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.
The YWCA on East Hargett Street is a linchpin for the Southeast Raleigh community and has been for 110 years. On Wednesday, the current board of directors of the YWCA of the Greater Triangle abruptly announced that it was laying off the entire staff — not even paying them for work already done. But is that the end of it? Not clear.
[Update: Outraged YWCA staffers wrote an open letter to the YWCA Board of Directors and released it at 6:30 Friday evening. It's copied below. To put it mildly, they think the board is incompetent ... and then some. And they want the Y to be saved from them.]
It would seem, depending on how deeply the YWCA organization is in debt, that a newly constituted board could do a re-start using the Y building.
The Y's supporters are organizing a candlelight vigil at the Y on Sunday at 5:30 p.m., and a community meeting at the Y on Monday at 6:30 p.m., according to Robyn Burge. The address is 554 E. Hargett St. "The hopes are, of course, we would love to see it it brought back to life," Burge said. "We're just calling for community members to show their love and support."
Burge asked that, for the vigil, folks bring signs, art supplies, flowers, candles — and their memories. She was a volunteer at the Y for three years. Her sister is one of the staffers who was let go; Bridgette Burge, was director of advocacy and community initiatives, including the Y's strong racial reconciliation programs.
While the Y programs are shut down, the Y building remains open so that other organizations with leased space in it can continue to use it, Robyn Burge said.
Five years ago, the YWCA organization sold off its much larger building on Oberlin Road near Cameron Village with the stated intention of beefing up programs at the East Hargett Street Y.
What follows is the open letter from YWCA staffers to the YWCA Board of Directors:
March 2nd, 2012
To the YWCA of the Greater Triangle Board of Directors:
We, the undersigned former staff of the YWCA, write to you with heavy hearts, righteous anger, and a call to action.
The manner in which you terminated programs and staff was unconscionable, incompetent, cruel, disrespectful and unjust.
You gave one day’s notice to our community’s elders in the Golden Oaks program, the after school families, pregnant and parenting teens, Healthy Beginning moms, interns, volunteers, and staff. You did not consult program participants or staff. You have no idea what mayhem and heartache you caused. You committed an act of emotional and psychological violence against the very community we all promised to honor and serve.
You left many seniors without their one reliable hot meal for the day. You robbed them of their daily inspiration and camaraderie. You left parents and guardians scrambling to find childcare for their young ones. You shamed the legacy and name of the YWCA, planted seeds of doubt and suspicion, and pulled the rug out from under thousands of community members.
You forgot that this YWCA really belongs to the members and is accountable to the community, particularly in Southeast Raleigh.
We have called for a community meeting on Monday, March 5th at the YWCA at 6:30 pm. Please join us to hear the community’s concerns, questions and suggestions for how to move forward.
This is what we ask of you, for now:
ς Save our programs.
ς Save our jobs.
ς Pay us what you owe us.
ς No matter what, the YWCA building must be saved and used for the good of the
Southeast Raleigh community.
ς Immediately find a space in Southeast Raleigh for the elders to meet every day. Make
sure they get free transportation and a hot, healthy meal. Apologize to them.
ς Find space for the children in the after-school programs. Find transportation for them.
Find donated snacks for them. Apologize to them and their families.
ς Find programs for pregnant and parenting teens in Wake County and women of color at
risk for low-birth weight and infant mortality. Deliver donated goods to them. Apologize to
ς Apologize to the community for your fiscal and ethical negligence. Make amends.
ς Pay your debts starting with staff salaries.
ς Participate in high-quality training about serving on a non-profit Board of Directors, particularly on fiduciary responsibilities and management and fund development.
ς Get high-quality training on equity and anti-oppression.
ς Take responsibility. Help the community fix this.
We respect you as individuals and honor your humanity, but we’re deeply hurt and disgusted by your behavior.
We ask you to take responsibility and accountability for your decisions.
Many YWCA workers would like to have a private meeting with you very soon. With great sadness and high expectations that you will do what is right, we are,
Here's a Facebook link.
Starting March 26, phone banks will be held at the UUFR on Mondays and Thursdays. And on April 24, as the May 8 primary election date comes close, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. So don't say you didn't have time(s).
And this Saturday night, February 18, there's a benefit concert at the same UUFR location, organized by our friend Beth Padgett. It starts at 8, but suggest you get there early. The recommended donation is $7, but c'mon ...
Here's a bit about it from the UUFR website:
Join us from 8 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, February 18 in UUFR’s Sanctuary for what is guaranteed to be two hours of good music with friends in the cause for equality and dignity. Donations go to the Coalition to Protect NC Families, a group of organizations working to protect NC’s unmarried couples and their families from the many harms of Amendment One.
UUFR's own Interim Minister Don Rollins will open and act as the MC for other musicians, who include Someone’s Sister, the Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus, Rhythmicity, and more, as well as speakers Rev. Jimmy Creech and organizers from Race to the Ballot, the Coalition to Protect NC Families and UUFR’s Task Force to Protect All NC Families.
Gov. Bev Perdue has commissioned an appraisal of the 306-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital tract. It's said to be worth $60 million in the current real estate market, more ($86 million) if the seller is patient. An appraisal is an integral step to make the vision of Dix Park a reality some day, Perdue said.
(Update: If you've never seen the Dix tract, or if you've seen it only from a distance, here's a breakdown of what's there and what the possibilities are from our story in 2006.)
(I'll add that it's time for Raleigh — the city — and Dix Park advocates to put an offer on the table ... and not that $10 million offer that Charles Meeker made awhile ago when he was mayor. I've heard talk in City Hall of a $50 million offer, but $50 million paid at a rate of $1 million a year, which in terms of present value ain't that much. The mental health advocates are right that the Dix tract — originally more than 2,000 acres — was dedicated land for the purpose of helping people with mental illnesses. Some serious money contributed for that purpose is needed to seal this deal and make the Dix dream come true.)
