2020 VIRTUAL Stand Against Racism: Justice in a Time of Crisis
We are living through unprecedented times. It is a time of confusion, a time of chaos, and a time of crisis. This week, YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee and the 200+ YWCA affiliates from across the nation stayed true to our mission of eliminating racism and held the Stand Against Racism. This annual campaign seeks to build community among those working for racial and social justice. Race and the legacy of discrimination continue to affect our lives – we see it in our workplaces, in our schools, and in our neighborhoods. It is especially vivid during this COVID-19 pandemic. Our 2020 Stand Against Racism – Justice in a Time of Crisis was a time for YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee to reflect on our past so we can focus on our future.
This year we highlighted the urgency for voting rights, census participation, and civic engagement. We know we are entering a new civil rights movement, and we need to ensure our communities have the full participation in 2020 Census and upcoming elections. We are especially mindful that many of our communities may be left behind. The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the 55th anniversary of Voting Rights Act. However, we continue to fight for the same issues that existed in 1965.
On Wednesday, April 22, when we would have gathered in person for a Stand Against Racism community rally outside of the Historic Metro Courthouse, we assembled more than 170 individuals for Justice in a Time of Crisis, an online community rally co-sponsored by the Tennessee Human Rights Commission and Metro Human Relations Commission. Social distancing could not prevent individuals of all ages and races and diverse backgrounds from raising awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities. We rallied for all people to have the ability to equally participate in the most important systems that we have. (Click here to view the Virtual Stand Against Racism on our YouTube Channel).
Our community has faced multiple, pervasive disasters in the last two months – a devestaging tornado and the global COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue to confront the consequences and racial disparities from these tragedies and as we fight for equitable access to essential services, we know we must flatten the curve, spread solidarity, and unite as community members. Particularly during these times of uncertainty, singing and listening to songs and words of freedom remind us to be vigilant for all human rights in the face of crisis
“Oh, Freedom,” sang Patrick Dailey, an award-winning versatile countertenor and educator at Tennessee State University, as Dr. Yvonne Kendall read the poem “Selma, 1965” by poet, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee organizer, and scholar Gloria Larry House. (link to poem and song)
Beverly Watts, Executive Director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, laid out the overlapping issues targeting communities of color. She spoke to the pandemic and the tornado disrupting all aspects of life, exacerbating the impact of systemic and structural racism on communities of color across health, housing, education, justice, economic sectors, and access to voting rights, census participation, and civic engagement. Motivating the virtual rally participants to stay alert and active in interrupting violations of human rights, Watts said, “We need to help others understand what racism looks like, sounds like, and feels like.” (link to Beverly Watts’ remarks)
Nashville Civil Rights hero Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton recalled the time he was imprisoned at Parchman Farm in Mississippi and how fellow Freedom Riders would sing songs of peace and protest to engage the guards and to inspire their survival. Through song, Dr. Patton reminded us to wake up every morning with our minds “stayed on freedom.” (link to Dr. Patton’s remarks and song)
Fabian Bedne, Planner of Neighborhood Development with the Office of Mayor John Cooper, urged the audience to participate in the 2020 Census. It was a common theme among all speakers. “Now more than ever, we must be focused on our neighbors and neighborhoods and call out injustices…we must be focused on being counted.” (link to Fabian Bedne’s remarks)
“C.O.M.E and Activate our Power!” encouraged Barbara Gunn Lartey, Director of Community Engagement at Metro Human Relations Commission: C – Commit to completing the 2020 Census; O – reach out to in-area organizations for whom social justice is a dynamic aspect of their mission and ask how you can help; M – contact the Mayor’s Office and Metro Councilmembers; E – encourage enfranchisement…register/vote if you can! Gunn Lartey shared how we can activate our power to have an impact on inequity in Nashville by our city adopting an “Equity Lens” in every department and aspect of Nashville life. You can read MHRC’s short Equity Policy Report here. (Click here to view Gunn Lartey’s remarks)
Gunn Lartey also highlighted the striking revelations of Metro Social Services, which showed persisting racial disparities, specifically systemic and institutional racial segregation in housing, education, and law enforcement. “Using an Equity Lens,” said Gunn Lartey, “could be one of the most effective options to address the proven inequities that persist in Nashville….help ensure equitable decision-making and resource allocation, creating a path for more effective programs, and enhance well-being.”
Kendall and Dailey serenaded the online participants through flute and voice with “We Shall Overcome.” And YWCA’s fearless and committed leader Sharon K. Roberson reminded the audience that, “We must take care of each other and do all that we can to protect each other.”
She wrapped up the 2020 Stand Against Racism by leading the audience in the Pledge Against Racism.
As an individual committed to social justice, I stand with YWCA against racism and discrimination of any kind. I will commit to a lifetime of promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all people in my community and in the world.
The Stand Against Racism reminds us that we must learn from our history if we hope to impact our future. It is not a simple one-day campaign but a long-term effort to ensure all members of our community are given the opportunity to participate equally in our systems and work together to promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.