Evanston/North Shore

In Other Words

Take a moment

by Eileen Hogan Heineman, Director of Racial Justice Programs
Posted February 17, 2017

Take a moment to look around this crowded room and breathe in how good it is to be with people who share our beliefs, our fears, our hopes. Be strengthened by that as you ask yourself, what will I do now?

For those who are feeling overwhelmed and/or sad, you’re in good company. 

For those who are eager to be given something tangible to do, to feel like you can make a difference, you’ve got lots of allies in this room as well.

For those whose lives are already too busy, look around again, and take another breath. You are NOT alone…there are many of us to do this work, so no one of us has to do it all, nor do it every day, nor ever do it alone. I believe we can count on each other to step up when we need to step back, because we are all here for the long haul. Am I right??

Every single one of us has a role to play in addressing the growing inequities. At an MLK Day Celebration, Evanston Alderwoman Dolores Holmes said, “We each need to determine what is our part, and then do our part with great heart.” And that is what we are about right now. We each have a part to play, whether this is the first time we’ve become active or have protested for years. 

At the end of our YWCA Racial Justice workshops, I ask participants: “Given what you’ve learned and felt here, what do you now feel compelled to do?” Today, I encourage you to think about the things you’ve said you believe in and the things you will resist, and I ask, what do you feel compelled to do? And, of course, I have some suggestions to get you started:

  • Is there something you need to learn? Is there someone with whom you need to share real information you have learned? Here are some resources to get you started.
  • Do you need to dedicate a day to go to Springfield with others to speak with legislators about bills they should support? 
  • Do you need to invite your neighbors in for coffee and conversation, asking what, together, you will do to support those in your neighborhood who are living in fear?
  • Are you compelled to work with others to make sure your community adopts the Welcoming Community Principles, and creates an ordinance or statute that clearly states that position?
  • Are you willing to support local families, struggling to stay together in this country?
  • Can you show up when your presence, your body, is needed, outside the offices of ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or other agencies, and demand truth from those who are detaining immigrants who pose no threat to our community? Or at your City Council or Village Board meeting to ask about the racial disparity in police stops or how money is allocated for library materials that represent ALL races, cultures, and gender identities? Or at your School Board to find out if the textbooks selected are telling the FULL history of America? Or what is being done differently so as to address issues of equity impacting achievement? Can you simply SHOW UP, and stand next to the vulnerable members of your community, of our society?
  • Will you decide to use your social media platforms to share TRUTH?
  • Will your action be to raise the REAL questions when those in power or with the loudest voices are imposing their will on the rest of thus, particularly those whose voices are not usually heard? Questions such as:
    • ‘What fear is driving the decision that has been made or the position you are taking?’ That means asking the parents of New Trier who oppose their school’s seminar day on Racial Justice: What do you fear will happen if your child participates in this day? Asking the faith leader who resists making a public statement in support of being a welcoming congregation: What do you fear will happen to our congregation if we welcome the stranger, if we include a worship song from another tradition, if we change a practice? Asking ourselves: What fear keeps me from speaking up to the friend or family member with whom I disagree?
    • ‘Who is being impacted by this Executive Order, and why does our government feel the need to limit their access to citizenship, or housing, or voting?’

What do you need to do, so that when you finish your day, you can say, “Today, I did not stay silent. Today, I did not accept cruelty. I did not accept abuse of power. I did not pretend that lies were truth. Today, I stood with the marginalized.”?

The swim marathon makes me cry

by Nancy Anderson, Flying Fish Coach
Reposted January 19, 2017 (originally posted January 26, 2015)

I read somewhere that you should pay attention to the things that make you cry – the things that unexpectedly give you a lump in your throat – because they tell you something about yourself and what makes you tick.

For me, many such moments have occurred on the pool deck over the last ten years in my role as a coach. My eyes brimmed at a time trials meet watching a relay of 11-12 girls trying to make a cut while their teammates cheered them on. I had to pull Kleenex out of my pocket at an end-of-season intersquad as I watched a shy, nearsighted swimmer, who was firmly opposed to meets, step up to the blocks and swim a 50 free. I swallowed hard at an away meet when an 8-year-old who clutched his stomach and cried about having to swim a 25-yard butterfly did it anyway, and then climbed out of the pool with a smile on his face.

And, every year, at the Flying Fish marathon, when we blow the whistle and play the music from the Olympics to signal the end of the hour-long swim, my eyes fill up.

I suppose this is an affirmation that I’m in the right part-time job. There’s something about competitive swimming that touches me. But it really isn’t about swimming. It’s about discovering that you’re more than you think you are, played out against a backdrop of blue water and candy-colored lane lines.

The swim marathon is one of the best examples of this discovery. I have seen frightened young swimmers (one whose parents told me he was in the school nurse’s office because he was sick with worry) confront their fears by jumping in and just doing it. I’ve been surprised by children who don’t seem to have much endurance or enthusiasm in practice but who find the strength to swim 100 laps when I thought they might do 60.

My eyes well up when I watch the seven-, eight- and nine-year-olds whom I coach swim their marathons because my lens is long. I know that this courage and tenacity – their “swimmer selves” – will spill over into other parts of their lives. Even if they leave competitive swimming, if they go on to play basketball or get the lead in “Guys and Dolls,” they will still return to their swimmer selves when they face something physically or mentally challenging.

And, I’m hopeful their swimmer selves will stick around for their adult lives, like mine did. In dark moments, when life seemed difficult and uncertain, it was my swimmer self who propelled me forward. It was that part of me, forged over many years and many yards, that understood that I simply had to keep kicking and pulling, even though it hurt, and somehow I would reach the wall.

So, Flying Fish swimmers, I get choked up every year when you finish your marathon swims, as I know my colleagues and your parents do as well, because I get to watch you discover that you’re more than you think you are – and you’ve got what it takes to face all of the marathons that lie ahead.

We stand together

by Karen Singer, CEO
Posted November 11, 2016

We walk through our doors at the YWCA Evanston/North Shore each morning determined to make our communities more just and equitable, determined to work for women’s empowerment and equality, for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body, for freedom from violence, and for people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, cultures and religions to feel that they are embraced, have opportunity, are respected and that their lives are valued.

Yesterday morning, we walked through our doors and felt that instead of a glass ceiling shattering, the floor had dropped out from under us. We sat and grieved together for what seemed to be a national affirmation of everything that is antithetical to what we aspire to and hold as our most cherished values.

We are all searching for an explanation; a way to get our heads around something we are struggling to understand. How can the climate and rhetoric of hate, racism, violence against women, and fear have been given its ultimate validation?

