Knowledge is Power: Modern Day Slavery in America

by Shamere McKenzie
Slavery survivor

Shamere McKenzie

Shamere McKenzie

I remember sitting in church on New Year’s Eve, hearing my Pastor say, “It was on this night, 150 years ago, that slaves sat patiently waiting to hear the verdict of their freedom.” I immediately started to think about when I was enslaved. Enslaved, in 2005, in an America that is now celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Emancipation. Enslaved, even though slavery was abolished under the 13th Amendment in 1865.

Here I was in church, seven years after surviving 18 months of extreme torture – in every sense of the word. I began thinking of the slavery that still exists in the 21st century. The slavery many people don’t talk about, as it is a “hidden crime,” even though it is in our own backyards. The slavery where human beings are illegally traded and exploited for commercial sex; where human beings are severely beaten, raped, and sodomized. Here I was thinking about modern day slavery – human trafficking. My mind and my heart began to battle. Here I was, free, but some girl somewhere was still enslaved by the hands of a pimp that our society glamorizes. I ask you: do you really know what a “pimp” is?

Thank You for a Successful Year!

by Katie Stanton
Social Media Manager, YWCA USA

2013 is nearly here, so let’s take a step back and reflect on the accomplishments of the past year. For the YWCA, looking back helps us remember what we can achieve together, and to plan for how we will continue to empower women and eliminate racism in coming years.

YWCAs across the country have truly made an impressive difference in their communities. Our local associations worked hard to serve the two million women and families who participate in our programs every year. Here is just a sample of their many achievements:

  • YW NYC StaffThe YWCA of the City of New York provided relief to the families in Coney Island who were heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy, despite their own challenges after the storm. Other local associations, like the YWCA of Minneapolis, organized relief efforts to help their fellow association recover.
  • The YWCA York, as part of a Human Trafficking Task Force, increased awareness about the widespread trafficking taking place in their community at their Cocktails for a Cause event. YWCA USA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., discussed the YWCA USA’s commitment to empowering survivors of violence.
  • The YWCA of O’ahu is expanding their Dress for Success headquarters with a $25,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation. They will also be collaborating with U.S. VETS to provide the first and only transitional housing for female veterans in Hawai’i.

Coming Together for Worldwide Advocacy against Violence: the World YWCA International Training Institute

By Desiree Hoffman, Director of Advocacy
YWCA USA

November 6, 2012 will always be a memorable day in my book. It was the day I took my longest international trip – 18 hours from my home city of Washington, D.C., with pit stops in Dallas, T.X. and Tokyo. My final destination was Seoul, Korea, where I was chosen by the World YWCA to attend an International Training Institute (ITI) on Violence Against Women and Peacebuilding.

November 6 is also the same day that President Obama won a second term in the White House, winning battleground states like Ohio, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. When I landed in Tokyo, I ran to the nearest TV and, although I couldn’t understand Japanese, it was clear by the electoral map shaded in red and blue who had won.

The next day, I woke up feeling desperate for a cup of coffee. But that need slowly dissipated when I met women at breakfast from New Zealand, Great Britain, Zambia, Lebanon, Columbia and other countries. We made small talk about our journeys to Seoul as we ate a traditional Korean breakfast, which included rice and kimchee.

In Her Shoes: Sara Baker, YWCA Knoxville

by Rhonda Bishop
YWCA USA

In Her Shoes is a series that profiles young women working in YWCAs across the country.

Sara Baker - YWCA Knoxville

Sara Baker

Sara Baker currently serves as the Director of Women’s Advocacy & Written Communications for the YWCA Knoxville in Knoxville, Tennessee. Sara Baker’s previous work includes co-founding women’s groups in rural Appalachia, advocating for women’s health in the U.K., developing girl-empowerment programs in inner-city Philadelphia and writing news summaries on women’s rights in Central Asia. She has worked as a writer and proofreader and taught English composition at the University of Tennessee and English as a Second Language (ESL) in Poland. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of Tennessee and a B.A. in English and Religion from Maryville College.

YWCA: What excites you the most about your job?

SB: It’s different every day. Sure, I write some of the same grants over and over again, but I get to switch back and forth between so many projects so it’s never too tedious. What really drives me is the mission and the chance to make a difference in the lives of women—to really have an impact on how women live. I also love that I get to interact with diverse women from all over the country through my advocacy work. I learn a lot from other advocates and am constantly inspired.