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On June 30, YMCA African American CEOs hosted a virtual town hall to help people unlearn systemic racism. This is Part Two of our top takeaways series from this event.

A key part of the Unlearning Systemic Racism virtual town hall was a CEO panel discussion made up of Lauren Koontz, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta; Steve Tarver, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Louisville; and Glen Gunderson, the president and CEO of the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities.

Loria Yeadon, the moderator of the panel, and the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Seattle, said assembling this panel of white CEOs was the right thing to do despite the risk in order to find a path forward and to make progress together.

“To make progress, this group committed to being vulnerable, open, honest and authentic in our discussion,” said Yeadon. “We’re not seeking perfection or precision.”

The panelists discussed many topics, one being what they are implementing at their YMCAs to help make a difference in social equality. One thing Tarver is doing at the Louisville Y is introducing three training sessions that will be a condition of employment.

The three training sessions will focus on equity, racism and trauma. They are intended to be primers for the Y to get all staff on a common foundational level academically. Tarver said this will allow all Louisville Y employees to have a common language and additional dialogue as they proceed.

Another key discussion point Yeadon brought to the panel was asking if they felt their facilities were an anti-racist organization. Koontz responded it is an aspiration, but there has been a lot of denial surrounding the topic.

“There’s been so much denial because there’s been so much discomfort in having really difficult discussions and acknowledging your own privilege,” said Koontz. “I tell my kids all the time I was born on second base and I did not hit a double. I was just born there, and I know that.”

Koontz said having privilege means having a responsibility to not just coast through life, but rather create opportunities and level the playing field as it pertains to equity. “No, we are not an anti-racist organization — yet, we are on a journey,” she said. “But we have to commit and hold each other accountable as we are on this journey together.”

Gunderson answered the same question by saying the Twin Cities Y is nowhere near where it needs to be, but this is the time to make change within the Y and out in their community. For him, that means looking at every single systemic aspect of operating a Y.

“I think our team members need to see themselves in the future of the Y,” said Gunderson. “And right now, far too few of our people of color see themselves in a real influential position — in a position to lead in a transformational way. That has to change, and that’s something we are focusing on.”

You can watch and learn more about the Unlearning Systemic Racism virtual town hall, here.

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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