in your community, you can use the YWCA Racial Profiling Checklist to document what you have seen or experienced.

Get involved and help us eliminate racism by contacting your member of Congress and urging them to support the End Racial Profiling Act.

Read the YWCA USA statement about McKinney here.

Loryn C. Wilson is the Social Media and Online Engagement Coordinator at the YWCA USA.

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YWCA Collective Power on Capitol Hill Day Today

desiree headshotA sea of persimmon power will sweep the halls of Congress during Capitol Hill Day kicking off the YWCA’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.  YWCA executive directors, local board members and staff are lobbying their Congressional delegation on YWCA national advocacy priorities for the 114th Congress.

This year’s theme, “Our Collective Power,” is appropriate for so many reasons.   Our power as a racial justice and women’s rights movement is rooted in our shared history, our mission to eliminate racism and empower women, and our commitment to the women and families we help on a daily basis.  Our power is also rooted in numbers and influence.   Local leaders from across the country are respected, influential spokespeople who bring an on-the ground perspective to Members of Congress.  YWCA advocates share stories about how legislation will impact the lives of the communities they serve.   And who can forget, as we move high-gear into election season, the power of the vote.   As powerhouses across the country invested in our mission to eliminate racism and empower women, YWCA’s continue to register marginalized and under-represented voters.   As a movement, we continue to stay apprised of how elected officials are voting on issues that matter to us and we vote!

Members of Congress are persuaded by YWCA’s collective power and today is an opportunity for us in Washington, D.C. and around the country to advocate for legislation to create a national standard guaranteeing paid sick days; common-sense gun violence prevention legislation to reduce domestic violence homicides; and a critical bill that would end racial profiling in communities.

If you are not attending Capitol Hill Day, there are plenty of ways to take action on these advocacy issues   A newly elected Congress convened in January 2015 and their agenda is still being defined.  A series of bills have been recently reintroduced that align with YWCA legislative priorities.  Our goal is to educate a new generation of elected officials as well as remind incumbent Members to co-sponsor the following bills:   the Healthy Families Act (S. 497/ H.R. 932), the End Racial Profiling Act of 2015 (S.1056/HR 1933) and the Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (H.R. 2216).

Healthy Families Act- Eighty percent of low-wage workers across the country do not have a single paid sick day. Women and people of color are disproportionately impacted by the lack of paid sick days, particularly those employed in low-wage jobs. In fact, more than half of Latina workers and more than four in ten African American women workers do not have this basic benefit. In absence of this workplace protection, workers are often forced to choose between losing wages, even losing their jobs, and taking time off of work to care for oneself or a family member. When workers have to take unpaid sick time to stay home to get well or care for a loved one, the lost wages threaten the family’s economic stability. YWCA supports the Healthy Families Act (S. 497/H.R. 932) which creates a national standard for paid sick days. The Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick days annually to recover from a sickness or take time off to care for a family member without penalty.  Additionally, we strongly support the provision in the bill that would allow survivors of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault to use these paid sick days to obtain legal, housing, and health services.  We urge you to co-sponsor the Healthy Families Act.

Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act- YWCA remains committed to addressing violence against women through a continued focus on preventing domestic violence murders by closing key gaps in federal firearms legislation. In the U.S., more than three times as many women are killed by their abusers with guns than by any other weapon. In fact, a woman is five times more likely to be killed by her intimate partner in households with guns. YWCA supports H.R. 2216, the Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act, which will effectively reduce domestic violence murders and save the lives of millions of domestic violence victims by closing three key loopholes such as: allowing for the seizure of firearms when temporary protective orders are issued, expanding the definition of “intimate partner” to include dating partners and convicted stalkers, and prohibiting convicted stalkers from having access to guns.

End Racial Profiling Act of 2015- Racial and religious profiling is a human rights violation that uniquely affects women of color. Congress must pass the End Racial Profiling Act (S. 1056/S. 1933) to ensure that policing of all communities is done fairly using methods that respect the full humanity and rights of all regardless of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability or citizenship status. As a leading organization devoted to racial and gender justice, YWCA believes that all individuals should be ensured justice and protected equally under the law.​

Join the YWCA’s collective power on Capitol Hill today by following these easy steps.

