Racial and Social Justice
Since 1906, YWCA La Crosse has served some of Coulee Region’s most vulnerable women, children and families. Equity and justice work is woven throughout its history and exhibited through its impact. While it is evident the organization always recognized the importance of equity for all, a peek into its journey to this point makes clear why its new racial justice training and education series is so imperative.
YWCA USA has a long history of working toward being an inclusive organization and advocating for equal rights for all. Despite this dedication, it became more and more apparent that it is not possible to reach equity for all without addressing race. In 1970, in response to national events and strong feelings of action within parts of YWCA USA, the 25th National Convention passed the One Imperative, “the elimination of racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary.” To further declare its dedication to the elimination of racism, it added this piece to a revised mission statement which was adopted in 2009 and read, “YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.”
In the past five years, YWCA La Crosse executive and board leadership acknowledged that the organization was not living up to all parts of its mission and committed to change. Within that time period, the organization began taking part in local initiatives to address disproportionate minority contact within the juvenile justice system, researched and initiated the Justice Circles program to address this disproportionality, dedicated a full-time staff person to serve as the Social Justice and Advocacy Director, and increased training for staff through monthly Racial Justice trainings. In summer of 2016, the Social Justice and Advocacy Director, along with four other community members, attended Racial Justice Training at YWCA Madison. The purpose of this training was to equip a team of individuals to bring back training resources they could provide to community members, organization and companies in hopes of increasing knowledge and community understanding of race and race equity. Remarkably, within 2016 alone, the Social Justice and Advocacy Director provided 959 hours of training to 129 individuals in the community.
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