Frank X. Shaw Introduces New Equity & Justice Center of Excellence

Last updated: October 19, 2020, at 9:05 a.m. PT

Originally published: October 5, 2020, at 10:53 a.m. PT

Frank X. Shaw, Chair, YMCA of Greater Seattle Board of Directors

What does it take to shift perspective, especially on difficult topics? For me, it was a conversation with a Black co-worker at Microsoft, who told me about getting pulled over (again) for no reason (again), and when he asked the police officer why he was being stopped while other people weren't instructed to, "Watch your tone of voice." He told me this while we were waiting to go into a meeting, and I casually said to him, "Wow ... if that happened to me, I would have come unglued." He looked at me, and replied, "If I came unglued, I'd be dead."

This was in 2015, before George Floyd, before Breonna Taylor, before Jacob Blake, or Philando Castille and countless others, locally and nationally, and yet this was his lived experience and fear, laid out in a single comparison ... if he behaved like me, he'd be dead. At this moment, my perspective shifted.

And when perspective shifts, action should follow. Often, that action starts with learning and reflection, and then moves to more concrete steps, to drive more change, and possibly perspective shift in others. For me, understanding the relative privilege I have was the start and my relationship with the Y team has helped me learn how to activate that privilege, to create a better community around me. It has also opened my eyes to how much more work lies ahead.

As the Board Chair for the YMCA of Greater Seattle, I, and my fellow board members realize that we have an imperative to go beyond our words and well wishes. We must take action now.

So, today the YMCA of Greater Seattle is publicly announcing its pledge to become an anti-racist organization and the establishment of a new Equity and Justice Center of Excellence.

For the Board, action means coming together in active support of the Y's efforts to create a better community. A community that is fair, just, and truly is for all. Choosing such a bold pledge was not a decision we took lightly, but tough decisions reveal true character, and this pledge is certainly in line with that of the Y. Therefore, we want to express our collective support for this urgent mission, and for President and CEO Loria Yeadon, as she leads this work, made especially challenging amid the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and an economic recession. We stand with the Y.

In support, it is our honor and privilege to pledge $1M, as the anchor of a $10 million goal, to seed the initial investment in our vision of this new Center to enable equity innovation and proliferation of learning, to enhance youth development and health curricula, build systems and talent capacity, develop future equity leaders, and advance individual and community healing.

Each of us has had moments when the unknown becomes known, or the reverse. At these moments, we are faced with a choice — hold on to what we believe, or flex, listen, learn, grow. The more challenging the topic, the easier it is to dig in. I, a privileged white man, am looking to grow. The YMCA, with all its history, its flaws, its strengths, is looking to grow.

I invite you to join us. Begin your own journey towards anti-racism, get more engaged with your local Y's equity and justice work, consider making a gift, and share the bold steps the Y is taking with your personal networks.

Let's grow and learn together.

Frank X. Shaw, Chair
YMCA of Greater Seattle
Board of Directors