A YWCA Olympian: Gia Lewis-Smallwood to Compete in Discus Throw at London 2012 Olympics

Gia Lewis-Smallwood competes in the women’s discus throw on Aug. 3. Image credit: Lindsay Summerhays, Gilded Designs

One of YWCA’s own aims to make history this week at the 2012 London Olympics. Gia Lewis-Smallwood, associate program director at the YWCA University of Illinois, will compete in the women’s discus throw on August 3-4. (See broadcast schedule below.) And the YWCA will be cheering her on – you can follow Gia during the Games at Twitter hashtag #GoGia and our Facebook updates.

Gia, 33, took a break from training to chat with us about the Olympics, working at the YW, and how women can pursue their dreams:

Q: Tell us about your journey to make the Olympic team. How did you first get interested in discus?

I was an accomplished sprinter in high school, and during my senior year, I was encouraged to try the discus event as a way of scoring additional points for our team.  I was offered a scholarship for discus and actually turned it down to play basketball as a walk-on at the University of Illinois. I threw discus in college from my sophomore year until I graduated in 2002. I’ve been training the entire 10 years since then to make the Olympics. I’ve been on the world championship team and the Pan Am games team during that time.

The Racial Wealth Divide

by Christine Bork
CEO, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago

Christine Bork

Christine Bork

Today, I’d like to discuss the wealth gap that exists between different racial/ethnic communities. In the current economic climate, inequalities that have historically hammered communities of color are amplified, and we see more clearly why wealth accumulation (assets minus debts) is so important. According to an executive summary from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, many of the roots of the racial wealth gap lie in past and present institutional factors: “These include but are not limited to the ways in which government benefits, the tax code, and fringe benefits exclude many women of color from wealth-building opportunities that are provided to other segments of the American population.”

Moving Beyond Stereotypes

by Camille Taylor
YWCA McLean County, Illinois

(Blank) are usually good dancers, (Blank) people smell, special classes are for???

If you’re human, you couldn’t help but fill in the blanks with an image or a word that popped into your mind. A stereotype is a popular belief about a specific type of individual based on prior assumptions. When singer Susan Boyle came on the stage of “Britain’s Got Talent,” people snickered, and no one took her seriously until she sang her first note.

Standing Against Racism in Rockford

Kris Kieper

“Just think if whites marched and cried racism every time a white was attacked, held up or robbed by a black person. I would have blisters on my feet! So who are the racists?” ~Facebook user

In her column in the Rockford Register Star Kris Kieper, CEO of YWCA Rockford, Illinois, doesn’t shy away from tackling tough racial issues: Trayvon Martin, Acura’s ad agency’s casting call for a “not too dark” African-American actor, racial stereotypes in the media, and more.

Read more:http://blogs.e-rockford.com/kriskieper/2012/04/26/standing-against-racism-in-rockford/

We Are George Zimmerman

by Erica Thurman
YWCA McLean County (Ill.)

Erica Thurman

Erica Thurman

“Excuse me young man, are you lost?”

It may have been just that simple. Seven words may have made all the difference in the world to the family of Trayvon Martin. As the nation — and much of the world — looks for answers, it may be more beneficial to focus less on why George Zimmerman acted as he reportedly did and more on how he came to internalize the idea that young, black, male and hoodied equaled suspicious. Any number of isms could have been present (racism, ageism or classism).