  1. Forward this message to your networks– Friends, Board Members, Co-Workers and Leaders in your community.
  2. On June 4, send an email message to your Members of Congress urging them to co-sponsor these bills by clicking on each of the links above.
  3. Sign-Up on the YWCA USA website to receive legislative alerts and updates.

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Ending Domestic Gun Violence

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By Karolina Szatkowski

Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking at a Domestic Violence Symposium, focusing on the effects of domestic violence trauma on children. Sitting with a panel of women who hailed from a variety of professions all connected by their work in domestic violence, we each answered questions regarding treatment modalities best suited for children exposed to domestic violence and shared how agencies and institutions in our communities were screening for domestic violence. When we were encouraged to share how each one of our agencies could protect and serve children best when they have been exposed to domestic violence, a representative from the prosecutor’s office quickly replied that although difficult, he always recommends that the victim leave the relationship and enter a domestic violence shelter with the children to ensure safety.

I blanched.

My seatmate, another representative from the prosecutor’s office, chimed in vigorously, sharing a story I am all too familiar with – that of a woman, who saved her children, but was killed by their father, her husband and abuser. This woman (who must remain unnamed due to pending court proceedings) had left her abusive partner with her children, obtained a restraining order and entered the domestic violence shelter. Some time later, she was found by the abuser and, as was reported, shot sixteen times on a busy street in front of theirchildren. It was reported by one of her children that the last thing she said, screaming, was “take your sister and run.”

“That was the best thing she could have done for them,” concluded the prosecutor’s representative.

Slowly, painstakingly and deliberately, I positioned the microphone in front of myself and asked my panelists and the audience, “What would have happened if when she obtained that final restraining order, he was held accountable for his actions?”

Silence.

The United States has the highest rate of intimate partner homicide of any industrialized country (Krug, Dahlberg, Mercy, Zwi & Lozano, 2002). More so, we are learning that the mere presence of firearms is directly associated with increased risk of homicide to females. In response to facts such as these, the Danger/Lethality Assessment (www.dangerassessment.org) was created with the help of domestic violence survivors, shelter workers, law enforcement and other clinical experts, to address the risk factors leading to intimate partner homicide. Literally it’s an instrument that helps determine the level of danger a victim of domestic violence has of being killed by an intimate partner.

What makes this instrument unique is that it recognizes that it is not only physical violence that leads to intimate partner homicide but also factors such as gun ownership, avoiding arrest, substance abuse, controlling behavior and constant jealousy, destruction of property and threatening the children. The Danger/Lethality Assessment consists of 20 questions which can be filled out by the survivor or with the help of a trained worker and takes about twenty minutes to complete.

Although I have been trained, along with fellow domestic violence liaisons in the state of New Jersey, to my knowledge, not a single county has adopted the Danger/Lethality Assessment Program. On the other hand, the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence reports that in 2012, 100 agencies completed 12,108 screenings and of those 6,224 (51%) were rated as “high danger.” In 2013, 19 more agencies began to do LAP screenings and in that year 12,751 screenings were completed and 6,688 (52%) of those were found to be in “high danger.”

We will never know what could have happened differently if we had done more than issue a restraining order in the aforementioned case. I wonder how many lives can be impacted, starting today, if each of us were prepared to take responsibility for holding batterers accountable and adopting programs such as the Danger/Lethality Assessment. Perhaps this is the best thing we can do.

Karolina Szatkowski is a licensed social worker, serving as the director of the PALS (Peace: A Learned Solution) creative arts domestic violence program at the YWCA Union County, NJ and as an instructor for Rutgers University Violence Against Women Continuing Education Program.  She has worked in the field of domestic violence with victims, offenders and children and has made it her mission to continually empower women and girls, raising awareness about domestic violence and the importance of batterer accountability.  

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Tweets from Stand Against Racism

April 23-26 marked the YWCA’s signature event, Stand Against Racism. Check out tweets from Stand Against Racism across the country below.

