As our network responds to the immense shift in the national reckoning around racism and the need for systemic change following the uprisings in defense of Black lives, and in the wake of Derek Chauvin’s sentencing last month, we recognize that YWCA stands at the intersection of race and gender and is uniquely poised to address issues and obstacles faced by women, girls, and people of color. At YWCA, our mission serves as a call to action, motivating thousands of social justice professionals across the country to stand against racism and do the work until justice just is.
From June 23-24, YWCA convened movement builders, activists, and leaders from across the country alongside artists, policy experts, professionals from racial justice organizations, and fellow changemakers to attend our racial justice summit, In Solidarity We Build, to meet this moment of reckoning and conspire together towards our collective liberation. Through a series of thoughtfully crafted plenaries, panel discussions, fireside chats, and breakout sessions, we invited attendees to build solidarity amongst one another, lean into our collective power to help identity issues, strategize methods, and reimagine solutions for dismantling systems of oppression and creating a more just and equitable society for people of color. Over two action-packed days, we heard from an incredible lineup of powerful speakers, such as Roy Austin, Vice President, Civil Rights and Deputy General Counsel, Facebook; Charlene Carruthers, Political Strategist, Community Organizer, & Author; Monique Carswell, Director, Center for Racial Equity, Walmart; Sarah Eagle Heart, Social Justice Storyteller, Consultant, & Activist; Ebonne Ruffins, Vice President of Local Media Development, Comcast; and so many more!
To close out the virtual summit, we also hosted our Women of Distinction Gala to celebrate, recognize, and honor women, girls, and organizations for their work and impact in racial justice, advocacy and civic engagement, and women’s empowerment. During the gala, we were honored to be joined by former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton and present awards to Taraji P. Henson, LaTosha Brown, Mari Copeny, YWCA Cleveland, and YWCA Madison, to name a few. Attendees also got the opportunity to see a special performance by Evidence, A Dance Company, which focuses on the seamless integration of traditional African dance with contemporary choreography and spoken word. Proceeds from the Women of Distinction Awards Gala support funding for over 200 YWCA local associations to provide programs and other resources that touch the lives of women, girls, and people of color in over 1,200 communities across the country.
We are so proud of all the incredible insights, learning, and movement building conversations that were sparked during this historic convening, but we know this is just the beginning. Although this convening allowed us to re-center ourselves in our racial justice work during our summit, we must continue to move from reckoning to resolution to action in advancing our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. In conclusion, we can look to the guiding words of former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton, who in her opening remarks, said, “YWCA’s work has always been important, but never more urgent than it is right now. I’ve said for a long time and believe more fiercely today that advancing the rights, opportunities, and full participation of women and girls is the great unfinished business of the 21st century! And if we’re going to finish that business once and for all, we need to be serious about lifting up the voices, experiences, and concerns of women of color.” So let us continue working together in our quest for racial equity and collective liberation, until injustice is rooted out, until our institutions are transformed, and until justice just is.
The Racial Justice Summit and Women of Distinction Gala would not have been possible without partnership from local association leadership, leading organizations, and other key stakeholders. We send our deepest thanks to our generous sponsors, which include but are not limited to: Coca Cola, Comcast NBC Universal, Google, Marcum LLP, Northern Trust, Starbucks, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. We are grateful for all of our partners, sponsors, and attendees for your continued alliance in our quest to create a world of justice, peace, freedom, and dignity for all.