Leading By Example

YWCA Takes Stand Against Racism

Above, the Rev. Chloe Smith speaks about the "Stand Against Racism" movement the YWCA in Jamestown helped promote Thursday. Submitted photo

Leading the charge to eliminate racism, the YWCA of Jamestown gathered about 50 community members together to sign a social justice pledge and help kick off the reforming of the organization’s Social Justice Committee.

The “Stand Against Racism” event featured speeches from Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown; the Rev. Chloe Smith; Jamestown City Councilwoman Maria Jones; and Max Martin, president and CEO of the Hispanic Community Council of Chautauqua County.

“Today, nearly 50 community members signed a pledge to stand up to racism and work to eliminate it in our community and our lives,” YWCA Executive Director Jacqueline Phelps said. “The YWCA is proud to lead by example and invites the community to continue signing the pledge throughout the weekend by visiting the YWCA USA website.”

As the gathering also served as the restart of the Social Justice Committee, Phelps encouraged local residents to join the group, through which “we will educate, bring awareness and do our best to eliminate racism and promote inclusion in our community,” Phelps said.

With the committee newly formed, other related events focusing on gender and overall inclusion will be planned for the future. Understanding gender and racial equality was described to be the mission statement of the committee.

Below, nearly 50 people attended the event, which kicked off social justice pledge signings that will continue to run through Sunday. Submitted photo

“We’re not moving back; we’re moving forward,” Martin said. “I think this is a beginning to begin that merging between the two communities.”

Martin specifically mentioned acceptance of the latino population in the greater Jamestown community. He called for other community members to join cultural events and “grow as one.”

“This is an activation,” Smith described. “This is a release because we’re going to level up.”

She called for “the season of access” to continue expanding for women as well as those persecuted by racism. She emphasized the role faith can have in bridging gaps and establishing a stronger community.

“We identify the problem, and we bring forth the solution,” Smith continued. “That’s who we are.”

Goodell also focused on faith as a motivator to eliminate racism. He said that God doesn’t care about one’s sex or race since he created everyone with equal opportunity in mind.

“All of us were created by God,” Goodell said. “(He) recognizes the individual worth of every person.”

The assemblyman went on to say that racism does the opposite: generalizing people into impersonal groups and disregarding individuality. He said that communities should maximize opportunities for all people through a focus on individual self-worth that can benefit the greater community.

After the “Stand Against Racism” pledges end nationwide Sunday, the local Social Justice Committee will become more active and will host its first meeting May 15 at 5:30 p.m. Community members are encouraged to contact the YWCA at 488-2237 with questions about the committee and events.

Follow Eric Zavinski at twitter.com/EZavinski