Folks said 7:30 was a little early--not to be out of bed, necessarily--but to be showered, dressed and out in public being civil on a Monday. But none of us would have missed it for anything.
It was the Pasadena YWCA's Women for Racial Justice Breakfast, chaired by Ellen Portantino, emceed by NBC's Beverly White and put together (obviously) by a lot of unsung but dedicated people. I was one of the lucky women invited to share a table with my friend and Pasadena's Public Information Officer, Ann Erdman. Did you know the YWCA's whole mission is "Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women"? And the YWCA in Pasadena is huge.
I knew I'd enjoy it. I even knew I'd be inspired. But I didn't know how much.
This year's recipient of the YWCA Racial Justice Award was Marge Wyatt, a Pasadena activist for more than 50 years. Sandra Davis Houston gave Wyatt a rousing introduction, saying there's no way we can know how many lives she influenced over the years. Wyatt has fought for equality in many ways: by writing about it, by standing up for desegregation, as the founder and former board president of Child Care Information Service and as an active presence on the PTA. When asked what his mother did, one of her sons once said, "She goes to meetings." She has spent the better part of 50 years going to meetings to make Pasadena a better place for people of every heritage.
Dr. Joy DeGruy, yesterday's keynote speaker, holds more degrees than a hot day in Pasadena. Her speech was funny and poignant. Most interesting to me, she challenged my assumptions and those of everyone else in the room, from the responses I heard. She spoke for about half an hour but I could have listened to her all day. If she writes like she talks then her book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Enduring Legacy of Injury and Healing, promises to be a hell of a read.
All thousand or so of us took a Racial Justice Pledge together yesterday morning. You can take it, too.
I believe that every person has worth as an individual.
I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect.
I believe that every thought and every act of prejudice of all kinds is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others.
Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate prejudice from my thoughts and actions.
I will discourage prejudice by others at every opportunity.
I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.
Other posts about the event: An Inch At A Time, Hometown Pasadena
If you see other posts about it, let me know and I'll link to them here.
If you think about this pledge, it's not an easy thing to do. But let's all take a good shot at it, shall we? And when we mess up, let's keep trying. That's what Marge Wyatt did, and she's succeeded in making the world a better place.