Mia, a staff member who answers our domestic violence crisis line, wrote something yesterday that especially resonated with us:

“(My son) stayed up with me until 12:30 am. He went to bed knowing it was probably over, but saying that maybe it wasn’t. There was a tiny bit of hope in his heart. The Cubs taught him about late night miracles last week. Still, I could hear the despair in his voice when he said, ‘I don’t want to go to school tomorrow, Mom.’”

“In the morning I came downstairs immediately after hearing him get up. I hugged him long and hard, with tears in my eyes, tears that are still in my eyes as I type this. I said, ‘I love you.’ And then I said, ‘You have to go to school today. You have to go to school for all those girls and Latinos and blacks and gays and Muslims at your school who were just told by America that they are not valued. You have to show up for them.’”

“To all of us who were told by this election that we do not matter, that our rights are irrelevant, I will show up for you. I will stand with you and I will fight every injustice I see. I will continue to use my voice as best as I can. For all of us. Even for those who voted differently. Because their rights may come under attack as well.”

Mia speaks for all of us at YWCA Evanston/North Shore. And like her and her son, we will show up every day to say and to demonstrate that we stand together. We will work together to fight bigotry and injustice. We will work together to ensure that our values not only stay intact, but prevail.

We live in a blue city bubble, and those of us who live in this big metropolitan area have heard but not fully appreciated or understood the deep anxieties and lived experiences of others as profoundly as we should. We need to build bridges across what seems, right now, like a vast chasm. The more we talk about the divisions, without finding common ground, the more polarized we become as a nation.

We are uncertain of what lies ahead and that can feel very scary. But let us not react in fear. We need to reach out, build connections and coalitions, build a more inclusive and united voice that brings out the best in who we all are. We need to move to action and double down on creating more just communities, a more just country for all. At the same time, we must never lose sight of and stop fighting for the values we uphold, and we must resist any encroachment on our fundamental human rights and notions of justice.

Let us not forget that while the glass ceiling was not shattered, it was cracked. For the first time in history, a major political party nominated a woman for president. But this election season has been a stark indicator that our work is as relevant and necessary as ever. We must and will continue to eliminate racism and empower women, listen with empathy and act in solidarity, and reaffirm the values that are the foundation of our mission: dignity, justice, and respect.

Hold tight to the vision of what we know we can be.

In solidarity,

Karen Singer, CEO, and all of us at YWCA Evanston/North Shore

Four Moments in the Life of a Flying Fish

by Peter Raffel 
Posted September 6, 2015


Peter Raffel (r) with CJ Smith (l), both of whom grew up swimming for the Flying Fish, spent the 2015/2016 season as assistant coaches in the program.

The following are four recollections from my fifteen years as a Flying Fish, both as a swimmer and a staff member: 

At eight years old: 

I am eight years old, swimming in my first inter squad meet after a few months of rigorous training. This is my freshman debut as a member of the Flying Fish.
The pool is massive, a shimmering fluorescent surface crowded by swimmers, timers, coaches, parents. The water, however, is oddly placid, unwavering in the impending upheaval.

This is the first time I feel a sensation later identified as Butterflies, a swallowing of the stomach into a vortex of anxiety. After three races I’m ushered via a chaotic queue back to the blocks for the fourth twenty-five, the aptly-named Butterfly. One of my cohorts bravely attests that, unfortunately, none of us know how to do Butterfly.

This is when we receive our introductory lesson. The head coach, a stoic man named Pete, sits on the hose reel container before us and waxes poetic about how to do this so-called Butterfly. Right there, in a thirty-second tutorial, I receive wisdom that informs me to kick like a dolphin and swing my arms over my head. And so, after Pete is finished with his explanation, we are routed into lanes. And when the starter sounds his horn we dive in, and I do Butterfly. I can only assume it was less than perfect. But I can also assume that for my parents, and perhaps even Pete watching, it was the very essence of perfect.

At ten years old: 

Two years later, at Indianapolis’ prestigious IUPUI campus, I’m swimming in what appears to be the largest pool ever commissioned. It includes: one fifty-meter pool converted into two twenty-five-yard pools, a shallow-depth warm down pool, and a heated diving well that’s really fun to try to touch the bottom of.

At this point it has been determined that I am a breaststroker. This was determined because my legs literally refused to do freestyle kick, even at the urging of a screaming Jamaican man. The screaming Jamaican man is Oswald, my coach: former reggae star, now a swim instructor and pool operator. Once he laid me across the block and pretended to chop me in half with a rusty saw. For a shy kid who has difficulty mustering the slightest conversation with teammates, it was wondrous. As a hero, there’s not much more you can ask for.

Now, though, it’s the Big League: apparently there’s this thing called Finals, in which after swimming your race in the morning, you re-swim it that night for your definitive placing. So Sunday AM: I swim the 100 Breast, coming in fourth overall for 9-10’s, out-touching fifth by hundredths of seconds. Those Butterflies (see previous section) have bred new Butterflies and are having some sort of Butterfly Dance Party. The idea of getting beaten by #5 is horrifying, and a repeat performance seems impossible – might as well scratch, go home, pick up tennis or something. My parents take me to Johnny Rocket’s for lunch; I can’t eat anything, and when the waiters get up on the table and boogie I don’t even break a smile.

So when finals comes around I’m naturally distraught. IUPUI’s arena is roughly the size of an upper echelon Sting concert. There’s an eerie silence before the start, before I’m expected to defend my title. I look over at Oswald: arms folded, heat-sheet in hand, nodding silently. The horn sounds, I burst from the block. Every bit of unwieldy energy is expended, every breath an affirmation more than a gasp, every pullout a silent shout towards the hurtling crowd’s roar. I know that last twenty-five was real rough – video footage could probably verify this. But when I two-hand touch I see that #5 is still at the flags – in fact, he finishes four seconds behind me. In fact, I dropped four seconds. In fact, I did better than I did in the morning.

The ribbon I receive in my folder is black and yellow with a snowman on it. I expected something more triumphant, honestly – like, say, an Edible Arrangement. But, needless to say, it’s the most important ribbon I ever earn.

At fifteen years old: 

Now I’m fifteen. My body has grown, so has my mind – so has the YWCA, adding a downstairs pool (colloquially know as The Warm Pool). I’m scheduled to begin employment that summer as a swim instructor, following in the footsteps of the great Natalie and JoAnne, who have changed more lives than most presidents I can name.

Still, though, there’s something growing inside me: a sadness, inescapable. It ebbs with the water, manifesting: so taking a stroke becomes physically painful, beyond willpower; so sometimes my goggles swim with what may be tears or may be pool-water; so sometimes I take a bathroom break to the locker room and just sit on the bench or stare in the mirror.

