by Bob Geary
Last night's vigil (too windy for candles) produced an outpouring of stories about the importance of the YWCA to women, especially women of color, and to children and teens in Raleigh. About 60 people turned out in support of keeping the YW open — here's some background — but there were no specifics about how that can or should be done.
Tonight's community meeting, starting at 6:30, may start to fill in some of the details. No one on the board of directors attended the vigil. Perhaps one or more will be there this evening to draw the financial picture and detail the debts so that people can go to work on a reorganization and fundraising plan.
Oh, and a plan to pay the staff for work they'd done before they were shown the door — sans pay — on Wednesday. They were shown the door, but apparently a lot of them stayed to sort out the mess the board left behind with the older women and child-care clients scrambling to find other programs.
City officials have been invited to be there tonight, including Mayor Nancy McFarlane.
The meeting will be in the auditorium at the YW, 554 E. Hargett St.
I didn't know it, but before the YW on E. Hargett Street was built, the old YW was on E. Davie Street. The Raleigh YW organization dates from 1911, and originally there was "the black YW" on the east side of Raleigh and the "white YW" on the west side. The two merged in the '60s, and since then the YWCA of the Greater Triangle has made it a top priority to battle racism and empower women to be on the font lines of the fight.
Ruby Thompson, 80, said she remembers the earlier YW and depends on the new one. "This has been great for us," she told the group last night, "so great I wanted to cry. Y'all, we do need this place. We need it bad."
A former board member, Yvonne Holley, said she and others in the community are on the phone looking for information and figuring out what to do. "Hopefully, we can save it and make it better than it was before," Holley said.
Rukiya Dillahunt, a retired school vice principal and a leader in Black Workers for Justice, said the YWCA has played many roles for women like her over the years. "We learned arts and crafts. We learned how to be ladies. Most important of all, we learned our history."
Patty Williams, one of the leaders of the Great Schools in Wake coalition — the YWCA was among the very first to be in the coalition defending diversity in the schools after the '09 school board elections — had a good suggestion. The YWCA annually honors women in the Raleigh area for their community leadership. Hundreds of women, many of them well-heeled (in the money way :) have been so honored.
"Smart minds," Williams called them. Time for them to use their smarts to honor the YWCA, Williams said.