By Barney Blakeney
At 110 years old, the YWCA of Greater Charleston is doing well. This year marked its 110th anniversary of its 1907 founding. The year has been highlighted with various activities, says Executive Director, LaVanda Brown. The YWCA has a clear path to the future as it respects and honors its past, she says.
Founded to serve the black community by a group of black women of the YWCA Women’s Auxiliary, the “Coming Street Y,” located at 118 Coming Street, would become known to generations of residents. Between 1918-1920 it became affiliated with the Central YWCA on Society Street and functioned as such until 1969. During those years, the YWCA was at the forefront of most social movements from voting rights and civil rights to pay equity and violence prevention. In 1967 racism led the Central YWCA to disaffiliate with the national organization. The George Street YWCA, as it was called, became the Christian Family Y. Today the YWCA of Greater Charleston is one of only three YWCA’s in the state. That legacy is reflected by some of the activities that mark its 110 year anniversary.
In January it launched another initiative in its ongoing mission “Eliminating Racism. Empowering Women.” All of the Y’s initiatives are geared toward that mission, Brown said. For example, the Racial Equity Institute is nationally recognized for helping communities address institutional racism, is a key component of the mission. To date four sessions have been conducted which encompasses training and caucuses for grassroots community leaders and organizers. Over 100 individuals have participated, Brown said. A fifth session will be offered October 23-24.
“Girls Who Code” is an exciting initiative for middle and high school girls that offers STEM training and is designed to help girls secure opportunities in technical fields. The “Backpacks to Briefcases” initiative is designed to offer career advancement, networking opportunities and entrepreneurial training to women under 40. Both initiatives are expected to be expanded next year.
Brown says those initiatives and others that have been ongoing such as the annual Martin L. King, Jr. Celebration and the “Stand Against Racism” continue to enjoy wide support and participation. “I’m really excited about the programs that have been established and about our future,” she said. “Our predecessors set a high standard and our history has given us a great foundation on which to build.”
Visit http://www.ywca-charlestonsc.org/ for more about the 110 year anniversary or call (843) 722-1644.