Things climax at our Charlotte meet, where Saturday night I’m overcome and end up crying unabashedly in the hotel bathroom. Dad hears me, we talk, but words don’t encompass what’s happening. Part of me wants to go back to Evanston, to some centralized location – namely, home. But also I’m on relays, I figure – and, subconsciously, the decision to not swim Sunday seems synonymous with giving up something larger, more internal. So I swim. And then I go home, and take Monday off school, and Dad and I walk to Walgreens and he says I can buy anything, and I choose a Sugar Free Red Bull because their commercials are cool and I’m dumb.

After this the winter clears up, the sun shines, and one day Seth takes me outside for a talk. Seth is, to a fifteen-year-old kid struggling with identity, the coolest guy. He’s introduced me to most of what I now enjoy, and championed my writing, film, music, whatever creative thing I’m throwing against the wall. After learning that he writes in all caps, the transformation is swift and exacting.

Anyway, Seth takes me outside to talk in the employee parking lot – which already has a Mecca-like feel to it. He’s leaning against a four-door and I’m standing there sheepishly, the sun warming earth, the leaves unfolding, a soft wind on us.
This is all I have from the memory. I don’t remember what Seth said, or what I said. I don’t know if he was aware of what was happening – whether my parents had spoken with him, or Oz, or Pete. I don’t know if Pete even knew we were talking – I don’t know if this was protocol, or his initiative. I don’t know how long the conversation lasted. I only remember him leaning against that four-door and the way he looked in the sun, where things seemed to be getting better already, maybe, if I worked at it.
And I remember how I felt afterwards – and so maybe the words weren’t so important. I remember thinking that that sadness didn’t have to encapsulate me if I didn’t want it to – that it was real, like fear, or desire, or water, but it was only a small part of something much larger inside me, and everyone swimming by my side. And I remember thinking I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was. And somehow, those ideas became affixed in my mind along with the image of that day more than any words ever were.

At twenty-three years old: 

I’m going to abandon my framework here, like all good writers do, because now it becomes not so much a moment as a feeling. I am twenty-three years old, and am writing this at 2:00 AM CST from the McDonalds in the Delhi airport. I have worked, in some capacity, for the YWCA Flying Fish for the past eight years.

And I know that feeling – it’s a feeling we hear about often. Much of the talk surrounding the Fish is about its life-changing qualities, its care with regards to the child both in and out of the pool, its place as a home away from home, its tireless staff and its heart-warming, family-centric attitude. These are comments we all relish, obviously – but to me they live in the abstract, in the far-off revelations of long-term relationships. We tend to look at the final puzzle as opposed to each individual piece we used to complete it – and so that feeling, for me, is not a moment, but infinite moments, patched together to create something that traverses time and space. Because practices exist, meets exist, games exist, more exists. Anne stands in the lobby laughing with a parent while a kid pleads to get something from the vending machine. Rom gets stonewalled by three out of four kids for his corny jokes, but then that fourth one breaks into a smile you didn’t know existed in modern times. Terry and Kim come up with innumerable ideas, every one of which seems more ingenious than many art installations at MOMA. Pigeon/Penguin is played, times are made, sets are completed, goggles are loaned, conversation swirls regarding everything from what you had for lunch to what’s worth getting out of bed in the morning. Those are all those moments – and they’re real, and they happen every day. And these intricacies are what to amaze me – not so much the big stuff, but the little stuff that seems to continue of its own accord, unchecked and unadulterated, but existing all the same.

A lot of kids ask me if we can do races to see who’s the fastest – and I tell them what I was always told: You’re not racing who’s next to you, you’re racing yourself. And maybe for the first few years, I said that out of habit – but at some point I began to mean it. Because swimming really isn’t about the person on either side of you, or even the clock timing you. Those are enablers for something larger – if anything, they’re your friends. It’s about you, and the water, and what you’re capable of both inside and outside of that pool. It’s about pushing yourself to limits you saw in a mirage far away, hurdles you didn’t think you’d be able to overcome, places you didn’t think you’d ever reach. It isn’t a stretch to say that what I learned at the Y is what led me to where I am now: unafraid, carving out a space in this world, exploring even further into what I know I must explore. It’s about the pool, but it also isn’t about the pool. It’s about the physical and the mental, but it’s also about something that can transcend both of those. The Y gave me that in those moments – moments that formed the puzzle that is me and everyone I swam with. If Pete is reading this, or Seth, or Oz, they’re definitely rolling their eyes – and I kind of am too. It’s hard to admit that something you do, something you created, changed so many. It’s hard to admit that living in those moments was something larger than expected: something timeless, malleable – cliché, yes, but apparent.

The work to eliminate racism is head AND heart work

by Karen Singer, President/CEO
Posted July 7, 2016


Last week's shooting deaths were horrific. As Donique McIntosh, Co-Director of our Racial Justice Program wrote last week, "The work to eliminate racism is head AND heart work. And today my heart is heavy." (Read her essay here.)

Like most of you, I am filled with a wide range of emotions: despair, shame, outrage, confusion and a deep and unrelenting sadness. Fear, anger, and violence breed more fear, anger, and violence. We can start to see racism and profound structural inequities as intractable. And although YWCA Evanston/North Shore doesn't have easy answers to these deeply-rooted, complex problems, our commitment to fighting for racial equity is stronger than ever. We know we cannot be silent.

So we join with the many others in our communities to be the change needed to dismantle the deeply entrenched system of racism that has been created. We invite all to get engaged with this change - to have conversations, get involved and take action to make our communities more equitable for all.

Our racial justice summit in May, the Race Against Hate, our weekly lunchtime conversations, racial equity trainings, and now our equitable institutions work - are all opportunities for growth and change. In a time of despair, let's take hope from the powerful rally organized in Evanston by our young people, and the many other efforts being made to gather people for action.

We cannot sit idly by. We must come together, heal; and act as one community. Dr. Martin Luther King talked about "the urgency of now". Join us.

Thank you for your continuing commitment to the mission of YWCA Evanston/North Shore and for standing up for social justice and racial equity,

Today I'm at a loss for words

by Donique McIntosh, Co-Director of Racial Justice Programs
Posted July 7, 2016


I am at a loss for words. I woke up to news of yet another killing of a black man by police. Writing seems so futile and yet here I am, putting fingers to keys hoping that something halfway coherent and meaningful will show up on the computer screen. The work to eliminate racism is head and heart work. And today my heart is heavy. I don’t know either of the latest victims personally but it feels like I do. It feels personal when your brown skin is the thing you have in common with the people who keep being killed. It feels like an assault and there isn’t any good way to take cover, no way to dodge a bullet when they come from seemingly every direction and no direction.

I just had a random conversation with my sister over the weekend about these killings. We shared our fears and concerns for my nephew who’s a tender teenage boy who happens to be 6 feet tall and probably two hundred pounds. I see his tenderness and his boyish ways but I can’t help but wonder what a random white police officer will see when they look at him. Will they see him as a threat and shoot to kill? Will he wear a hoodie one day, despite my sister’s admonition, and die some useless death because somebody thought he looked dangerous? I used to tell myself that instances like that were rare. These days my belief in the paucity of such tragedies is fading like an image in an old photograph.

I want to feel hope instead of despair but I’m not there today. Tomorrow’s another day and with any luck I’ll feel more hopeful. I desperately want to feel more hopeful. But I can’t and I won’t wake up tomorrow and go on as if two more lives weren’t taken. Will you?

We invite you to work for racial justice

Donique McIntosh and Eileen Hogan Heineman, Racial Justice Program Co-Directors
Posted April 18, 2016

At YWCA Evanston/North Shore, we take the words “eliminating racism” on our sign at the corner of Ridge and Church seriously and hold ourselves accountable on a daily basis to work towards racial equity. To encourage others to join in those efforts, we offer: programs and dialogues throughout the area; racial equity workshops or trainings for businesses, civic or faith-based groups, schools, and community organizations; long term support for those institutions working internally to become more equitable; access to resources through our website or racial justice library; as well as public events such as our April 29th Stand Against Racism and June 19th Race Against Hate to bring our community together, united against racism in all its forms.

On May 5 and 6, YWCA Evanston/North Shore will host our first racial justice summit, “Mirrors and Methods: Tools for Creating Racial Equity”, featuring keynote speakers Brittney Cooper and Dr. Robin DiAngelo, as well as 18 breakout sessions, all designed to help participants learn, share, and develop new strategies to end racism. 

We need a racial justice summit

In the past few years, publicized events around the country have created, for many, a new or increased awareness of how often skin color determines outcomes in our society. We want to believe we are in a “post racial society,” but the reality of what People of Color experience, both personally and institutionally, on a daily basis, tells us otherwise. For those who aren’t as aware of racial inequity, the growing attention can make people respond defensively and increase the tendency to engage in various forms of ‘blame the victim.’

In Chicagoland, as in the nation, we continue to grapple with institutional racism, in part because it is often invisible to the people who don’t experience it. Yet research conducted by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the ACLU, and the Sentencing Project, among others, consistently identifies the racism that is woven into the fabric of our institutions – schools, businesses, government organizations, and courts of law.
More than half of our nation’s prison population is people of color and for black males the statistics are more unsettling. One in 10 black males in their thirties is in prison or jail on any given day, the Sentencing Project found.
Closer to home, the ACLU of Illinois reported earlier this year that “African Americans are far more likely than white residents to be subjected to traffic stops by the Chicago Police Department.” According to the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, “Illinois has one of the widest disparities in the nation between suspended black students and their white classmates. During the 2012-13 school year, Chicago Public Schools issued suspensions for 32 of every 100 black students, compared to just five of every 100 white students.”

These statistics are a few of the many examples that highlight an urgent need for increasing awareness, deepening understanding, and taking action.

Why learn more about racial justice issues?

The goal of the summit is to bring people – of all ages and demographics – together to learn more about why racial disparities exist, deepen our understanding of racial identity, develop skills to work for change, and formulate action plans. 

We see the work of racial justice as both internal and external. The “mirror” of “Mirrors and Methods” is the internal, reflective piece. “What do I need to understand better? What tools or skills do I need to feel more confident in addressing racial issues?” The external piece is looking outward and saying, “Who are the people with whom I can connect? What actions can I/we take to start changing inequities?”

You can’t do the external work without doing the internal work. And both are processes. It’s the journey on which we need to focus, and people are at different places in their journeys. If participants leave the summit with a deeper understanding of systemic racism, if they acquire new skills, and take steps towards individual and collective action to create racial equity and justice, the summit will be successful.

Creating racial justice needs to be owned by all of us; it is everybody’s work to do. We hope the place will be packed!

To learn more and register to attend, go to www.YWCA.org/RJSummit or contact Donique McIntosh at 847-864-8445 x159.

Antonio Rice Works to Give Young Men New Models of Leadership and Masculinity

by Ariel DeLaRosa, Special Events and Social Media Coordinator
Posted February 12, 2016


Antonio Rice, Violence Prevention Educator, wears orange in honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. His sign says "I wear orange because together we can and will end violence against women and girls."

Antonio Rice began working at YWCA Evanston/North Shore five years ago in the Relationship Violence Prevention Program. He is a Violence Prevention Educator and works primarily through a partnership between YWCA Evanston/North Shore and Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.) known as Allied Against Violence

Allied Against Violence empowers young men to become strong leaders in their community. It also helps them understand the importance of healthy relationships, and most important, teaches them how to prevent violence against women. The first half of the program is heavily focused on training and teaching. A select group of participants is then chosen to strategize on public campaigns within their communities on how to prevent violence.

Allied Against Violence is an important program for young men because they learn to recognize and take responsibility for patterns of hurtful behavior toward women,” said Antonio. “They also learn to resist the cultural pressure to be dominant males. Instead they support each other in developing new ways to create a healthier culture of masculinity.”

Antonio noted that YWCA’s mission to empower women includes working with men. “Working with young men goes hand in hand with what we do at YWCA,” he said. “They are learning to treat women and deal with their manhood in a mature and responsible manner.”

Black History Month isn’t just for schoolchildren

by Eileen Hogan Heineman, Co-Director of Racial Justice Programs
Posted February 12, 2016

It’s February, which means it’s Black History Month. As a 30-year educator and a 15-year racial justice worker, I know how vitally important this is. I believe that until every textbook in every classroom in the United States contains all the history that has been missing for so long, we must intentionally work to get these stories told.

And it shouldn’t only be one month. Throughout the entire year, students should be made aware of the presence, role, and sacrifices made by all peoples – American Indians, Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, Europeans – in the building of this country.

Moreover, this learning should not only be in schools. All of us, particularly elected officials, need to be aware of the full picture of our country’s history. 

Here are some great books that can help those of us no longer in school “catch up” on what was not included in our textbooks:

  • People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn
  • A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America – Ronald Takaki
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong – James W. Loewen

Each of these illuminating books is available in our YWCA Racial Justice lending library in the southeast corner of our lobby, or at your local public library. 

Another incredibly valuable read is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. It tells the story of The Great Migration, which brought six million black Americans from the south to points north and west in the U.S. between 1920 and 1970.

We need our eyes opened not only to the history of blacks in America, but also to the present realities of people in our own communities. This reflection from a junior at Northwestern, "The Spectrum: Minority students belong at Northwestern,"  is a perfect example.

This young woman’s experiences would not surprise most people of color, but they are not a part of my daily life, or the lives of most people who walk through the world in white skin. How can we make sure that we are working every day to shine a light on these types of incidents? What can I, as a white woman, do to enact change?

Please consider sharing this post with your social media circles, so more people will have the chance to read her story. Perhaps you have other stories to tell. I’d be eager to hear them at: eheineman@ywcae-ns.org.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

by Craige Christensen, Violence Prevention Education and Outreach Coordinator
Posted February 11, 2016


Craige Christensen (l), pictured with the Building Healthy Relationships team. 

Our Building Healthy Relationships team at YWCA Evanston/ North Shore works year round to increase awareness and recognition of teen dating violence. We also work with youth to develop the socio-emotional skills they need to develop healthy relationships built on respect, honesty, trust, support, equality and safety.

In the United States, 1 in 3 teens has experienced some form of abuse from a dating partner. Dating violence affects 1.5 million teens annually. (Love is Respect.org)
Many people assume that teen dating violence is only physical or sexual abuse. Often those are the most obvious signs of abuse. Less obvious, but no less harmful forms of abuse are:

  • Emotional/verbal abuse: Putting you down, humiliating and threatening you, or controlling who you see and what you do as well as how you look—hair, make-up, clothes you wear.
  • Digital abuse: Sexting, using social media to humiliate, threaten or stalk you. It also includes a partner demanding sign-on information and logging in to your digital accounts without asking permission.
  • Financial abuse: Preventing you from working, and taking your money.

The Building Healthy Relationships program at YWCA Evanston/North Shore uses early education, starting with kindergarteners, with classes focused on skills of empathy, emotion management, and problem solving/conflict resolution.

Our teen dating violence curriculum is geared to students as young as fifth grade. We start with workshops that teach recognizing healthy and unhealthy behaviors in all relationships, whether in school, with friends, or in extracurricular activities.

As we move fully into middle school and high school, we get more in depth as we teach skills of setting boundaries, and healthy ways to help friends who are either abused or abusive. Through all the classes we look at the influences of culture, media and stereotypes.

Unhealthy behaviors can start early and can last a lifetime. But prevention strategies, like YWCA’s Building Healthy Relationships, have been proven to prevent and reduce dating violence. For more information about this program and how to offer it at your organization, contact me at cchristensen@ywcae-ns.org.

No time to sleep

by Donique McIntosh, Co-Director of Racial Justice Programs
Posted January 18, 2016


Every year, around the Martin Luther King holiday I read “Letter from Birmingham City Jail”.This year was no different. I sat down to read the famous essay so that I could reflect on it and think about its contemporary significance. While I found the essay personally meaningful, I didn’t find it as useful in shaping my thinking about our current realities as I did his last Sunday sermon.    

Dr. King delivered his last Sunday sermon just days before he was killed. In the sermon, entitled “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution”, Dr. King recounted the story of fictional character Rip Van Winkle who went to sleep and woke up twenty years later. The significance of the story, according to Dr. King is that Rip slept through a revolution. Dr. King wrote, “…the most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution. While he was peacefully snoring up the mountain a revolution was taking place that at points would change the course of history- and Rip knew nothing about it: he was asleep. Yes, he slept through a revolution. And one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses- that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.”

I believe there is a revolution happening in this country. I believe that people of color, and increasing numbers of white people have developed chronic racial injustice fatigue syndrome. They are, as civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer said, “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. Across the country, coalitions of people from different racial and ethnic groups, socioeconomic levels, religious and spiritual backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identities are joining together to transform this nation from what it is to what it should be. Organizations like Black Lives Matter, Dream Defenders, and Showing Up for Racial Justice are awake. What about us? Are we awake or are we sleeping through the revolution? If we’re asleep, what will wake us from our slumber? And, if we are awake, what do we use to join the revolution? What does the revolution require of us? I invite you to reflect on these questions with me as we observe the King holiday.

This moment in history

by Eileen Hogan Heineman, Director of Racial Justice Programs
Posted December 3, 2015

We are grateful for the many voices - and tragic videos - that have brought us to this moment in history. However, the firing of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy will be merely a symbolic gesture, unless what follows immediately is a comprehensive plan for changing the culture within the entire Police Department. The CPD and the Fraternal Order of Police need to work together to address questions such as:

  • What outside agency will be brought in to provide long-term Equity and Inclusion training of every single CPD employee ? 
  • When will it begin, and what will be the schedule for ongoing delivery of training?
  • What systems of real accountability will be implemented for those officers whose on- duty conduct does not reflect a deeper empathy for the citizens they are serving?
  • What will be the new procedures for dealing with officers who have generated multiple complaints of excessive force?
  • What will be the penalty for a CPD employee, at any level, who witnesses another CPD employee using excessive force and neither interrupts nor reports the behavior?
  • What incentives will there be for police stations to create positive interactions with community groups, houses of worship, etc. in their beats?

Systemic problems can no longer be treated as if they are isolated incidents. Perceived threats, based primarily on the race of the person in question, can no longer justify criminal behavior on the part of law enforcement officers. The large percentage of police officers, who respond with appropriate levels of force, must be freed from the negative image created by those officers who abuse their power.

Culture change takes collective hard work, and wastes no time with blame, shame or excuses. Authentic transformation requires a high level of intentionality, so City of Chicago and Fraternal Order of Police, get busy! To borrow a phrase from 1968, “the whole world’s watching!”

Bias affects us all, even on college campuses

by Donique McIntosh, Co-Director of Racial Justice Programs
Posted August 24, 2015


Fall is my favorite season. I love the changing colors of the leaves, the cool breezes that replace summer’s heat, and the sense of possibility that a new school year evokes. What I don’t love is the persistent presence of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism that accompanies students as they arrive at college campuses each fall. They’ve packed their bags and suitcases, and sometimes, unwittingly, their biases, stereotypes, and oppressive behavior and brought them all to the places where other students sleep, learn, live, and play.

The prevalence of oppression might surprise some. We tend to think of colleges as liberal places where people go to learn with open minds. But, college campuses are merely microcosms of the larger world and, as such, mirror the same hurtful and violent behavior we see other places. I worked in higher education for more than a decade and can scarcely recall a semester when there wasn’t a racist incident that captured the attention of the campus where I worked and at other campuses around the country. Incidents run the gamut from white people dressing up in blackface at parties to football players presenting a skit dressed as members of the KKK and carrying Confederate flags, to more common occurrences like this where people of color, women and Jewish people are targeted by hateful remarks and behavior.

