By Tricia Hall
Sojourner’s Truth Reporter
The YWCA of Northwest Ohio convened a two-day conference starting on April 22 entitled, “Stand Against Racism,” which featured speakers and panelists who spoke about the trauma of systemic racism and how it affects the Black family. The conference was hosted virtually and incorporated points of engagement through chat features. YWCA President and CEO Lisa McDuffie opened the conference with reflections and call to action.
“I am honored to welcome you to our conference, which is timely because we’re two days out from the trial in which Derek Chauvin will forever be known as the murder of George Floyd,” McDuffie said during opening comments. “Why are Black people overrepresented in diabetes, cancers and even Covid-19 hospitalizations? Why are we underrepresented in homeownership, and kindergarten readiness? Why is a five-number zip code linked to living fewer years of life? It’s called systemic racism. The YWCA Stand Against Racism Conference is our signature event. For 151 years the YWCA of Northwest Ohio’s mission is to eliminate racism and empower women. We’ve committed ourselves to this work in justice for all. Our theme today acknowledges that systemic racism harms all people of color.”
Barbara Love, PhD was the first presenter of the conference. Love is a speaker, consultant, coach and writer who focuses on diversity, social justice, liberation and transformation. She’s a professor emeritus of Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and spoke to the virtual audience about their vision and her vision for society.
“My vision is categorized by justice and equity, a better world for black people. A world where every black child and family can reach Wakanda, never have to question righteousness of self, know that every moment of their live matters and that their lives matter. A world where they never doubt their mind or what to change their skin or hair on their head.,” shared Love.
Michael Waters, PhD, was the second speaker of the first conference day. Waters is the founder and lead pastor of Abundant Life African American Episcopal Church in Dallas. He’s an author, professor, social commentator and two-time National Wilbur Award winner for non-fiction writing.
Waters opened his presentation by explaining a book titled, Ten Little Nigger Boys, and its impact on society before explaining his recommendation on how to prepare children for conversations on racism. The book that he mentioned explains through counting how 10 Black boys die through a series of death-related scenarios including bodily injury, insects, animal encounters and stroke.
“According to the Atlanta Black Star, this book was one of several nursery book series that taught White children how to count in the late 1800s. Let’s take a minute, imagine a world where we teach young White children how to read, write and count by teaching them stories of how young Black boys die tragic deaths. To prepare our children, have intentional conversations about what they see and experience. Allow your children to participate in rallies, demonstrations and marches. Read books together that speak not only of our struggle but of those who have and who continue to courageously resist. Finally expose our children to historic sites and museums,” explained Waters.
Jawanza Kunjufu, PhD was the opening speaker on the second day of the conference. Kunjufu is a guest lecturer, best-selling author and has been featured on several television shows including BET and MSNBC. He explored stereotypes with the audience that is connected to racism, including education, parental involvement, and incarceration.
“Why are Black girls suspended six times more than White girls for the same infraction? Why do so many schools have problems with Black female hairstyles? This past week a father withdrew his Black student from school because the teacher cut the student’s hair,” explained Dr. Kunjufu.
The conference also featured Yulise Reaves Waters, Esq. the Deputy Director of Lone Star Justice Alliance. She was awarded the National Association of Drug Court Professionals’ Equity and Inclusion Award in 2018. The conference involved local leaders to discuss racism trauma in various systems.
The panel was moderated by Crystal Allen, the senior director of Strategic Consulting of Casey Family Programs, and included the following as panelists: Robin Reese, executive director of Lucas County Children Services to speak about child welfare; Marvin Whitfield, PhD, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Ohio to speak about law enforcement; Treva Jeffries, assistant Transformational Leader of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion of Toledo Public Schools to speak about education; Celeste Smith, director of Government and Community Affairs for Health Partners of Western Ohio to speak about healthcare, and Judge Denise Cubbon, an administrative judge since 2007 to speak about juvenile justice.
The final speaker, Adrienne ElHai, director at The Cullen Center for Children, Adolescents and Families at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital spoke about treating the trauma and the root cause.
The conference provided moments of engagement with the featured speakers and panel by including question and answer portions, and specific chat function question for attendees through the Hopin platform. The conference sponsors were: YWCA of Northwest Ohio, Lucas County Children Services, Owens Corning and Casey Family Program.
For additional information about the YWCA of Northwest Ohio’s resources and updates on racial justice and civil rights, visit www.ywcanwo.org