 

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End Racial Profiling Act Re-Introduced by Congress

By Tralonne Shorter

Racial profiling has long been a crisis in our country stemming as far back to slavery when slave masters and police would use brutal excessive force as a method of control. The practice continued into Jim Crow when protestors would stage civil demonstrations opposing segregation and thrives today though institutional racism.

Before today’s camera phones captured the police racial profiling and killing of unarmed black males like Walter Scott, Mike Brown, Eric Garner; there was Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Sean Bell and most notably Rodney King. Though there were significant eye witnesses, only two police officers were convicted and served jail time for these brutal racial profiling practices.

While recent high profile incidents of racial profiling focus on black males, women are also targeted by law enforcement.

In 2012 Abraham Joseph, a former Houston police officer is serving a double life sentence for raping undocumented immigrant woman while on duty.  In one instance he “handcuffed a woman and raped her repeatedly on the trunk of his police car, confident that she wouldn’t report him”, but she did.  Click here to read more stories like this.

In March 2015, Malaika Singleton of Sacremento, CA, a black women with dreadlocked hair filed a suit against the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) with the help of the California affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) because “there was a pattern among black women, particularly those with their hair in a natural style, being singled out for these discriminatory and intrusive hair searches. TSA reached an agreement to ensure that all passengers are treated with respect and dignity. TSA agents at Los Angeles International Airport will undergo training to emphasize racially neutral practices, and the agency will specifically track complaints to assess whether a discriminatory impact may be occurring​,” reported on Huffington Post.

In 2011, Shoshana Hebshi, a 36-year old half-Jewish, half-Arab mother sued FBI and airline (prepared by ACLU) after being yanked off a flight and stripped searched on the 10th Anniversary of September 11th.  She and two Indian-American men sitting in her row were targeted by federal agents who entered the plane, ordered them off the plane, handcuffed them, and pushed them down the stairs into vehicles.  She was then placed in a cell, where she was ordered to strip naked, squat, and cough while an officer looked at her.​  Earlier this week Ms. Hebshi settled with TSA and the airline.

The intersection of race, gender, religion and violence is often unexplored in discussions of racial and religious profiling.  As a women’s organization committed to racial justice, we believe it is critical to elevate the serious problems women of color face when it comes to racial profiling and the need for laws that ban racial profiling practices.

On the eve of our National Day of Action, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative John Conyers reintroduced the End Racial Profiling Act.  Yet every Congress since 1998, there has been some version of legislation introduced that bans racial profiling practices among law enforcement.

The journey to overcoming racial profiling will be arduous.  Undoubtedly, hearts and minds cannot be legislated.  But behavior can.

It took the landmark Supreme Court decision in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case to rule desegregation unconstitutional and overturn separate but equal.  The historic passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 made domestic violence a crime, and no longer considered a private family matter.

Beyond ERPA we must look into the ways communities of color are policed, and other criminal justice issues such as mass incarceration, school-to-prison pipeline, and access to justice.

Consider another example.  7 year old Aiyana Stanley Jones who was shot and killed by Detroit police officer after a botched no knock raid.

The presumption that people of color are guilty based on race, gender, immigrant status, religion or national origin is discriminatory and it is unacceptable.  Hopefully, with the reintroduction of the End Racial Profiling Act, “it stops today.”

Key Facts 

  • Racial profiling is a common practice carried out by law enforcement agents conducting traffic and pedestrian stops. A U.S. Department of Justice report on police contact with the public found that African Americans were 20 percent more likely than Whites to be stopped and 50 percent more likely to have experienced more than one stop. This report also revealed that although African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to be stopped and searched, they were less likely to be in possession of contraband.
  • On average, searches and seizures of African American drivers yielded evidence only 8 percent of the time, searches and seizures of Hispanic drivers yielded evidence only 10 percent of the time, and searches and seizures of white drivers yielded evidence 17 percent of the time.
  • A 2000 General Accounting Office report found that during fiscal year 1998, U.S. Black women airline passengers were nine times more likely than U.S. White women airline passengers to be X-rayed or stripped searched after being frisked. Yet, Black women were less than half likely as white women to be found carrying contraband.
  • A 2013 report released by the Missouri Attorney General Office, unveiled that black women in Ferguson were stopped by police more than anyone.
  • The International Association of Chiefs of Police issued an executive guide in June of 2011 that addressed misconduct by law enforcement officers who sexually assault women.  Women such as sex workers, undocumented immigrants, or limited English proficiency are at greater risk.

