"Eliminating racism" is at the core of the YWCA's mission, and our Racial Justice programs focus on educating and equipping our staff to embody this in their work, and strengthening our partnerships to address racism in the Greater Harrisburg community.
“Eliminating racism” starts with us, so all YWCA employees are required to complete a 2-hour Racial Justice Training to ensure that each staff person has a solid understanding of what “eliminating racism” means and how it applies to their work. In addition, a Racial Justice segment is always included during our Annual Staff In-Service Day, which this fall focused on discussion of the question "Why are people afraid to talk about race?"
The YWCA also offers periodic educational opportunities to increase Cultural Competence. Organized by our Racial Justice Staff Advisory Council and open to both staff and the public, these most recently included a presentation with Ms. Lucy Smartlowit-Briggs on "Understanding & Working with Native People: A Social Work Perspective."
The YWCA's Racial Justice Staff Advisory Council is also launching a new Racial Justice Book Club as an opportunity for YWCA staff and community members to read thought-provoking books on racial justice topics. The Book Club has an online forum and will meet quarterly for discussion. Our first selection is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a powerful, tender story of race and identity which we will discuss together on Friday, January 23rd at Noon at the YWCA.
In February 2014 the YWCA launched an exciting pilot program this year called “Let’s Talk: A Conversation about Race.” Developed by the YWCA's Racial Justice Committee, this six-week series of facilitated discussions challenges participants to “unpack” the ways that racism manifests itself at the personal, organizational and systemic levels, and provides tools for taking action to eliminate racism. We are currently offering and planning for additional cohorts, and more information about the program is available here.
The Racial Justice Committee has also been working in collaboration with State Rep. Patty Kim on Advocacy around Racial Profiling. In the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, we assisted with the development of language for a House Resolution (HR 718) condemning racial profiling. We were proud to stand with her at our March 19th press conference to advocate for passage of this resolution (see video here). Although HR 718 unfortunately died in Committee, the YWCA is currently working with the ACLU of PA on legislation to address this important issue.
Racial profiling is also an issue that the Community Responders Network (CRN) is working to address, through the development of a police training initiative and youth listening sessions. This coalition of local leaders and concerned citizens seeks to build a stronger, more inclusive community by educating, preventing and responding to instances of bias and intolerance in Central PA. The YWCA continues to be proud to support such an active Network of individuals and organizations that has grown to over 90 members, representing a wide variety of faith communities, businesses, non-profit organizations and government entities.
The YWCA spearheads and collaborates with partner organizations on three major racial justice events throughout the year. The MLK Day of Service on Allison Hill will be held on January 19th, bringing together volunteers to work on projects throughout the neighborhood. The service projects were complemented by an educational program and the presentation of “Drum Major” Awards for Service to community leaders.
On April 25th the YWCA will hold our 11th Annual Race Against Racism on City Island. In addition to the 5k run/walk and the "kids’ fun run" there will be a Humanity Fest featuring food vendors, agency tables and kids’ activities, rounding out a fun and impactful day for the whole community. Last year we raised nearly $40,000 from this event to support our racial justice programs throughout the year.
Two weeks later on May 9th the 13th Annual South Allison Hill Multicultural Festival will be held at the Heart of the Community Garden on Derry Street. With its parade, live stage, agency booths, children’s activities and food vendors, the Festival builds neighborhood pride, celebrates cultural diversity and strengthens connections in the community.
To learn more about Racial Justice at the YWCA, please contact: Amanda Arbour, Racial Justice Program Coordinator at AArbour@ywcahbg.org or (717) 234-7931 x3057.