YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
  •  Donate Join Our Email List

December 2015

By Paula Penebaker, President & CEO, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin

2015 Recap of Our Racial Justice Work

As we close out another year, it’s a good time to reflect on our racial justice work and the ways we’ve moved our mission forward. All of the work outlined below will help to create racial justice over time.

We need to remember that the road to racial justice is a long and winding one. We are dedicated to the journey. I hope you'll continue to travel with us.

Equipped Allies
We offered two, six week sessions of our racial justice training curriculum, Unlearning Racism: Tools for Action, for 61 people.

It is during these classes when participants learn about how race was created and developed. It is where context is built to help create understanding of present day events. It is where participants can answer the question, "Well, what can I do about it?" and understand that the answer is simpler than they think. It is where they learn that institutional racism is what prevents real change. It is also where they learn to be hopeful. It is, for many, the first step in learning how to mess up, fall down, and yet, get back in the game to build racial resilience, something many lack. They learn how much they don't know and that they must continue to learn. It is a great opportunity!

Raised Community Awareness
This April was our first year participating in the YWCA USA's Stand Against Racism. We held a panel discussion with representatives from the police department, DA's office and ACLU where a small but engaged group of community members participated in a spirited discussion on the topic. The following day, we took to the streets and approached random lunch goers with the question, "If racism ended today, what would be different?" Over 200 people responded and I'm happy to report that not one person responded negatively.

We also held our 11th An Evening to Promote Racial Justice, featuring Dr. Julianne Malveaux. It is an honor each year to recognize two individuals who have dedicated themselves to work that so often goes unrecognized, but it essential to our community. This year we recognized Reggie Jackson, board chair of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, with the Eliminating Racism Award, and Alida Cardós Whaley, co-founder of STITCH Milwaukee and Wisconsin Doulas of Color Collective, with the Empowering Women Award.

Encouraged Our Youth
We spent another week in the woods with 20 teenagers to introduce them to social justice principles through Everytown Wisconsin. The young people learned about racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. It was another positive experience.

Trained People with Influence
Thirty staff people from the Municipal Court spent one of their professional development days learning about race and its impact on their work. They were an active and engaged group with many expressing appreciation for the time spent on the topic.
We also had the pleasure of spending a day discussing race and bias with 20 medical students in UW Madison's Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health Program (TRIUMPH). The group is committed to providing health care for urban populations and to reducing health disparities.

Worked in Partnerships
You might recall Greater Together, the group that began its work by addressing segregation in the City. I serve on its advisory board. Our Racial Justice Director, Martha Barry is very active in the group Rid Racism, a grass roots coalition dedicated to engaging all generations in understanding racial and cultural difference through dialogue and action. We were the featured Community Partner with Renaissance Theaterworks' production of the Ballad of Emmitt Till, the hugely popular, multi-sellout production. There were energetic talkbacks after performances and requests for more. We hope to continue our involvement with the company in defining the "more" people want.

Planned for the Future
Finally, we are happy to report that we were one of 17 groups to be awarded a grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation under its racial equity focus area to complete a Community Readiness Assessment with employers to determine the level of readiness to hire some of the people we serve. We were driven to perform the assessment because we want to address the gap between the unemployed and the large number of open positions we hear employers have or will have as boomers leave the workforce. Once we learn the level of readiness, we will work with employers and the people they place to ensure success for both. Stay tuned for the results of this project in 2016.


Don't miss a single blog post. Sign up for our 2038 Racial Justice News.

Read Previous Blog Posts


The 2038 Racial Justice Blog includes monthly insight from YWCA staff and community members working for a more just and equitable Milwaukee. Learn more about our 2038 goal.