At the 1970 YWCA national convention, Dorothy Height, the first National Director of the YWCA’s Center for Racial Justice, led the charge to adopt the YWCA’s One Imperative: The elimination of racism wherever it exists, and by any means necessary.
YWCA of Greater Cleveland has been on its own journey to operationalize anti-racism. On the surface, this is not a surprising journey because the YWCA’s mission is eliminating racism and empowering women. Despite that mission, a clear-eyed review of the YWCA’s own operations done in 2016 surfaced that we were not actively, or consistently, identifying or eliminating our own practices that resulted in race and gender injustice. The journey to address that shortfall has been challenging and powerful for our staff, board and leadership.
We believe our challenging journey is relevant to others who want to go beyond diversity and inclusion efforts to operationalize anti-racism within their organization and their community. We overcame persistent, powerful resistance from members of our leadership team and staff. And we had to deal with long standing biased practices throughout our organization. Our learned resiliency has changed our policies, our practices, our humanity and organizational culture.
These are the moments–when the One Imperative was embraced, and again today-that call for bold leadership. YWCA of Greater Cleveland answers that call and dares to lead. We honor our history, our 150-year movement for equity, inclusivity, and opportunity, through our continuing mission to eliminate racism and empower women, and with a renewed and deeper focus on the aspirations, challenges, and potential of girls and women, especially girls and women of color
Our Purposeful Approach
The YWCA of Greater Cleveland approach is an unvarnished, constructive view of our journey – the blow-ups and the breakthroughs – to demonstrate the power and path to operationalizing anti-racism. But why anti-racism? Why not diversity? Anti-racist organizations look within to uproot racial bias in operations. Diversity refers to demographic variation. While this is clearly an oversimplified definition, we believe that setting an intention to becoming anti-racist organizations has been a missed step.
Margaret Mitchell, YWCA Greater Cleveland President & CEO leads the racial equity strategy, including the initial racial equity intervention and ongoing organizational change management to advance equity.