While bigger incidents like these on campuses often make the local or national news, there are other smaller incidents that occur with regularity known as “microaggressions”. No less violent in their impact, microaggressions are often unconscious slights or insults. For instance, it's not uncommon to hear white people espouse a belief that the reason a person of color was admitted to an institution of higher education was because of affirmative action or for a Black or Hispanic person to be asked to check their bag at the front of the bookstore because the clerk assumes that they might steal something. Other instances include students mocking an Asian student's accent and white students not talking to or including students of color in group projects for class.
When there are larger incidents on campus, campus administrators have held campus-wide forums, disciplined students, and created teams to address diversity and students have led protests and demanded changes in policies and published letters in the college newspaper. Microaggressions can be more challenging for individuals and campus communities to address because they're less obvious.

Here are some things you can do if you or someone you know is heading to campus this fall:

  1. Recognize when you're buying into a stereotype and challenge yourself to think beyond it
  2. Educate yourself about people from different racial and ethnic groups
  3. Attend a diversity or social justice-oriented training on campus
  4. Take a General Education course on race and inequality in the U.S. if your school offers them
  5. Purposely live in a living-learning community with people who aren't like you
  6. Research the history of affirmative action in higher education and the history of blackface
  7. Listen when people of color, Jewish people, and women speak about their experiences as members of those groups
  8. Interrupt hateful comments and behavior 

Last week we placed “Black Lives Matter” signs on our property

by Karen Singer, YWCA Evanston/North Shore President and CEO
Posted August 24, 2015

Last week, we placed “Black Lives Matter” signs on our YWCA Evanston/North Shore property because we hope to continue generating thoughtful community-wide discussion about, and attention to, the daily plight of black men, women, and young people in our country.

There are those who will question our decision. Some might mention that it is important to include in this movement all of the many racial or ethnic groups in our diverse communities. Others could argue that since “Eliminating Racism” is part of our mission, we already are letting the world know that we care about black lives. Or one could join those who say, “Don’t ALL lives matter? Why focus on only one group?”

Why, indeed?

Because our society historically has, and continues to this day, sent the message, in many different ways, that black lives do not matter. We have come to accept, ignore, become indifferent to, or not even see the experience black people have in our society. Until we acknowledge and truly understand the impact systemic racism has had on black lives, we must continue to bring attention to this injustice in every way we can.
Yes, ALL lives matter. Many of us know our lives matter because of the way we and our family members get treated by: school personnel, law enforcement, the courts, merchants, potential landlords or employers, etc. However, others in our communities, specifically those who are black, live these truths:

  • Students of color are disciplined more severely than white students are, for the same behaviors, beginning as early as preschool. While black people make up 18% of students in preschool, they account for 42% of students with an out-of-school suspension and 48% of those with multiple out-of-school suspensions. (US Dept. of Education)
  • Black borrowers are more likely to get turned down for conventional mortgage loans than white people with similar credit scores. (Urban Institute)
  • Black drivers are nearly twice as likely as white drivers to be asked during a routine traffic stop for “consent” to have their car searched. Yet white motorists are 49% more likely than black motorists to have contraband discovered during a consent search. (ACLU of Illinois)
  • White Americans use drugs more than black Americans, but black people are arrested for drug possession more than three times as often as white people. (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Bureau of Justice Statistics)
  • Sentences imposed on black males in the federal system are nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes. (US Sentencing Commission, 2013)

There are countless examples of the disparities that exist. The YWCA Evanston/North Shore wants to make clear that we stand with citizens in our community and throughout the country in further understanding the issues being raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. And until black lives matter as much as any other life, we will continue to listen, read, share, talk, and listen some more, in the hopes of being allies to those who are working so hard for racial equity. If you want more background, here are a few links that might be helpful:

We invite you to join us.

Our aquatics program is about more than just swimming

by Karen Singer, YWCA Evanston/North Shore President and CEO
Posted July 23, 2015


The jarring use of police force at a pool party in McKinney, Texas, in June was a painful reminder of the complicated history between swimming pools and racism.

Throughout the 20th century, discrimination at swimming pools based on gender, socioeconomic status and race barred people from learning how to swim. Although we've made great strides, especially in Evanston and surrounding communities, this discrimination still echoes today -- not only in haunting events like the one in McKinney, but also in the cultural and economic barriers that keep too many from learning how to swim, being on a swim team, or enjoying the lifelong health and safety benefits of the sport.

At the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, with your generous and unwavering support, we've flipped the old script on swimming pools. Instead of serving as bastions of exclusivity, our two pools are glimmering examples of inclusivity. The mission of our Flying Fish Aquatics Program is to ensure that all children, regardless of shape, size, ethnicity, race, gender, physical ability or financial resources reap the many benefits of swimming, the most important of which is safety. With your help we continue to expand on this mission, serving greater numbers of children who otherwise would not have access to pools and expert swim instruction and coaching.

From the diversity of faces we now see in swimming -- all the way from beginners to the U.S. National Team -- it's clear that a commitment to access and inclusivity is working. At the YWCA, we're proud to play a role in this transformation. Our pools are so much more than pools. They are catalysts for change.

Why we continue to Race Against Hate and Stand Against Racism

By Eileen Hogan Heineman, Racial Justice Program Director
Posted June 26, 2015

Last Sunday, thousands of people gathered in Evanston for the 16th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate. In late April, over 10,000 gathered in Skokie, Evanston and Lincolnwood to Stand Against Racism with the YWCA. Why? What draws people to "go public" with their show of support for equity and inclusion, and for fair treatment of all? 

This year, in particular, people have become more aware of the danger of being silent. This year, more people have seen the value of speaking out, and of standing in solidarity with those whose lives have been shaped by the color of their skin or the economy of their neighborhoods. This year, more people have engaged in deepening their understanding of how America does, and does not, work for all its citizens. All of that makes many people want to stand up, to join with others in making a statement, to "go on record" in support of a more equitable community, where all people are truly included and have access to all the best the community has to offer. 

The strength we get from seeing so many others who share our beliefs, who want to work for "their community," wherever that community might be, can empower us. Perhaps it enables us to step out of our comfort zone, to meet with that person with whom we've wanted to talk about some race-based issues. Maybe it gives us the courage to attend a community event or a Racial Equity Training at the YWCA.

Hopefully, this standing, and racing, and learning, brings us to actions that will transform us, and our institutions!

The Race is a silver lining in the dark cloud of hate

The following are the words of Sherialyn Byrdsong (pictured in the center below with her daughter Kelly, YWCA Evanston/North Shore President/CEO Karen Singer, son Ricky Jr., and mother Mrs. Kelly) delivered at the 16th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate on Sunday, June 21, 2015.



Good morning! Thank you for joining us in the 16th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate. With this Race, we have found a silver lining in the dark cloud of hate that took my husband’s life when he was only 43 years old. This is the rainbow that arches over our grief and loss. But my heart is very heavy this morning. Because last Wednesday in Charleston, SC, another 21 year old white male, just like Ricky’s murderer, with a heart filled with hate, went on a shooting rampage and took the lives of 9 people. Will you join me in a moment of silence, to honor those 9 precious lives.

My prayer is that those families, those communities, and the city of Charleston, SC can find some silver lining in this senseless tragedy, as we have, to honor those 9 lives, to overcome hate with love, to become more united than divided, and to be a better city than they ever could have been before.

And I challenge each and every one of you to identify one thing, besides participating in this Race Against Hate, that you can do, to prevent hate crimes and to make our nation a safer place for ALL Americans to live.

God bless you, Happy Father’s Day to all our Fathers and have a great Race.


I always feel verbally handicapped to find words to express how much I appreciate Karen Singer and all the staff of the YWCA Evanston/North Shore and all the volunteers who make this Race possible. The integrity with which they have overseen this Race touches my heart in a very special way. It was a match made in heaven. They way that people come out to volunteer, walk or run is absolutely awesome. Thank you all so much.

As the horrific hate crime that took place in Charleston, SC last week reminds us, hate still has a home in too many hearts of our neighbors. So we must never cease to communicate our message that no matter what color we are on the outside, no matter what our native tongue is, the fact that all of our blood is red proves that what is the very essence of life, we have in common. I want to especially thank Eileen Heineman for the work that she oversees in the Racial Justice Program. It is desperately needed and may it expand and grow and touch lives in a way that will make a difference in this city and beyond.

As I said earlier, I challenge each and every one of you to identify one thing, besides participating in this Race Against Hate, that you can do, to make our nation a safer place for ALL Americans to live. Someone’s life may depend on it. God bless you and see you next year.

In praise of Pete

Posted May 6, 2015


Duncan Martinson (second from left), pictured with Flying Fish teammates Ryan Knohl, Chris Russo, and Jake Girard after placing second in the 200 medley relay at the Sunkissed Invittational.

Dear Karen, 

We wanted to write this letter to give you some positive feedback—we realize that as parents who have been associated with the YWCA Flying Fish for almost 15 years, we have never shared our family’s satisfaction with the program in writing. Marty and I want to share with you how Pete has gone above and beyond in helping our son, Duncan, navigate his freshman year at Brown.

Duncan was thrilled to get into Brown and even more excited that the swim coach encouraged him to walk-onto the team. However, a coaching change occurred last summer and, as a result, the men’s roster shrank, and Duncan was ultimately cut from the team despite having extremely competitive times.

He didn’t want to quit swimming, though, and there really weren’t any local club options available to him, given that he had no car. This is where Pete stepped in. He has been advising Duncan since September — apparently they talk every Sunday and develop a weekly workout plan for him. Duncan has been swimming by himself with Pete’s guidance from afar all year. On his school breaks, Duncan swam with the Flying Fish in the Senior State meet here in Chicago and in Charlotte at the Sunkissed Invitational, and his pool-bleached hair and competitive times proved to us that his commitment to swimming has not waned.

In the past, other parents joked that we should be paying Pete as a “therapist” for our kids because he has to motivate them to work harder than they want to, manage bruised psyches after poor swims and encourage them to perform despite their anxieties. I always laughed because Duncan never needed that version of Pete. Duncan was a very coachable kid, did the sets to the best of his ability, took feedback from coaches maturely, kept his chin up even when he swam poorly, and tried to keep his teammates positive. This year, however, Pete has been not only Duncan’s coach, but also his mentor—in his very understated way, Pete has enabled our son to persevere through a very challenging year. Though not a member of Brown’s team, Duncan has been embraced by these swimmers who told him that they are impressed by his dedication and work ethic. This meant more to him than you can imagine. Next year he will be rooming with swimmers.

Whether or not he ever gets the opportunity to swim for Brown, we know that Duncan has grown so much this year. We are so proud of his perseverance and his commitment to swimming— it was a brutal winter in New England and he trudged to that pool on his own to swim tough sets day in and day out. What encouragement he got came from Pete and Pete alone—no medals, no meets, no teammates. We know that if it weren’t for Pete, he probably wouldn’t have stuck through with it. And we will forever be thankful to him, because we know that when adversity strikes Duncan again, he will soldier on and not give up. Don’t we wish we all had that attribute?

Last September was the first time in many years that we didn’t have to fill out the myriad forms and write the two checks (always the two checks!) to sign Duncan up to swim for the Fish. I admit that I didn’t miss it. Now, however, we are enclosing two checks (thankfully no forms) for all that the YWFF and Pete in particular have done for Duncan this past year. It’s a small token of our appreciation.


Monica and Marty Martinson 

What I didn't know about sex trafficking (almost everything)

by guest contributor Emilie Hogan
Posted March 31, 2015


Brenda Myers-Powell, Dreamcatcher Foundation and Kaethe Morris Hoffer, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

Does our society revere and value women and girls? How do we feel about women and girls in prostitution? What does our treatment of women and girls in prostitution say about our views overall about women and girls in our society? 

In March, the YWCA Evanston/North Shore hosted its fourth annual International Women’s Day event, a breakfast designed to bring attention to issues facing women and girls. In concert with several local organizations and community members, the organizing committee set out to spotlight a critical issue facing our community and the world: Ending Sex Trafficking Locally and Globally.

As I sat there listening to the brutal, violent, exploitative and disturbing state of the sex trafficking industry, I could not believe that it exists here in the United States. In Chicago. On the North Shore. And I had to wonder how a society that values women and girls could allow it. 

I’m embarrassed by my ignorance of the realities of sex trafficking. If I ever thought about it at all, I considered it to be mostly a problem in other parts of the world where there are well known incidences of women being enslaved to perform sexual acts. I never imagined it happening here. Let me share a few statistics that I learned from the keynote speakers, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, Executive Director of Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) and Brenda Myers-Powell, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Dreamcatcher Foundation:

  • Sex trafficking generates $7 billion annually.
  • The vast majority of those that are prostituted started when they were minors.
  • The vast majority of those that are prostituted have been violently assaulted by pimps and Johns (purchasers of sex).
  • The vast majority of those that are prostituted do not keep the money they make and are kept in poverty and at the mercy of pimps.
  • Many of those that enter prostitution were victims of sexual abuse as children.
  • Sex traffickers prey on the most vulnerable members of our society.
  • The average life expectancy after entering prostitution is 7 years.   

