By Jean Carroll, President & CEO
YWCA Rochester & Monroe County
This is the fourth year the YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County has participated in the Stand Against Racism and we’ve got some pretty big plans this year. As you know, the Stand is an annual community-wide event to build awareness about racism. We reach out to businesses, higher education, houses of worship and government agencies to create greater awareness and to encourage conversations about race.
We are very excited to have YWCA USA CEO, Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., join us here in Rochester on April 25, the date of this year’s Stand. Dr. Richardson-Heron will be the keynote speaker at a special Stand Against Racism breakfast event we are hosting. Following Dr. Richardson-Heron’s talk, there will be a panel discussion featuring Rochester’s first female African-American Mayor, Lovely A. Warren and University of Rochester President Joel Seligman.
The topic of Dr. Richardson-Heron’s talk will be “Leadership Challenges in Achieving Racial Equity.” We have an amazing event planned with dynamic speakers, and conversations that are vital for us to move forward as a community. The critical nature of what is happening in Rochester was made abundantly clear recently with the release of a poverty report about our city. Turns out, we are the fifth poorest city in the country. The report stated that African-Americans and Hispanics are far more likely to be poor than whites. In our region, the poverty rate for African-Americans stands at 34% and for Hispanics at 33%. For whites, the rate is 10%.
There are some startling statistics about the racial disparities in our city and how they all relate to housing, education and health disparities. For example, the infant mortality rate for African-Americans is 13.2 per thousand, with whites at 4.9 per thousand. Children 18 or younger living below the federal poverty level is at 36% for African-Americans in Rochester, while it is 15% for whites. Graduation rates stand at 58% for African-Americans, and 86% for whites.
The study demonstrates the need for more dialogue in our city as it relates to issues of race. Rochester has truly embraced the Stand Against Racism, and our participation rates demonstrate a commitment to having these vital conversations about race. In 2011 (our first year hosting a Stand locally) we had the second largest participation in the nation with more than 100 sites! In 2012, we led the nation with the most participation, as 160 organizations signed up. Last year, we had 200 organizations participate, again coming in second in the nation. This year, we’re hoping to again lead the nation in participation.
The types of activities taking place are as varied as the organizations that host Stand events. Some of the past Stand events have included a dance performance at a local mall, a poetry slam at a local college, racial justice workshops, facilitated discussions and just making a commitment to having a coffee with a co-worker of a different race. Many of the events were private, taking place in individual organizations, but some were open to the public.
Having a conversation about race and taking a stand may make some people uncomfortable, but talking and discussing topics of race and inequality can often lead to great things. Having a discussion about race is what the YWCA Stand Against Racism is all about.
To learn more about the Stand Against Breakfast event in Rochester on April 25, click here.