Tomorrow we celebrate our country’s independence, a holiday that generally involves fireworks, hot dogs, parades and all kinds of summer revelry. After 247 years, I’m all for a wide array of ways to celebrate this nation’s ongoing experiment in democracy, for we can never take it for granted.
During this past month of June, we celebrated two other incredible examples of American independence and individuality. At the Y, we took time to recognize and celebrate the newly designated national Juneteenth holiday as well as PRIDE month. Events and displays happened across Y family centers and program sites, with the goal of both furthering the community’s understanding of each, as well as celebrating those members of the Y community who are African American or who identify as LGBTQ+. At the Y, we believe that diversity is a strength and that inclusion makes us stronger and better as a community.
The pictures below capture some of the smiles and fun from both the Juneteenth community celebration at the Randallstown Y Swim Center and the Y community’s participation in the annual Annapolis Pride Parade.
Tawanda Ford, the Membership Sales Manager at the Randallstown Y Swim Center, does a wonderful job organizing and promoting their Juneteenth celebration. Here’s what she says about it:
“Juneteenth at the Y celebrates African American hope, freedom and achievement and we love welcoming everyone in our community to learn, connect and have fun.”
Zalanka Jones Anderson, the Y’s Senior Director of Teen Experience, leads our LGBTQ+ associate resource group, and describes the benefit of the Y’s celebrations of PRIDE month:
“What was really cool about our PRIDE celebrations is that it lets people know that the Y is inclusive and we are for all. The Y space is a space for everybody!”
Of course, one can’t be naïve about promoting diversity and inclusion at Y. While the vast majority of the Y community wonderfully embraces those values, there are still some in the broader community that prefer that we ignore our country’s history and shove certain people to the margins of society. In the kind of large, diverse and pluralistic society we live in, it’s not possible to “please all of the people all of the time.” In the end, that’s not really the goal. Our goal at the Y is to work towards a society built on mutual respect, an ability to celebrate both our differences and our shared humanity, and a belief that people should be able to live their lives comfortable as their authentic selves.
So as we celebrate our independence as a nation tomorrow, let us celebrate and reflect upon the importance of the vision we’ve set out in our strategic plan:
“The Y will build a more inclusive and connected Central Maryland community in which membership creates a sense of belonging, engagement, empathy, health, and well-being for all. This inclusion and connection will impact people and families more deeply across all of the Y’s points of access.”
Whoever you are, the Y is here for you. Happy 4th!
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland