Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Embracing Our Diversity

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.


Denise said...


Thank you for posting your experience at the diversity breakfast. I cut and pasted the pledge - which I took - on a Word doc. I'm going to share it with others.

P.S. Beauteous Boz!

Turquoise Diaries said...

It is beautiful, I would love to translate it to Turkish and post it on my Turkish blog..

Shell Sherree said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Petrea. It's a good way to get out of bed each day. That, and giving thanks for the blessings we have.

pasadenapio said...

I continued to get emotional throughout the day yesterday (and just now while reading this post). It was an inspiring event with remarkable women. I was honored to have so many powerful women bloggers at my table!

altadenahiker said...

What a keynote speaker! I'm not generally one to hear others speechify, but she was brilliant -- I'm with Ann, I thought about her all day.

Virginia said...

Beautifully written as always. Thanks for sharing this event with all of us!

Cafe Observer said...

No doubt, being civil at 7:30 in the evening is a little early for some!

The pledge sounds familiar. Maybe I've seen it somewhere before. And, at least most of you women already have this pledge in your hearts or minds.

So, there are plenty of others on this planet who I would have preferred were reciting this pledge. We should all hear sumthing similar very early in our lives.

Good work by the YWCA, the honoree, and the ladyshutterblogger.

J+P said...

The photo makes me thirsty for change.

Petrea said...

Hi Denise, thanks for that (and the Andorran recipe on your blog). On the back of the program were ten things you can do to eliminate racism. There's something similar on the website.

That would be so cool, Aysegul! I'll watch for it.

Smart, wise, Shell Sherree.

Ann, thanks so much for having us (and thanks for saying "powerful"). It was a great day and I wouldn't have had the chance to go if not for you.

I thought about her, too, Karin. Even she made assumptions, or it sounded like she did (about what the other African Americans were thinking of her at Oxford). To me, that doesn't discredit her but makes her work all the more interesting. We all do it, and the only way not to assume things about each other is to know each other better.

Thank you, V. You too, Cafe. Teaching those ideas in early life is what the honoree, Marge Wyatt, is all about.

J, speaking of change, I neglected to mention the 7th grader, Haley Jones, who read from President Obama's inauguration speech and had us all saying "Yes we can" by the end of it.

Almost Precious said...

Not long ago was an eye opening special on mapping the human DNA. I can't recall if it was on The Discovery Channel or National Geographic Channel, but the in depth study proved that humanity is far more alike than we are different. Our DNA is like Ivory soap...99.9% pure human and almost identical, regardless of color of skin or eyes or hair, regardless of culture, creed, religon or sex. So basically we are all in one big family, we are all brothers and sisters !

Desiree said...

Nice post. Being civil at 7:30 am is my own personal challenge---

TheChieftess said...

Cafe...I agree...would that the pledge be taken by all, throughout the world...

Tamika Farr said...

Thank you for this wonderful article. I am Tamika Farr, the Executive Director of YWCA Pasadena-Foothill Valley. The YWCA Board, staff and volunteers are grateful to the Pasadena community for their ongoing support and for recognizing the importance of our mission: The elimination of racism and the empowerment of women. Please visit our website: ywca-pasadena.org to see what’s new at the YWCA and to get involved!

Petrea said...

Precious: so true.

Desiree: you're civil by 8:30, that much I know.

Chieftess: take it, yes, then live it. At the end of the program we sang "Let There Be Peace on Earth;" the second line is "and let it begin with me."

Hi Tamika, thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. And thanks for a great event yesterday.

Colleen said...

Lovely thoughts, Petrea, and I especially love the photo! It captures all those hotel-meeting-room things we've all had to survive! And yet as you said, what went on yesterday morning far surpassed the usual Hilton conference-room breakfast. A most inspiring morning!

Ms M said...

Great post -- and important to remember each day.