Each year, the YWCA designates the last Friday of April to represent the Stand Against Racism movement. This April, the YWCA Bergen County has made strides to eliminate racism through our mission based initiatives and programming; raising the awareness that the struggle for racial equality still exists today.
On April 25th, 2014, the Youth Services (Before and After School) Program held their “Stand” by participating in a dialogue about diversity, creating superhero masks, taking a pledge against racism, and collecting donations to support the initiative. The YWCA Bergen County also held a training presentation to staff members on cultural competency in the workplace and the community.
On April 28th, 2014 the YWCA Bergen County staff made contributions toward the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument Committee, raising funds toward the erection of a bronze Martin Luther King Jr. Monument on the grounds of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Hackensack campus.
On April 29th, 2014, the YWCA Bergen County held it’s 1st Annual Racial Justice Award to honor Ms. Theodora Lacey and the Bergen/Passaic Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women for their leadership and work to eliminate racism and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all people.
Reverend Dr. Edna Dismus, racial justice advocate, shares her experience in the 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was established. Reverend Dr. Dismus is a member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument Committee as well as the planning committee for the YWCA Bergen County’s Stand Against Racism.
“We have been fighting for civil rights from the time our ancestors were in slavery. There has been insurgents, sit-ins, boycotts, etc. As a result of these protests, there has been lynching, castrations, loss of employment, jail, beatings, to name a few. Many brave people such as Rosa Parks, as well as many students, men, women, and children have put their lives on the line for justice. Others, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and Medgar Evers have been murdered; all to ensure that America was held to the proclamation that “all people are created equal.”
In 2013, we celebrated 150 years since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 year since the March on Washington. This year, 2014, is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act by President Lyndon Johnson.
The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion and national origin as well as prohibiting discrimination in public facilities, government, and employment. With the Civil Rights Act, Jim Crow was abolished and it became illegal to segregate races in schools, housing, and hiring.
Since that time, even with awareness raised and all of the laws enacted, racism still exists. The nation can enact and change the law, but that does not ensure or change the hearts of people. An example of this comes to us in the news today. Too often, we hear of news that someone is making racial and offensive remarks. When this occurs, I think of all the people who will condemn the offender, even when they themselves may use their own form of intolerant remarks within their lives.
When I applied to seminary, I was told that I could not take the full amount of credits because my undergraduate and graduate degrees were in the field of science. After I completed my interview with the admission committee, I walked and conversed with a couple of students on the admission committee. One of the students, who was Caucasian, said that her undergraduate degree was in physics. I asked how many credits she had taken her first semester and she stated that she had taken the required amount. That incident occurred in 1985, over 20 years after the Civil Rights Act was instated.
The incidence of racism in my life continued as I was appointed as a pastor. There were those who left the church because of my race and staff of the parsonage who refused the work required because of my race.
The prevalence of racism still exists in many forms to this day. For this reason, we must continue our crusade for justice. We cannot give up! I pray that one day our world will understand that we are all created equal and treat each other with only respect and kindness.”