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.