Happy Fourth of July: A Message from President and CEO Loria Yeadon
Last updated: March 30, 2023, at 9:22 a.m. PT
Originally published: March 22, 2023, at 5:00 a.m. PT
Dear Y Community,
What is Freedom? As we observe the July 4th national holiday which historically symbolizes independence, liberty, and justice, at this moment in our nation’s history, it is an appropriate time to reflect on this question and learn what freedom really means, who enjoys it in our country, and who feels it is a part of the American dream deferred.
During a recent Y staff workshop, several Y Black staff were asked if they feel free, and here is the gist of what I learned from their responses:
- Black Americans are not free. I am not incarcerated, but as a Black man, I am targeted, hunted, feared, and therefore systemically oppressed for those reasons alone. I don’t think I’ll ever be free until things drastically change in America.
- I don’t feel free because something as small as my choice of attire (a hoodie) makes me a threat to other people.
- Until I can wear my hair in any way I chose without worrying about getting a job, keeping a job, being promoted, being able to graduate, and being able to participate in sports, I am not free.
- Until Black brothers and sisters can go to the park without being harassed or the police being called for no reason until I can get on an elevator without being feared until I can go to a store to shop without being followed like a suspected thief, and until I can get a loan like anyone else with my qualifications, I am not free.
These responses are stark reminders of our opportunity to listen and learn from the most marginalized among us in our community and the work to be done to achieve freedom for all. I am also reminded of the words of Nelson Mandela, “there is no such thing as part freedom,” and, “for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” This holiday weekend let’s use this time to reflect on and commit to achieving freedom, justice, and equity for all.
As you reflect on the meaning of freedom and observe July 4th with friends and family, please take all precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even as we honor our individual liberties, we should acknowledge that we are more connected than ever and our health choices affect one another. Let’s follow the protocols for each other’s sake and do all that we can to slow the spread.
Loria B. Yeadon
President & CEO, YMCA of Greater Seattle