By Berenice Bonilla
On Thursday, April 21, the YWCA of Syracuse and Onondaga County hosted its 18th Annual Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism and Promote Diversity, titled “A Real Conversation: Addressing the Barriers to Progress in CNY.”
With the goal of sparking a transparent exchange around the issues of racism, discrimination, and inequality, the event consisted of a morning Community Advocacy and Diversity Training, and a noontime Diversity Achievers Luncheon that featured the induction of 22 local leaders working diligently to promote justice and equality for all in the region.
More than 200 corporate and community leaders attended the luncheon, and more than 50 participated in the workshop program.
This year’s training had two new offerings. First, the number of workshops increased from three to six, allowing for two tracks to be formed to deepen the learning around each topic: “Delving Deeper: Understanding Inequality in our Region,” and “Making Progress: Creating Solutions that Drive Change.”
Second, for the first time in the event’s history, training participants who completed one entire track (about 20 percent this inaugural year) will receive a Certificate of Completion from the YWCA. These 16 individuals are now better informed, and equipped to be a force for positive change and influences for greater tolerance and cross-cultural communication.
The team of workshop presenters had strong representation from a broad range of locally respected organizations like Home Headquarters, Inc., Urban Jobs Task Force, Cooperative Federal Credit Union, InterFaith Works, the city of Syracuse, SRC Inc., and this year’s Community Visionary, National Grid.
Several media outlets also lent a hand in spreading the word. The event secured media sponsorships from CNY Business Journal, CNY Latino, Kilpatrick Media, Lighthouse Marketing, Power 620P and 570 WSYR, Syracuse Woman Magazine, WAER Syracuse Public Media, and even debuted the organization’s first-ever Digital Media Parter: Her HeartBeat, LLc.
Thanks to the digital partnership, the organization will now boast one of the company’s first digital webcards, acting as a secondary digital platform to the YWCA’s existing website, and creating more mobile friendly access to partners and supporters.
At the luncheon, powerful messages that inspired and challenged were delivered by Melanie Littlejohn, executive regional director at National Grid, and Dr. Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair, and Fulbright Scholar at Belleview University.
The program was also led by Mr. Mark D. Muhammad, professor of communication at Onondaga Community College, who also served as master of ceremonies. In addition, YWCA’s board chair, Denise Valdes, and YWCA executive director, Fanny Villarreal, offered additional reflections, sharing information about how local efforts to Stand Against Racism are tied to YWCA USA’s national movement, as well as to its rebranding campaign: #OnAMission.
Most importantly, the Day of Commitment helped raise consciousness about the economic inequity in Syracuse, and how its consequences affect us all. It also offered ideas to make progress, both collectively and individually. Through inspirational messages, and specialized training, the YWCA created a space for reflection, unification, and renewed commitment to continue working toward its ultimate goal of eliminating racism once and for all.