Central VA YWCA amplifies racial justice program

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) The YWCA is an organization that helps women across the nation. While you may associate them with domestic violence shelters and sexual assault awareness, the Central Virginia chapter is hoping to amplify another part of their mission as well.

The YWCA's mission is twofold: Eliminating racism and empowering women.

A large portion of services at the YWCA involve working with victims. The resources are extensive.

“We just focus so much on helping people to survive. They are dying at the hands of their loved ones,” said Linda Ellis Williams, Director of Programs. “So we just fully focused on that.”

That work put the "empowering women" part of their mission in the spotlight. They didn't realize the second part wasn't getting as much attention, and then a white supremacist rally happened an hour away.

“It was an eye opener,” said Williams. “We didn't realize that the issues were getting worse and not better.”

And so, the YWCA is recharging and refocusing. Same words, new life.

“Perfect time to bring it back around,” said Williams.

Beginning this Black history month, they will host events that have race at the forefront.

An art show tackling racial justice at the Academy Center for the Arts. Saturday night, a race-focused panel discussion with five women in the community.
Michelline Hall will moderate that discussion.

“You just want to protect people who may feel marginalized and just to remind them that they aren't alone and that they do have allies,” said Hall. “I think that's the best thing for anybody.”

This is not just Central Virginia, YWCAs across the nation are doing the same thing. Williams says different centers share material and ideas in online chat groups.

While the YWCA has many services, they are determined that this renewed attention on racial justice will not be fleeting.

“We're going to keep it going,” said Williams. “We must keep it going.”