Act Now: Call your Members of Congress and urge them to support the End Racial Profiling Act. 

 Tralonne Shorter is the Senior Advocacy & Policy Associate for Racial Justice and Civil Rights at the YWCA USA. 

 

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YWCA Alaska Takes on Equal Pay

By Hilary Morgan

CEO, YWCA Alaska

In an unprecedented move last May, YWCA Alaska’s Board of Directors resolved to eliminate the gender pay gap in Alaska by 2025. While this would not be an easy undertaking in any state, for Alaska this is an especially daunting task. In 2014, Alaskan women made just 67.8 cents for every dollar paid to men. At almost 10 cents behind the national average, Alaska is ranked 48th in the nation for the gender wage ratio.

In Alaska, the gender pay gap narrowed just 5 cents over the 20-year period prior to 2014 – 1 penny for every 4 years. At that rate, Alaskan women will not see pay equity until 2142. When YWCA Alaska staff realized this, they decided that enough was enough. Hilary Morgan, YWCA Alaska CEO, presented the information to the YWCA Alaska Board of Directors in May of 2014. By the end of the meeting, the Board had unanimously passed a resolution to eliminate Alaska’s gender pay gap by 2025 and an initiative was born.

But this is unlike any other initiative. YWCA Alaska’s unique approach to this age-old issue is impressive; not only in scope and breadth but in increased likelihood of success. There are three major components.

  • The Initiative’s focus is on the economic impact of the gap rather than the social injustice of unequal pay. Alaska, being relatively isolated from the rest of the United States, is facing such shortage of skilled workers that businesses in the state refer to the labor pool as a puddle. Forty-eight % of the Alaska labor pool are women. The fact that women in Alaska make less than men in every major industry does not attract female workers to a state where they are desperately needed. YWCA Alaska sees this situation as the perfect opportunity to work with businesses to transform Alaska’s workplaces into gender neutral environments that attract the best workers, both male and female.
  • YWCA Alaska intentionally chose to avoid legislative or political routes to this solution. Since 1963 with the passage of the Fair Pay Act it became illegal to pay women and men differently for the same job. Since then there have been scores of piecemeal legislation addressing women’s rights with regard to pay. These have not demonstratively changed the financial landscape for women. Additionally, there have been several efforts that amass the top community thinkers to form a task force lead by a Mayor or Governor. As soon as that political official is not re-elected, the effort dies. For these reason, YWCA Alaska sought a different approach.
  • The YWCA Alaska Gender Pay Gap Initiative uses a 2-pronged approach focused on changing the societal, educational, and economic dynamics that contribute the gender pay gap. The YW has been in existence in this country for well over a 100 years and the Alaska YW for 26 years. We are not going anywhere. We are the perfect entity to take this issue on to resolution. With over 200 YWCA affiliates throughout the United States and YW’s in 122 countries throughout the world, we have an established distribution system, as the Alaska effort is successful, to close the gap once and for all. The two prongs of YWCA Alaska’s approach are:
  1. The Initiative works directly with businesses, organizations, and their leaders to create gender neutral workplaces.
  2. The Initiative works to further the education of women and girls on career choice, salary negotiation, and the subtle nuances of gender bias.

To date, YWCA Alaska’s Initiative has nearly completed all their Year 1 action items. They have also received $75,000 for the effort from one of the largest Alaskan employers, Providence Hospital.

Critical steps planned for the Initiative’s first 3 years include:

  • Obtaining endorsements from businesses and community members (Y1-3);
  • Educate community at large on issues surrounding the Gender Pay Gap (Ongoing)
  • Implementing a Best Alaskan Companies for Working Women Survey (Y1 Pilot/Y2&3 Expanded);
  • Creating a consultation and rating program for businesses who wish to implement gender neutral policies (Y2-3);
  • Building high school and college training programs for women on the topics of career planning and salary negotiation (Y1-3);
  • Produce a needs assessment for vocational education programs to promote non-traditional occupations to girls in the state (Y3);
  • Design and implement an Attitudes Towards Working Women survey (Y3)
  • Hosting an annual Gender Pay Equity Summit (Ongoing)

YWCA Alaska knows that by giving businesses the tools to build gender neutral policies and by ensuring women and girls are prepared to enter the workforce, the gender pay gap in Alaska will be eliminated. With over 40 current endorsements from businesses and statewide leaders, including Alaska’s Governor Bill Walker, the Initiative is quickly gaining community support and momentum. We look forward to working with YWCA affiliates country- and worldwide to close the gap once and for all!

Hilary Morgan is the Chief Executive Officer of YWCA Alaska.

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Taking a Stand in Asheville, NC

By Beth Maczka

CEO, YWCA Asheville

The YWCA of Asheville is dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women. We offer programs that bridge gaps in education, health care, child care and earning power. The YWCA has been in Asheville since 1907 and currently serves more than 2,500 families a year.

Eliminating racism is one of the two central principles of the YWCA mission, along with the empowerment of women. The YWCA has a legacy in Asheville of being at the forefront of this work; in 1956, the United Nations Club invited Eleanor Roosevelt to speak in Asheville, but she would only speak to non-segregated audiences. The YWCA was the only place in Asheville willing to host an integrated audience; she spoke to a sold out crowd of over 800. And in 1970 Thelma Caldwell, then acting Director of the YWCA of Asheville, became the first YWCA African-American Executive Director in the South and only the second in the nation.

The YWCA’s ongoing challenge is to ensure that our programmatic and advocacy work reflects the needs of all the women we serve. We do this in several ways through our many programs. We address the achievement gap through our Child Care and School Age programs, and we address health disparities through our Diabetes Wellness & Prevention program, and by making healthy eating and swimming components of our children’s programming. We address institutional racism through our advocacy around get-out-the-vote efforts and racial profiling, and by increasing diversity and leadership among the YWCA staff and Board. And we address a need for continued dialogue and naming of racism through our mission and strategic plan, through honoring our history, by striving to break down racial and economic barriers through-out our building and in our programs, and through our participation in the Stand Against Racism initiative.

The YWCA’s Stand Against Racism brings people together to raise awareness that racism still exists and can no longer be ignored or tolerated. This April is the 7th year we’ve held the Stand in Asheville, and we’re proud that Buncombe County is one of the most active sites – with currently 43 participating sites! A full list of sites in our community on our website at www.ywcaofasheville.org/stand. Some examples of upcoming public local Stand events include:

Mountain Area Health Education Center’s Health Equity Team will host an event titled Micro-Aggressions: How to Identify and Correct. The objectives of the event will be to define the concept of micro-aggressions, identify forms of micro-aggressions, and utilize strategies to decrease micro-aggressions.

WNC Adoption Resources will host filmmaker and Korean adoptee, Barb Lee – who grew up in WNC – to Asheville, for a day-long workshop based on her films ‘Adopted’ and ‘Adopted: We Can Do Better.’ The event will explore parenting a transracial family, fostering positive identity formation, clarifying parental intentions, and navigating the politics of adoption.

The Asheville Jewish Community Center is having their stand against racism in partnership with Jewish communities throughout WNC. Their stand will feature music, arts, and a brief presentation.

The Asheville JCC is committed to creating a more understanding community that is open to exploring and embracing the many different cultural and ethnic perspectives in our vibrant city,” says Lael Gray, Executive Director of the Asheville JCC. “Overcoming all forms of bias, including racism, is vital to everyone’s well-being, and the JCC is happy to participate in the Stand Against Racism to share this message with our members, children, and families.”

Jubilee Community and The Episcopal Cathedral of All Souls will host “Rootwork: A Path to Liberation” A two-part workshop on racial healing with Vanessa Jackson, author, speaker, licensed Clinical Social Worker and Therapist, “Black Lives Matter” Facilitator.

Asheville Writers in the Schools will take a Stand Against Racism in conjunction with their annual youth spoken word poetry competition, Asheville Wordslam.

