Each year, the YWCA Madison hosts a racial justice summit that brings together community stakeholders to work on eliminating barriers that foster racism in the Madison community. The Summit focuses on institutional racism and involves nationally known keynote speakers and researchers, as well as local experts and advocates.
“The Racial Justice Summit has grown tremendously over its 12 years,” says YWCA's Racial Justice & Outreach Director Colleen Butler, who has been with YWCA for nine of those years. “The first Summit I was involved in we just had a lunchtime speaker where somebody came in and we had some dialog afterward. We started at about 250 people. Right now for the upcoming Summit, we have 450 people registered and many people on a waiting list.”
The 2013 YWCA Racial Justice Summit will be held at the Concourse Hotel in downtown Madison on Oct. 2. The demand to participate in the event was so large, Butler says, that next year they will be at an even bigger space.
Through an environment that encourages learning from and supporting each other in common goals, the annual summit provides a platform for action planning and community dialogue.
“The focus has changed over time,” Butler says. “At the beginning it was just general dialog and people had a chance to be introspective about their own beliefs. We've grown over time to have it be more of a focus on institutions in our community and more looking at the structural level.”
A good example of that this year will be the unveiling of the Race to Equity report. The YWCA Madison has partnered with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families' (WCCF) Race to Equity project to release their disparities report at the Summit. WCCF aspires to make a greater contribution to narrowing and ultimately eliminating racial disparities in Wisconsin. They are beginning with a multi-year “Project to Reduce Racial Disparities in Dane County” and hope subsequently to move into a broader effort to reduce racial disparities across Wisconsin.
“They will be looking at these disparity indicators in five different major areas and then having some conversations about identifying what the major areas are where our community can move forward, where are there resources, and where do we have momentum already in the community for some of these things,” Butler says. “How can we pinpoint what success looks like?”
Hard copies of the elaborate report will be given to people attending the summit. The report will elaborate on how profound and persistent racial disparities in health, education, child welfare, criminal justice, employment, and income are common across the United States and in Wisconsin and how these racial disparities compromise the life chances of many children and families and undermine our common interest that every child grows up healthy, safe, and successful. Unfortunately, research reveals that these life-compromising disparities are wider here in Dane County than in most parts of the state and the nation.
“I think the hardest part of all that is that most people's answer to that is 'Well, those problems came from somewhere else. That's not our fault.'” says YWCA CEO Rachel Krinsky. “My answer to that is, 'Who cares? We're all here now. What are we going to do about it?'”
The annual Racial Justice Summit will feature Racial Justice Workshops that will include breakout topics like “Juvenile Justice and Disproportionate Contact,” “Educational Equity,” “Employment and Access To Jobs,” “Supporting Parents and Strengthening Families,” and “Making Connections for Neighborhoods and Communities.” Also joining the conference will be some of the nation’s foremost thinkers on racial disparities and leading local advocates for greater racial equity here in Wisconsin.
One of the featured keynote speakers for the Summit will be Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink, who will be discussing “America's Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model.”
“At the Summit, she will be speaking about the economic case for equity,” Butler says. “Why is it that everybody in our community will benefit if equity is the model that we are focusing on? From their standpoint at PolicyLink, as a community you really need to be focusing on equitable access to opportunity, jobs, transportation, child care, and education.... without that, you won't be able to have equity in the community. So figuring out how all of these neighborhoods and pockets of poverty that exist in Madison can be centers of their own opportunity or connected to opportunities that already exist in other parts of the city … that will be her focus on the conversation.”
After Blackwell's speech La Movida Radio's Diego Campoverde-Cisneros. will receive the Alix Olsen Award for the Promotion of a Tolerant and Just Community. In the afternoon, summit-goers will be working in groups in more break-out sessions before everybody gathers for a plenary discussion.
The closing keynote speaker will be Eddie Moore Jr., the founder and the director of the White Privilege Conference, which will be held in Madison in 2014. Moore, a fantastic public speaker, will be discussing “21st Century Leadership and Diversity: Are We Ready?”
“In the afternoon, people will have a lot of time to strategize and brainstorm what we need to do moving forward from the Summit,” Butler says. “WCCF will doing workgroups coming out of the Summit to move forward on these different identified impact areas. So, we're hoping at the end of the day, Eddie Moore Jr. will provide some motivation and also some challenges to people on how they can't stop at the end of the summit. It needs to be a continuing process.”
On the night before the event, the YWCA Madison and WCCF will host a free Pre-Summit reception at the newly renovated downtown Madison Public Library from 5:30-7:30 p.m. This will be a visual and performing arts event featuring young Dane County artists. There will be art from local elementary schools and other art projects. There will be performances by Drum Power, OMAI First Wave students, and Hmong dancers.The event is free and open to the public.
“It's a free, family-friendly event,” Krinsky says.“Anyone should come and it will be a fun and engaging night full of young people's art and celebrating the diversity of Dane County.”
The annual Racial Justice Summit is one of the YWCA's signature events, although they focus on racial justice issues all year long. Looking at culture through the lens of race, the YWCA offers educational training to broaden intercultural and interracial awareness and to improve intercultural and interracial communication through their Racial Justice Workshops: Communicating Across Cultures: Level 100, Deconstructing Racism: Level 200, and Exploring Privilege: Level 300
“For people who want to be introspective and learn about their own racism and experiences, that's what the workshops are for and we still offer those three times a year,” Krinsky says. “I think that it's important to engage in the privilege concept. Helping people to understand – if they are willing to go there – how each of us benefits from privilege. It's a critical conversation to have.”
Butler says that one of the main goals for the Summit is for people to see racial justice issues as a community issue that everybody cares deeply about.
“Even if you personally don't feel like you are impacted by these [racial disparities] numbers, at the end of the day you will understand why you, and your neighborhood, and your kids are impacted by these numbers,” Butler says. “An hopefully be moved to act on in as much as you will be moved to care about lights on the bikepath or any other issue that our city is so passionate about.”
“We have the capacity to be highly engaged citizens in this community,” Krinsky adds. “I just want people to care as much about these racial equity impacts as they do about things that feel like they impact their daily lives..... because these racial impacts – if they haven't already – will impact people's daily lives.
“We are capable of sophisticately organizing around racial justice issues in this city,” Krinsky she continues. “We want people to care enough to be moved to become engaged. This is the issue.”
More than anything, the YWCA Racial Justice Summit organizers want people to know that Madison is a unique city at a critical point right now.
“I really do think that Madison is a really great community for 75-80 percent of the people who live here. All of the rankings that we get for being the best are completely true,” Butler says. “But we are at this tipping point where the number of people for whom that is not the experience is growing in such a way that if we don't figure out a way to make it so that everybody in our community has that equal access, we will go down the wrong road. This is a community issue. We could be a model community. We are small enough and we have enough resources and enough passion that if we decided to do it.... we could do it.
“We are at risk of creating two Madisons.... and that's going to be bad for everybody,” Krinsky adds. “If we continue to have a community where people of color can't get jobs, then we create a bad cycle that gets cemented over time. Young Madison – if you look up the make-up of our schools – is incredibly diverse and cosmopolitan. That younger Madison is who Madison is going to be in 10-20 years. If more than half of those folks don't have access to opportunities, we are going to be in deep trouble.”
The 12th Annual Racial Justice Summit: Race to Equity will be held on October 2nd at the Concourse Hotel.
For more information, and speaker updates, please visit our website at: www.ywcamadison.org/rjsummit, friend us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/YWCAMadison, or contact Colleen Butler at email@example.com.