Black History Month 2022 | West Suburban YMCA

Black History Month at the West Suburban YMCA

Laura Snow

Feb 17, 2022

The history of the YMCA is a story of incremental progress toward greater inclusion and equity for all. The West Suburban YMCA is committed to putting action behind the words in our mission statement - “for all” - and continues to embark on a long-term initiative to strengthen our organization’s diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging actions and policies. 

Most recently, we are looking to partner with a recruitment firm in the Boston area that can work with us to further our goals of adding to our team and ensuring that we diversify at all levels of the organization as we do so. Our ideal fit is a recruitment agency that is BIPOC/woman-owned, has a core focus of assisting organizations to gain a more diverse pool of candidates to meet their recruiting and staffing needs, and one that reflects internal diversity and the opportunity to work with recruiters who mirror the diversity we seek in our own staff. We are actively seeking recommendations from our community as we explore options! If you have any suggestions for a recruitment agency that may meet our needs, please email Laura at lauras@wsymca.org.

As February is Black History Month, we encourage you to uplift and engage in opportunities to celebrate Black history. I invite all of you to join in, or continue to join in, and participate in our organization’s journey to recognize and acknowledge the history of racism and the systems of oppression that exist in the U.S. In order to dismantle these systems of oppression, we must work in solidarity against all forms of social inequality and racism. We have and continue to invite our staff into the conversation, in a multitude of ways. Particularly, in the month of February, we invite all staff to join in on the “We Wear Black” initiative on Friday, February 25th. In doing so, we will honor Black contributions to our society, celebrate Black excellence, raise awareness to systemic racism and oppression and express our unity with those who are working daily to fight injustice, prejudice, and inequity.  

In addition, if you are not aware of the steps that we have been taking – and will continue to take - in our effort to become an anti-racist organization, please read below. 

  • All staff are encouraged to participate in Y-USA’s professional development sessions “Dimensions of Diversity” and “Cultural Lenses”. 
  • We partnered with Listen4Good to create an anonymous survey for our staff and members. In this survey, staff and members were asked to give feedback on their experience with the Y, specifically as it relates to their race. The information received has helped us learn more about how our DEIB efforts are being perceived and areas for improvement. We will share a report on the data in the coming months.
  • Within the last 18 months, three full-time staff members and one part-time staff member have participated in an intensive six-week long learning opportunity to understand the construct of racism within the U.S. This workshop titled “Undoing Racism” was hosted by Y-USA and facilitated by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. 
  • WSYMCA staff are encouraged to participate in events sponsored by the MA Alliance of YMCAs and Y-USA, such as workshops on Deconstructing Race and Becoming an Anti-Racist. This month, all staff are invited to join in on the Y’s African American Resource Network (AARN) 2022 #WeWearBlack virtual event to engage, network and further the discussion around the importance of bringing awareness to systemic racism and oppression of Black people in the United States and around the globe.
  • We have created a diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging statement for the West Suburban YMCA. This statement includes: what diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) means to our Y; why DEIB matters to us; and how we approach DEIB. All employees were invited to review and take part in the discussion. This statement has been integrated with intentionality into our website and marketing materials, our hiring and onboarding process, employee performance reviews, and our employee informational guide. 
  • We welcome all staff to join in on our monthly Friday afternoon conversations where we continue to listen, learn, reflect and put thoughts into actions regarding diversity, inclusion and the social inequalities in our country and our community. It is critical to continue to learn about our history and how relevant to the present our past is. This month, our staff are encouraged to read the Washington Post interactive article (published January 10, 2022) discussing how hundreds of the elected leaders writing our nation’s laws were current or former slaveowners.
  • We have recently created a small library of books on the education of race, the history of race and other relevant topics for staff. These books are by Black authors and discuss the history of race, learning about anti-racism and building understanding for the Black culture. If interested, please stop by Human Resources office.

We welcome our community's thoughts about how we can strengthen the Y’s role as a leader in anti-racist principles and practices in our community. If you would like to share ideas or thoughts, or to learn more about the work that the West Suburban YMCA has done and is doing, do not hesitate to reach out to Laura Snow.