YWCA tackles racism with It’s Time to Talk forum

On Monday, Feb. 22 the YWCA Greater Cleveland will continue one part of its mission – eliminating racism – at its second annual It's Time to Talk: Forum on Race at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. The point behind the forum is to have an open and frank discussion about race and racism in Cleveland.

“Race is a difficult thing to talk about,” says Heather Steranka-Petit, the YWCA's It’s Time to Talk program director. “We work very hard to create a safe space to talk and be heard and share your thoughts on race and racism.”
 
The luncheon event will include table conversations led by trained facilitators and customized group discussions. “We have 45 to 50 facilitators we have trained here on-site,” says Steranka-Petit. “We have activities to create a sense of safety. It takes time. We’re not asking you when you first walk in the door ‘what’s your perspective on race?’”


 
Part of the conversation will be fueled by the YWCA’s essay contest. Those interested can submit an essay around “Why is an open and honest discussion about race important to you and your community?” Winners will receive a free ticket to It’s Time to Talk. Deadline for entries is this Friday, Feb. 12 at midnight.

Keynote speaker Bernie Moreno, president and CEO of Bernie Moreno Companies, will share his success story in the automotive industry, as well as the challenges he faced along the way as an immigrant from Bogota, Columbia.
 
The work does not end when the event is over, however. Steranka-Petit says it’s her job to follow up with participants after It’s Time to Talk and continue the discussion. “Yes, it’s a big event, but it’s a starting point,” she explains. “This gives people the opportunity to participate.”
 
The idea for It’s Time to Talk came about in 2014 after YWCA Greater Cleveland officials determined they weren't doing enough to foster the organization's mission to eliminate racism. Chief operating officer Sadie Winlock witnessed a similar program in Minneapolis and brought the concept to Cleveland.
 
Last year the event garnered nearly 300 participants despite a snowstorm. This year, Rebecca Calkin, the Cleveland YWCA’s marketing and communications coordinator, says they are hoping to have more than 400 attendees.
 
“We would love people from all walks of life,” Calkin says. “Anyone is welcome.”
 
It’s Time to Talk will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person or $500 for a group of five and include lunch.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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