Written by Stephen Ives, President and CEO, YMCA of Greater Houston
As the YMCA of Greater Houston welcomes members back under all new circumstances and with protocols none of us imagined ever having to follow, there are some disturbing things happening right now that I want to address.
Sadness, disappointment, and dismay are just a few words to describe how we feel about the tragic death of native Houstonian, George Floyd. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Floyd’s family and on behalf of the YMCA of Greater Houston we extend our deep regrets and condolences. The loss of a beautiful human life could have been avoided and we stand with the community with heart ache, deep pain, frustration and a demand for change.
What happened in Minneapolis matters. What happened in Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, and Central Park matters. The lives of our black brothers and sisters matter, and what we do tomorrow will matter.
While our hearts ache, we have a responsibility to be equity leaders. That means those of us who are white must learn more about the system we are part of and that has benefited us at the expense of others. I encourage you to join me in continuing to learn by reading about structural racism, white privilege and white fragility. I encourage you to read, watch Ted Talks and participate in dialogue with each other. It is our responsibility to become more knowledgeable and not the responsibility of those who have lived with oppression to educate us. There is no usefulness in feeling guilt or remorse. The most loving thing we can do is look in the mirror, educate ourselves, and speak up in our circles of influence.
We mourn the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. We mourn the deaths of countless others we have lost due to acts of racist violence. We will stand with our brothers and sisters who are made to feel less safe by this incident. We will continue fighting for health equity in the face of the prejudices being laid bare during the COVID-19 pandemic and now another unjust killing of a black man. We will expand and strengthen our commitment to combat racism, bias, prejudice, and inequalities while fighting for justice. We can do better and we will do better, together.
Throughout the month of June, the YMCA will be reopening our facilities and inviting our members back while also welcoming new members. We welcome all to fight for what is right for the community and the world. Those who rejoin us and those who choose to join us will know they are doing much more than using a facility, they are helping us to strengthen the community and put an end to racism.
The YMCA of Greater Houston will continue providing support for our African American Resource Network as they provide safe spaces for YMCA team members to process and heal from the trauma they experience from systemic and structural racism. We as an organization will establish a YMCA Equity Innovation Center to provide literature discussions, open forums, listening sessions and training centered on undoing institutional racism and implicit bias. We will actively encourage staff and members to speak up when they see something unjust happening in their community knowing that staying silent could be a matter of life or death. The Y will seek opportunities to collaborate with our public officials, community leaders and partners to combat inequities locally and nationally, while increasing our investment in social justice initiatives and programs that support young leaders as they organize to change our community and the world for the better.
This is my promise to you – I will continue leading the YMCA of Greater Houston to be a cause-driven organization and to be more than just a gym. We are declaring what we believe in and committing to tangible actions to impact the clear issues of structural and systemic racism, implicit bias, and prejudice more meaningfully.
We know that when we work as one, we move people and communities forward. So, I leave you with this: our efforts are to implement lasting and meaningful change within our community and beyond. We are stronger when we are for all. I hope you will join us in this movement.
Stephen Ives, President and CEO, YMCA of Greater Houston
Stephen Ives has more than 30 years of service in the YMCA movement and is recognized as a national leader in innovation, diversity and entrepreneurship as well as for the prevention of child sexual abuse. He also remains committed to the Y’s mission of strengthening the foundations of community to end isolation, fight inequality, inspire youth to thrive, remove limits and reimagine opportunities, and restore hope and well-being.