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Moving Beyond Words by Taking Action

Pictured left to right: Janet Roach, WVEC, Master of Ceremonies; Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, NSU Professor, Inaugural Laura E. Titus Transformational Community Leader Award; Natalie Bowen, Senior, Great Bridge High School, Scholarship Award; Tony V. Harold Sr.; Affinity Capital Fund, Chainbreaker Award; Toiya Sosa, Riverside Health System, Individual Changemaker Award; Angel Barnhill, Community Engagement Consultant, representing Sentara, Corporate/Nonprofit Leader Award; Michelle Ellis Young, CEO, YWCA South Hampton Roads; and Dr. Ruth Jones Nichols, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Moving Beyond Words by Taking Action

The YWCA of South Hampton Roads held a two-day conference focused on finding and putting solutions in place that work toward eliminating racism and social injustice.

The second annual Racial Equity and Social Transformation (REST) Conference was held June 15-16 at G.W.C. Brown Memorial Hall on the campus of Norfolk State University, which was a sponsor through the Center for African American Public Policy.

Titled Move Beyond, YWCA Chief Executive Officer Michelle Ellis Young said the aim of the conference is to move beyond words into action. She said that the YWCA has designed its programs and services to increase awareness, build coalitions, and reverse local and national inequities in areas such as gender-based violence, health, employment, housing and voting. “This conference is for all of us to lean in fully to the systems that have long perpetuated stark and persistent biases and disparities in wealth, mental and financial well-being of women and people of color. R.E.S.T. is our opportunity to learn and grow for the good of humanity,” Ellis Young said in her conference welcome letter.

Keynote speaker Dr. Ruth Jones Nichols, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentKeynote speaker Dr. Ruth Jones Nichols, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, provided an illustration to the audience of how a law passed decades ago still impacts our present and is working to shape the future. Jones Nichols explained that redlining — the practice of denying services such as mortgages, loans and insurance to residents of specific neighborhoods and communities, often on the basis of race — continues to affect housing values today even though it was outlawed in 1968.

“Policies impact what happens in our communities,” she said. “And I have to believe that’s why the theme of today’s conference is Move Beyond.” Jones Nichols said that HUD is taking on some of these issues to address persistent racial inequalities. “We have multiple efforts that demonstrate our commitment to moving beyond words to action and policy change,” Jones Nichols said.

Ellis Young summed up why the conference, the YWCA and the conference participants are engaged in this effort.

“We are leaning into the fullness of our mission unapologetically, not because it’s a political thing to do. It’s because it’s a humanitarian thing to do.”

2023 R.E.S.T. Conference-Moving Beyond 2023 - flickr photo gallery