For 100 years, the YWCA has been working to end racism. Heidi Majors has led some of those efforts. She’s the executive director of YWCA High Point.
“Many YWCAs may have gotten away from that eliminating racism piece, and in 2004 we did a re-branding. We actually put the eliminating racism, empowering women on our tagline,” Majors said.
They started a series they call “Front Porch Conversations” to bring people together to talk about issues considered taboo, like race. In 2016, staff at the YWCA started training with the Racial Equity Institute. And two years ago, funding was granted to provide that same programming to the community.
“For an organization that has had ‘eliminating racism’ in our mission and on our tagline, I’ve been through many trainings. And it wasn’t until 2016 when I went through this training with REI with phase one … my big ‘aha’ of how the history has put in line the inequity,” Majors said.
“I was surprised at what I didn’t know,” Pastor Frank Thomas said. “Just systemically. I’ve been Black all my life but even with 56 years of the Black experience, I don’t know all things systemic racism.”
Thomas leads the congregation at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in High Point.
As protesters filled the streets in the triad this summer, the two groups worked together on a series of talks: “Where Do We Go from Here?”
“I’m a part of a men’s group that I frequent in Winston-Salem. It’s predominantly white. Many times when we bring up racial equality or racial injustice, or systemic racism, some of my brothers tend to want to either excuse it or defend it or flip the script and say, ‘Well what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you pull yourself up by your bootstraps?'” Thomas said.
Just last week a new group went through REI’s acclaimed Groundwater training with the YWCA. These days, they’re being done virtually. No matter how people come together, Thomas says these sessions are eye-opening.
“Because I’m a pastor and community leader, I have tried to help people understand better what systemic racism is and its origin. How and why it’s in place and why we think it was put in place, and then what we as a community can do about it. Not just African Americans, but any and everyone who is a part of the community needs to be educated and aware.”
He’s part of the Community Builders group that takes the new knowledge back to their businesses, neighborhoods, campuses and their churches.
“One thing I share with people often, oppression of any type will never end as long as the oppressed are the only ones talking about it,” he said.
“This is an exciting time in our community. A time for change. A time for opportunity. And a time to really look at our foundation of High Point and how we need to move it forward for equity for all. And it takes the whole community to do that,” Majors said.