For more than 160 years, the YWCA has been at the center of the fight for social justice and equality, aiding in the quest for civil rights, women empowerment, equal pay, affordable housing, violence prevention and health care.

“Eliminating racism, empowering women,” is the mission of YWCA, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. The leaders and donors who have made significant contributions with their time, money and efforts will be honored at the 18th annual Women for Racial Justice Breakfast: Strong Foundation, Stronger Futures at 9 a.m. Monday, October 19.

In past years, around 300 people gathered at the Pasadena Hilton. However, due to COVID-19, it had to transition to a virtual gathering. KTLA 5 evening news anchor, Cher Calvin, will emcee the online celebration.

The in-person event also used to have pop-up shops like Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade clothing company, as well as a “bookmark” list of books with a corresponding display at the Pasadena Public Library, according to YWCA Pasadena Board Member Deborah Kinley.

Since that can’t happen this year, the YWCA has created a virtual bookmark, which provides attendees with a “racial justice reading list” consisting of authors like Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou and Angela Y. Davis.

Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA, will be the event’s keynote speaker. Abdullah, who is also a professor of Pan-African studies at Cal State LA, has been a significant voice in the fight against systemic racism. Kinley said she anticipates Abdullah will offer an inspiring, riveting speech about the current racial unrest in the country.

Five women will be presented with the 2020 Racial Justice Award for an Individual: Judy Brown, Johari DeWitt-Rogers, Edith Grady, Denise Jones and Margaret Leong Checca. Together, these women have provided over 100 years of service to the YWCA Pasadena and have been integral to the creation and continuation of the breakfast event.

An In Memoriam Racial Justice award will be presented posthumously to Rebecca Medina for her activism efforts. Until her death this year, Medina was a community leader and a supporter of the Pasadena YWCA. She also served as vice chairwoman of the Commission for the Status of Women as well as chairwoman of the Racial Justice Committee and as a YWCA board member.

Kaiser Permanente will be presented with the 2020 Racial Justice Award for a Corporation “for its dedication to the support of community health.”

The organizers hope to raise $50,000 through the breakfast. As of September 25, the organization received $45,000 in donations, according to Kinley. There will be opportunities to donate during the online event, she added.

The YWCA Pasadena serves the needs of the local underserved girls, ages 10 through 15, by providing after school programs. The programs used to focus on the northwest of Pasadena, where girls would be picked up after school and brought to the YWCA location, Kinley said. However, since the pandemic, “we’ve had to think of some different things.”

As of now, “we’ve gone virtual,” Kinley said. More than 120 girls are signed up for the after-school programs, which educate the girls in STEM as well as arts and literature writing, she said.

“We are trying to empower our girls to eliminate racism and go on and be the best that they can be,” Kinley said, adding that many have gone off to college and created a success story for themselves.

The YWCA also used to offer computer classes for those living at Villa Gardens Los Angeles Continuing Care Retirement Community, Kinley said.

During the past few years, however, the Pasadena YWCA had to cut back and is now collaborating with the Glendale YWCA. The two YWCAs work together in part to offer a summer program called Camp Rosie, Kinley said, adding that the name pays tribute to Rosie the Riveter, a World War II-era feminist icon.

Now, not only are Pasadena girls served by its programs, but girls in surrounding areas like Glendale, Arcadia and Burbank are being embraced and educated, Kinley said.


Women for Racial Justice Breakfast: Strong Foundation, Stronger Futures

9 a.m. Monday, October 19

$65 for individuals; $35 for young professionals younger than 35

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