January 26, 2021

An update on our work to confront anti-Black racism

The YMCA of Greater Toronto remains committed to identifying and confronting anti-Black racism and barriers to inclusion across our Y. We'd like to take this opportunity to share an update about our ongoing work.

  • Our Black Experience Staff Advisory Committee (BESAC) continues to inform our plan of action. BESAC is a Black-led committee comprised of front-line staff and leaders. Thank you to each of our BESAC members for their ongoing contributions.
  • We are actively sourcing an external consultant to lead the review of our systems, policies, programs and organizational culture. This work will take time as we engage with a broad range of staff, volunteers, and community members. .
  • An introductory workshop, “Understanding Anti-Black Racism," which was developed by members of BESAC with support from the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, was co-delivered to over 80 YMCA leaders, our Board of Directors, and our Youth Advisory Committee. Our next step is to continue rolling this training out to front-line supervisors.
  • We are currently developing a new program dedicated to the advancement of Black youth including through mentorship opportunities.
  • BESAC is planning internal and external events as part of our long-standing Black History Month celebrations. These activities provide an opportunity for us to shine a light on Black members of our Y and broader communities and the importance of efforts to confront anti-Black racism.

We will continue to provide updates as our work progresses. If you have any questions, please contact diversity@ymcagta.org.

October 23, 2020

An update on our work to confront anti-Black racism

Our YMCA has made a long-term commitment to confronting anti-Black racism and our path forward has been endorsed by our Board of Directors and senior leaders. We'd like to take this opportunity to provide an update on our work.

  • Listening to the lived experiences of Black staff, volunteers, and community members is critical. Since June, our senior leaders have had conversations with colleagues who shared experiences of anti-Black racism and their expectations of the Y’s role in removing systemic barriers impacting Black communities.
  • Our Black Experience Staff Advisory Committee (BESAC) increased the frequency of its meetings to inform our plan of action. Thank you to each of our BESAC members for their ongoing contributions.
  • We organized a session for YMCA leaders about leading with empathy through trauma and crisis, with an introduction to understanding anti-Black racism.
  • Our long-term strategy will be based on a review of our systems, policies, programs, and organizational culture and will be conducted by an external consultant. There will be opportunities for staff, volunteers, and community members to participate.
  • An introductory workshop, “Understanding Anti-Black Racism," which was developed by members of BESAC with support from the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, will be delivered to all staff and our Board of Directors beginning in November.

We will continue to update you as this work progresses.

June 2, 2020

Our YMCA stands against anti-Black racism

This is a very difficult time in our communities and within our YMCA. We are facing the painful reality of interpersonal and systemic anti-Black racism. Words cannot convey the trauma felt due to the recurring loss of Black lives, not just in the US but also here in the GTA.

Our YMCA recognizes that many communities face painful racial discrimination on a daily basis and we condemn racism in all its forms. At this time, we're shining a light specifically on anti-Black racism because it is historic, deep-rooted, pervasive, and requires our immediate and focused attention.

By historic, we’re referring to the legacy of slavery in Canada, to name just one example. By deep-rooted and pervasive, we mean the many explicit and implicit ways this specific type of racism is expressed. Violence and hate speech are explicit. Other symptoms are less overt. The white candidate who lands the job over the equally qualified and competent Black candidate. The faces we see on TV. The ones whose stories are told in history books. Those growing up behind bars while their schoolmates walk free with a slap on the wrist.

Some statistics brought forward by our YMCA’s Black Experience Staff Advisory Committee (BESAC) illustrate why anti-Black racism demands our focus.

*8.9% of Toronto’s population is Black, yet:

  • 85% of reported hate crimes target Black people
  • 42% of children in care of Toronto Children’s Aid Society are Black
  • 27% of Torontonians carded by police are Black
  • 48% of children living in low-income homes are Black
  • 48% of students expelled from TDSB schools are Black
  • 13% of Black Torontonians are unemployed (twice the provincial unemployment rate).
  • 65% of Black youth do not have access to a family doctor

Steps we are taking

We must put our individual and collective energy into recognizing and righting these problems so everyone can be safe, feel valued, and reach their full potential. We cannot allow another generation to grow up knowing pain, fear, and disadvantage.

This is a starting point that will be refined and added to over time, because we are committed to long-term change:

  1. Programs and public policy
    Our YMCA's Diversity and Social Inclusion team, including BESAC, are looking at the programs and public policy work we can undertake to make our communities safer, fairer, and more inclusive. In particular, we need to look at programs specifically designed with and for Black communities.

  2. Partnerships
    Black communities show tremendous strength, resilience, and leadership. We see it as our responsibility to take our lead from those who have been working on these issues for years. So we're reaching out to Black community leaders and partners to learn how we can do better. Together, we want to provide more meaningful offerings that uplift all members of our communities.

  3. Representation in the workplace
    We at the Y have a responsibility to look inward, confront our own shortcomings as a workplace, and take action to fix them. We recognize how important diversity and representation are at the most senior levels of every organization, and we've made good strides over the last decade in attracting a strong and diverse Board. But we have more work to do at the senior staff level. After all, it’s by seeing others like us represented among smart, strong leaders that we learn to imagine bright futures for ourselves. We need to show Black children, teens, and adults that they can and should aspire to leadership positions.

Our YMCA's future holds a renewed, long-term commitment to supporting diversity, social connection, and belonging. We won’t stop until everyone in our region gets their fair chance to shine — at work and in life.

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