Please take a moment to read these facts again and really digest them. This industry generates $7 billion annually. $7 billion earned from human suffering, degradation and abuse right here in the United States. The life expectancy of a girl in prostitution is 7 years. That means that if you enter prostitution at age 14, you are expected to die at 21. The life expectancy in 2011 for an average woman in the United States was 81 years. That’s a big difference in life expectancy. 

Here’s another fact that will shock you: on any given day in the Chicago area, 16,000 women and girls (it turns my stomach to write “girls”) are sold for sex. It is estimated that those women and girls provide sex to more than five different men each day. That means that sex is purchased approximately 80,000 times in the Chicago area EVERY DAY and 29,200,000 times EVERY YEAR. And as Kaethe and Brenda vividly described, these encounters are not between consenting adults for mutual pleasure. They are between men who derive pleasure from taking advantage of women (and girls) who are in the most desperate of circumstances and living a life of misery and pain.

Learning that such a pervasive and insidious industry thrives right here caused me to question how our society really feels about women and girls. If you examine how the criminal laws regarding prostitution are enforced, you will begin to understand the implicit acceptance of this situation.

According to CAASE, 61% of women who are in prostitution are prosecuted with criminal charges. 14% of men who purchase acts from women in prostitution are prosecuted. What do those statistics tell you? Here’s what they tell me. That our society thinks that purchasing sex from women who are in dangerous and violent circumstances is just fine. Out of an estimated 29,200,000 acts in one year, 2,407 were prosecuted. Granted law enforcement can’t catch every single act, but that is a very small number of prosecutions out of a very large number of criminal acts. That tells me that our society thinks this behavior is tolerable. Very tolerable.

People like Kaethe Morris Hoffer and Brenda Myers-Powell are working tirelessly to end sex trafficking in Illinois. A survivor of prostitution and drug abuse, Brenda has dedicated her life to helping those in prostitution leave it and rebuild their lives, and to working with at risk youth to prevent their entry into prostitution. Kaethe’s organization, CAASE, is fighting to end sex trafficking in Illinois by changing our laws, changing the way those laws are enforced, educating us about the realities of sex trafficking and changing public policy.

Brenda and Kaethe are BRAVE. Very, very brave. Being in the presence of these two women was a profoundly moving experience for me. They reminded me of the capacity we must all exercise to be brave in ways big and small. To stand up against injustices, big and small, in our everyday lives. To treat others, whatever their circumstances, with dignity and compassion at every opportunity. They presented an excellent handout at the breakfast with things that everyone can do to stop sex trafficking,, and I have already done many of the things on that handout (and intend to continue to do more.) However, I’m hoping that by being inspired to be brave and compassionate in my everyday life, I am honoring them and their work.

Learning about sex trafficking has been eye opening. It has made me aware of a human rights issue that exists right in my own community, one that I believe must end. It has made me realize that our society has yet another side to it, of which it should be ashamed. It has made me feel vulnerable as a woman in our society knowing that other women and girls are living lives filled with brutality and abuse. And it has inspired me to be brave, to speak out against injustice, and to be compassionate, even on the smallest of issues in my own life.

Emilie Hogan is a local activist addressing issues of women and girls. She is an Evanston resident, who is raising four daughters, and volunteers her time, among other places, at the YWCA Evanston/North Shore. Emilie is also the Principal of Left Bank Advisors, a strategic planning firm in Evanston.

"RACE" is over; the work goes on!

by Eileen Hogan Heineman, Director of Racial Justice Programs
Posted March 12, 2015

People keep asking us, “So, what is your day like, now that the exhibition RACE: Are We So Different? is over? Does it feel like you have lots of free time in the Racial Justice Department?” Short answer: “Goodness, no!”

Longer answer, our days are still filled with ongoing programmatic duties: planning, publicizing and facilitating our Let’s Talk @ Lunch programs; planning, modifying materials, hosting and following up on our Racial Equity trainings; meeting with community partners to plan TWO April 24th Stand Against Racism events, one in Evanston and one earlier in the day in Skokie; continuing our internal equity work here at the YWCA; refining the materials for our Equitable & Inclusive Institutions initiative, and reaching out to meet with organizations who are potential partners in this systemic work.

Due to the exhibition, we also have new questions to address: How do we continue the Scholar Series, which clearly provided much-needed education and stimulation for many? How do we coordinate with other voices in the community, to raise questions based on the national race dialogue? How do we gather people so as to engage our communities more broadly around the questions being raised? (Your input on these questions is most welcome, by the way! Send thoughts to eheineman@ywcae-ns.org)

Many of you watched the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches special events last weekend. For those who would like to listen to President Obama’s speech from the memorial event at the Pettus Bridge, find it here. There was so much in this speech! What impact did it have on you? What action are you taking?

During our recent Racial Equity Trainings, participants indicated a hunger for both dialogue across traditional barriers, whether race, gender, age, or culture, and for ideas for action – individual and/or communal. Last week, 78 parents came out for a Dewey School Courageous Conversation – on a FRIDAY night! In a Coming Together in Skokie planning meeting, I listened as folks who identify as Assyrian, Filipina, Greek, Latino, Korean, Indian, African-American talked about how they experienced discrimination in the countries they left and how they experience it here. Every time we come together, we learn more about how people feel connected and how they feel isolated; how people experience others’ prejudice, and how they manage their own prejudice and privilege. 

Yes, the work goes on – and it grows. What action are you called to, as you wonder how barriers get broken down? We’ll share some ideas in our March Racial Justice newsletter and hope you’ll send some to us as well. We are ALL called to some level of action – will you join us in this life-changing work?

Take a moment

The swim marathon makes me cry

We stand together

Four Moments in the Life of a Flying Fish

The work to eliminate racism is head AND heart work

Today I'm at a loss for words

We invite you to work for racial justice

Antonio Rice Works to Give Young Men New Models of Leadership and Masculinity

Black History Month isn’t just for schoolchildren

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

No time to sleep

This moment in history

Bias affects us all, even on college campuses

Last week we placed “Black Lives Matter” signs on our property

Our aquatics program is about more than just swimming

Why we continue to Race Against Hate and Stand Against Racism

The Race is a silver lining in the dark cloud of hate

In praise of Pete

What I didn't know about sex trafficking (almost everything)

"RACE" is over; the work goes on!


Learn more, get safe, get involved, empower yourself.