Here's Perdue's statement:
RALEIGH — Gov. Bev Perdue announced today that an appraisal has been received for the Dorothea Dix campus, which has a current estimated value of $60 million and an estimated market value of $86 million. She has directed the N.C. Department of Administration (DOA) to draft a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a tenant representative to assist the State Property Office in eventually moving the 1,300 employees at Dix to cost-effective office space.
This is an integral step toward ultimately converting the Dix campus into a public park.
The proposals will also include possible consolidation of facilities for all N.C. Department of Health and Human Services employees.
“The process will take considerable time to complete, but this is an important step in turning this beautiful downtown property into a public park for the enjoyment of all North Carolinians,” Gov. Perdue said. “Taking a comprehensive look at DHHS’s current and long-term space needs will help us to transition to combined facilities that will help the department more efficiently serve the people of the state.”
The appraisal, conducted by Worthy & Wachtel, Inc., was transmitted today to DOA and may be reviewed online. It states that the 319-acre property’s prospective value, based on a fully rebounded market, is $86 million. Its current market value is $60 million. The values are predicated on the assumption that there are no hazardous materials present on the site that would require a major clean-up.
The State Property Office will begin drafting the RFP immediately with the goal of having it posted by February 24, 2012.
Gov. Perdue emphasized the importance of remembering the original role of the Dix campus in aiding mental health patients, and she reiterated the importance of sustaining the Mental Health Trust Fund.
Margaret Schucker, the disabled woman with Occupy Raleigh who wouldn't give up her seat on the sidewalk on that memorable day of October 27 and was summarily arrested for trespass by the Capitol Police, is a free woman. Scott Holmes, her lawyer, says the Wake County District Attorney's office dropped the charge against Schucker before a scheduled court date this morning.
Schucker's case was first set for December, then postponed to January by the DA's office, then to February. Why was it dropped? Unknown; it wasn't done in open court.
"I'm very pleased," Holmes said, "the District Attorney agreed that dismissing the case is what justice required."
Holmes reported that some other cases from the October 27 incident were rescheduled to April 10. He didn't know exactly how many. Seven others were arrested with Schucker when they sat down with her in a show of support and defiance at Capitol Police demands that she get her "stuff"—her chair—off the street. (A tweet from Occupy Raleigh tells me all seven were reset for April 10.)
In a statement, the ACLU of North Carolina hailed the decision as a victory for Schucker's First Amendment right of free speech and of her rights as a disabled person. She required the chair to exercise her rights, the ACLU said, because of a disabling back condition.
Holmes, an lawyer in the Durham firm of Brock, Payne and Meece, is an ACLU-N.C. Legal Foundation cooperating attorney.
Protect ALL NC Families, the leading organization in the campaign against Amendment One, is out with a brief video starring Clay Aiken, probably North Carolina's most famous openly gay citizen. (Am I overlooking somebody?)
Aiken, who had my vote for "American Idol" when he was up against Ruben Studdard nine years ago (or he would've had my vote if AT&T had installed more phone lines around here), says he loves the state and harbored an ambition to be governor.
He doesn't love discrimination, and says the anti-gay Amendment One, which seeks to ban not just gay marriages but civil unions and other marriage-like contractual arrangements, could have seriously bad if unintended consequences. Like costing some kids their health insurance —
So tomorrow, MoveOn.org is sponsoring "Inside Job" viewings in various locations, one of which is Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough Street. The movie starts at 4:30 p.m. MoveOn is calling this a movie party. I don't think anybody's going to be in a festive mood when it's over, but spring is coming and there may be talk of Occupying ... oh, I don't know, how about Occupying the Democratic National Convention?
You can check out the "Inside Job" trailer at the Sony Classics website.
* I did see Ferguson's first doc, "No End in Sight" (2007), which skewered the American war-industry complex and its nutty invasion of Iraq. "NEIS" was excellent. The reviews for "Inside Job" are even better.
RT @raleighplanning: Raleigh News Update Red Hat Selects Raleigh as its Global Headquarters ow.ly/1gztgj
— Jason Hibbets (@jhibbets) January 6, 2012
p.s. Yes, that's right, it is now possible to embed tweets on a blog.
No chance this technology will be overused, do you think?
Couture for a Cause is back for its 3rd annual edition tomorrow night — Friday — at Marbles Kids Museum. CC2011 is a party and fashion show put on by Activate Good (formerly ME-3), Raleigh's group of unabashed do-gooders. Amber Smith, their founding leader, won an Indy Citizen Award last year. So put this in the shameless plug category if you will: Tickets are $20 if you buy them by midnight tonight, $25 at the door. Good times for a cause.
A cause? The idea is that cool Raleigh-area fashion designers are paired with worthy local nonprofits — then each designer tries for a look that will speak their partners' purpose. For example, last year—per Amber—the designer paired with The Green Chair Project "accessorized" with hats made from lampshades. (Green Chair, you see, is a nonprofit that recycles donated furniture to families in need.)
This year, 18 of our top designers are pitching in for 17 nonprofits (International Focus gets two, apparently). Look here for the list.
The fashion show is slated for 8-10:30 p.m. Doors open at 7:30. A limited-seating dinner starts at 6:30. For all the details, and to buy tickets online, go to the Couture for a Cause website.
The reason why is that Honolulu came in 3rd on BusinessWeek.com's list of Best Cities in the U.S.
Whereas Raleigh came in — exactly! — No. 1, baby.
Curious Hawaiians are sure to be scoping out Raleigh soon to see what we're got (Deep South? Slim's?) that they don't. Get your list ready.