Evanston residents take a Stand Against Racism with YWCA


Olivia Alexander/The Daily Northwestern

Community members, including children, stand along Ridge Avenue during the annual YWCA Stand Against Racism event.

Olivia Alexander, In Focus Editor

Crowds of Evanston residents lined Ridge Avenue Thursday morning for YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s annual Stand Against Racism campaign. 

Starting at 10:30 a.m., community members holding signs with antiracist messages stood along the Ridge Avenue sidewalk from the YWCA building at 1215 Church St. to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church at 1509 Ridge Ave. After the 15-minute stand, YWCA Evanston/North Shore held a virtual keynote speech given by human rights activist and Smith College Prof. Loretta Ross. 

Stand Against Racism brings together community members who are working for racial justice, ultimately raising awareness of structural racism, according to the YWCA Evanston/North Shore website. The branch held its first Stand Against Racism in 2010. 

Tiffany McDowell, YWCA Evanston/ North Shore’s equity institute director, said she was excited to see  the event unfold in person for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. 

“We’ve been isolated and haven’t really been able to see our community and see the visibility that people appreciate and expect,” McDowell said.

An orange sign with black letters reads “eliminating racism, empowering women YWCA Evanston/ North Shore.”
The Evanston/North Shore YWCA sign at 1215 Church St. During the Stand Against Racism, YWCA staff stood outside the building facing the street. (Olivia Alexander/The Daily Northwestern)

The first Stand Against Racism took place at YWCA Trenton and YWCA Princeton in 2007. In 2010, the event spread to 80 YWCAs across the country, including the Evanston/North Shore branch. 

This year, the event’s national theme is “We Can’t Wait: Equity and Justice Now!” On a local level, McDowell said this means ensuring the community knows that everyone has a role in eliminating racism and empowering women. 

YWCA also asks participants to take the Stand Against Racism Pledge after the event. The pledge includes examining one’s complicity in systems of oppression, actively supporting policy solutions that promote racial equity and challenging friends and family members to do the same.

Members of several community organizations, including students and staff from the Roycemore School, attended the event. 

Roycemore School Director of Marketing and Communications Morgan Graff said the school has participated in the event for at least ten years. Roycemore students stood along the street with colorful signs, waving and cheering at cars honking in support from Ridge Avenue.

Evanston resident Sarah Petersen, a District 65 parent who has  attended the event for several years, said she’s excited to see local educational leaders take action against racism. 

“I really support the leadership of (Superintendent Devon Horton) and the board, who (are) really making positive strides with the 5th Ward school and closing the achievement (and) opportunity gaps,” Petersen said. 

As a longtime attendee of the event, Petersen said she always finds it uplifting to be present with young people, as well as with the adults she sees year after year. 

During the keynote, Ross spoke about creating a “calling-in” culture instead of “calling out” culture.

“Most calling out is driven when people are publicly using their knowledge as a weapon against each other, or trying to banish people because they don’t think they’re ‘woke’ enough,” Ross said. “If you think that you’re in a ‘woke’ competition, all it proves is that you’re not as ‘woke’ as you think you are because there is no competition for consciousness.” 

Rather than calling someone out, she told her audience it’s better to say to someone, “That’s an interesting perspective. Tell me more.” 

YWCA Evanston/North Shore Vice President of Marketing and Communications Erin Venable said seeing people stand on Ridge Avenue gave her a renewed sense of hope for the work the organization is doing. 

She said the event served as a tool for community collaboration and conversation.

“The 15-20 minutes on Ridge is amazing, but it’s beyond that,” Venable said. “It’s all the conversations that take place before, during and most importantly, after.” 

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