Story By Shari Nacson
Photos by Gabe Schaffer
“The work is amazing,” said Margaret Mitchell, CEO of the YWCA of Greater Cleveland. “It lives, both on the individual level and also on the institutional level. Both things have to be at play.”
The “it” under discussion is the work of helping people discover their own unconscious bias. According to Mitchell, the work of eliminating racism begins with helping people look more closely at themselves. It is only through this introspection that systemic racism can slowly and thoroughly be dismantled, she said.
To tackle this ambitious goal, Cleveland’s YWCA has spent the past four years teaching people how to have daring conversations. The first It’s Time to Talk event was in 2015. To date, over 1200 people have participated.
The model was originally piloted in Minneapolis. Heather Steranka-Petit, Manager of the YWCA’s Learning Programs, has managed It’s Time to Talk for the YWCA Greater Cleveland since 2016. Steranka-Petit likes the model because it provides structure and guidance for conversations that can feel intimidating or highly charged. There is a strong focus on creating a safe space. “All YWCAs have programming to eliminate racism,” she says. That is the organization’s mission.
Shari Nacson is a Cleveland-based mother, editor, child development specialist and nonprofit consultant with a passion for the promotion of engaged citizenship via family and school-based service projects during early childhood.
Gabe Schaffer lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, with his wife, three kids and several chickens. He has been, among other things, a freelance photojournalist for over 15 years.
Copyright © 500 Pens. June 2018.