Janet Hurley with Asheville Writers in the Schools says: “It’s important for Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community to participate in the Stand Against Racism initiative because our organization is committed to racial equity, and we do our work through this lens.”

The YWCA of Asheville joins YWCA USA in welcoming organizations, corporations, houses of worship, government agencies and individuals to take a stand by participating as a site or individual in the 2015 Stand Against Racism. Any group of any size that believes in a society free of racism is invited to join us. Participation in the Stand Against Racism is free, and becoming a participating site is very simple. Each organization’s “Stand” will differ – from gatherings and discussions at work to larger scale stands like rallies and marches.

Strength comes from numbers. To become a participating site: learn more and register at www.standagainstracism.org.

Beth Maczka is the Chief Executive Officer of the YWCA of Asheville. A native of Maryland, she has lived in Asheville for 26 years. She has worked with the Self-Help Credit Union, The Affordable Housing Coalition of Asheville and Buncombe County, Pisgah Legal Services and most recently as Senior Program Officer with the Community Foundation of WNC. The theme that runs through all of her work – and that continues at the YWCA – is Beth’s commitment to racial and economic justice, particularly for women. 

 

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Mary Wolf: A YWCA Heroine

By Constance Tate

World YWCA

Mary Wolf of New York City has been well-known to friends in our city for her wide interests such as the theatre, music, and the work of Mt. Sinai Hospital, but her many YWCA friends have also admired her amazing, longtime and wonderful commitment to the YWCA for over fifty years at three levels: as a YW leader in the city, as a member of the national YWCA Board for 12 years, and as a supporter of the World YWCA with foreign trips and her role as a UN representative in later years.

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As Mary has told some of us, her interest in the YWCA started originally with her husband who took over and ran the family paint supply business located on the West Side of Manhattan from about the early 50’s until the late 90s. After Stephen had become well-known at the West Side branch of the YWCA that was located at 51st street and 8th Avenue, the director there asked him one day if he had a wife who might like to join some of the leading city ladies who were volunteers at that branch. And that was the start of Mary’s volunteer career, which saw her becoming President of that Center for many years where Playwrights Horizons also got its start and where Alvin Ailey began his work and a famous Crafts Students League held classes for twenty years before moving to Lexington Avenue.

The West Side YWCA, also known for a time as the Clark Center, was a colorful and major headquarters, dating from the 1920s. It was a nine-story building with large- sized rooms for classes, dancing and the arts, and sometime in the 60’s it acquired an outside seven-story high mural that made it a landmark until the end of the century. Members involved at that YWCA ranged from such names as the Rockefellers and Polly (Mrs. Cleveland) Dodge back in the 50s and 60s to Robert Moss and Wendy Wasserstein during the 70s and beyond, when finally the closing of several YWCA single-sex residences led to moving most activities to the East Side. Mary as President there thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of fostering experimental theatre at that YW and remembers happily the search for new plays and eventually for a new home for the Playwrights theatre that has lasted to this day.

Meanwhile, as a New York leader, Mary had also been nominated for the National YWCA Board, where she served for three terms from 1979 to 1991, traveling to meetings around the country, working on various committees, and eventually caring enough to donate a decorative statue in memory of her mother to the YWCA Learning Center in Phoenix, Arizona, that was built in the 1980s. By the end of her term, Mary was also actively interested in the work of the World YWCA where she has now been a member of the World Service Council for over 30 years, serving on its Executive Committee, traveling to World YWCA meetings in Finland and Kenya, supporting its worldwide work, and also serving actively for several years as a UN representative at UN meetings in New York.

Those of us lucky enough to have served with Mary at any or many of these sites over the years have always been amazed at her wonderful energy and commitment to the YWCA’s work for women and gender equality. She has constantly been on the side of equal rights and an ardent proponent. As an early World YWCA visitor to Palestine in the 80s, she was equally passionate for the rights of women there, and we salute Mary for being an inspiration to all who have known her in her more than half a century with our YWCA.

Connie Anderson Tate is the current Chair of the World Service Council, and past Chair of the YWCA of New York City. She also served on the National Board of the YWCA with Mary from 1980 to 1992.

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