By Alejandra Y. Castillo, CEO, YWCA USA
Like many of you, I am shocked, outraged, and heartbroken over the tragic and senseless murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and so many other Black Americans who have been killed at the hands of police. These emotions are all too familiar and raw to my consciousness. 40 years ago, I witnessed how our nation was also rocked by the senseless police killing of Arthur McDuffie leading to an immense amount of outrage in the community in Liberty City, Miami. And yet with the passage of time, it has brought with it more names and lives of so many more black people taken away by the hands of armed police officers. We cannot, and we must not, allow another Black life to be taken from us by police violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones who are mourning these senseless losses. As the CEO of YWCA, I assure you, we stand with and support the millions of Americans who are protesting in communities across the country to express their frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment in a system that perpetuates structural racism.
Many have said that we need to have a conversation about racism and inequality. We agree that it is always important to have deep and constructive conversations and discussions about race and racism, and then we must turn our talk into action.
This is the time when we will be judged not only by our words, but most importantly by the actions we take to be agents of change. These are the times that define the soul of a nation and bear testament to the humanity and moral values of a generation. Intentional and deliberate actions must be taken swiftly to end our nation’s long legacy of racism. We need REAL solutions, and we need them NOW.
YWCAs across the nation work in over 1,000 communities big and small. Every day, we do the work of justice and lift up the cry for equality by serving women and communities of color. Whether it’s addressing the alarming rate of maternal and child mortality among African American women, supporting the educational attainment of our Black and brown school-age children through child care and afterschool programs, or providing workforce training as well as promoting women and minority entrepreneurship programs, these are just a few examples of how we work to level the field, and promote opportunities even when structural racism stands in our way.
Another critical part of YWCA’s work is to drive change on issues of racial equity and justice. We do this actionable work by supporting measures that promote equal protection and equal opportunity for people of color at the national, state, and local levels. We also do this through our annual Stand Against Racism campaign, which raises awareness about the impact of institutional and structural racism and aims to build community among those who work for racial justice. Through this work, we engage more than 140,000 people each year. The impact of our work is profound – and we’re motivated more than ever to continue.
We stand at a critical moment in time – and we cannot and will not let it be a passing moment. The time to take bold action and speak out against injustice is now and we will not be silent. I am inspired by the energy of our nation’s youth who are taking the mantle of leadership and advocacy to drive change. I and my YWCA sisters stand strong in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the many organizations fighting for racial justice across the nation. We know that together we are stronger. We join in the collective call to end police violence and structural racism. We stand united as YWCAs to give life to our mission to eliminate racism and empower women.
Alejandra Y. Castillo