For 72 years, California YMCA Youth & Government has been dedicated to cultivating leadership, civic engagement, and social responsibility in youth across the state. Through our programs, we inspire youth to find their voice and use it for positive change.
We as an organization must also lead and use our voice, something we have failed to do in recent years. We will continue to work to educate ourselves and speak out against systemic oppression. Our Black delegates, advisors, volunteers, and staff deserve to be a part of an organization that fights for their right to live free from racism and violence. As one of our delegates has echoed, this is not a moment, it is a movement in which we will forever stand in solidarity in the effort of advancing our nation toward justice and equality.
It is not enough to post and say “Black Lives Matter” if our policies, programs, and leadership do not reflect and promote changes with this statement. In the same way that we encourage our youth to be socially responsible, we must lead by example. To be committed to this fight against systemic racism, we must back our stance with meaningful actions that enhance diversity, inclusion and equity within our organization as well as counteract against the bias and inequity within our organization and in society.
While this is just the beginning, this is how we are committing to the change:
FIRST, we understand that there are barriers when entering our programs that continue to contribute to the inequities and marginalization of certain communities. We are committed to raising funds to make our major programs more accessible, as well as providing additional programs that are free or offered at a low cost so that every youth has the opportunity to participate in our programs if they wish to do so. By working and learning with people from various backgrounds and cultures, delegates gain a more comprehensive understanding of the world that we live in. It is our goal to cultivate a space where delegates from all backgrounds and cultures can come together to talk and brainstorm ways to create effective change in our society.
SECOND, studies have shown just how important representation matters. It is essential to have individuals on our board, staff, volunteer and advisor teams who look like and have had similar experiences to the youth we serve today - and the youth we hope to serve in the future. We believe they should not just be a part of these teams, but also hold leadership positions within the organization. California YMCA Youth & Government will continue to make a strong commitment to making sure all levels within our organization are not only more diverse but also socially conscious advocates for change.
THIRD, we will relook at our existing programming and training to see how we can make them more culturally diverse and relevant. To create sustainable change within our programs, there must be a cultural shift among all levels - board, staff, volunteers, advisors, and delegates. By incorporating lessons around cross-cultural literacy, implicit biases, and active perspective-taking within our programs, we better understand the communities we come from and how best to advocate for them.
By recognizing how the inequities and oppression within our society manifest, delegates are better equipped to discuss meaningful and creative ways to solve these community issues. Staff, volunteers, and advisors also gain a better understanding of the youth we serve and how best to serve them. All in all, a more diverse education and training model promotes well-rounded learning that fosters empathy, understanding, equity, and purposeful change.
We pledge to provide bi-annual updates on these commitments to not only hold ourselves accountable but to continue developing a culture of transparency. This is no way enough to dismantle the systems and institutions that continue to marginalize and attack the very communities that we need to uplift. But our hope is that these first steps will help nurture a safe space for growth, success, and change to come.
In no way is this an exhaustive list. Please reach out to Danielle Soba at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding the information collected here or have potential new additions.
Below are ways to get involved in your community and advocate for positive change:
- Contact your local official and push for change
- Attend Protests/Demonstrations
- Protesting Resources & Guides
- List of Bail Funds for Protesters across the Country
- Teen Vogue: Beyond the Hashtag: How to Take Anti-Racist Action in Your Life
- Ben & Jerry’s: 12 Ways You Can Help Eradicate White Supremacy
- Vox: A criminal justice expert’s guide to donating effectively right now
Look out for our upcoming Y&G programs to learn and gain the skills/tools to organize change in your community!
Below are resources that can help educate yourself or those around you on issues relating to systemic racism, privilege, and inequality:
Local elections are just as important as the national elections. Below are some resources to help you become a more informed citizen: