YWCA Racial Justice Summit Underway

    YWCA Madison CEO Vanessa McDowell speaks at the YWCA Moxie Conference.

    The annual Racial Justice Summit is underway, starting at 8:30 am, hosted by the YWCA at the Monona Terrace.

    Sonali Sangeeta-Balajee, Malachi Garza, Gyasi Ross, and Dr. Heather Hackman will be the keynote speakers this year. The keynote speeches will be bracketed by various breakout sessions featuring different topics on racial justice as well as educational and health issues.

    “It’s extremely important we collectively live out our racial justice values,” YWCA CEO Vanessa McDowell tells Madison365. “Our keynote speakers and breakouts are all a call to do just that. We have various themes that we’ll be addressing. Some of the breakouts will be historical trauma; the intersection of trauma and race; power dynamics and racial justice in schools; mindfulness and navigating triggers in the workplace.”

    McDowell said that around Madison these issues have continued for years without the level of progress we should be seeing.

    “I think we still have a lot of work to do especially in Madison,” she says. “Madison is known as this liberal city but some of the liberal folks perpetuate more harm than anyone else. “

    McDowell gave powerful examples from her personal life about racial treatment even as she is a successful professional woman in a position of power. Many people attending the summit also experience the daily micro-aggression at work, disempowerment over school issues, lack of support from government and other issues that affect racial justice.

    This will be a time to discuss and learn ways of healing those divides and learning tools to help each other work towards building new narratives.

    “Our goal is to build on years past,” McDowell says. “But this year we’re also aware of our political context. So we’ve shaped the context around what is happening now. This is the time for us to come together. To be in spaces together, bring our allies together. We’re hoping to do that. And we hope the racial justice summit does that for folks and people leave empowered and supported and impacted.”

    Written by Nicholas Garton

    Nicholas Garton

    Nicholas Garton is a Madison365 graduate and a reporter for Madison365.