21-Day Challenge Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge



Before you get started, if you haven’t done so already, please fill out this pre-event survey to set your intentions and share your goals for the challenge with us. You can also join our Facebook group
where participants can continue the conversation in a safe space. We also encourage you to refer to the Aspen Institute’s structural racism glossary for key terms and definitions that will come up in the challenge.

Participating with a group? Check out this toolkit for further engagement ideas throughout the challenge.

We want to thank Food Solutions New England for inspiring this challenge. They were the first to adapt an exercise from Dr. Eddie Moore and Debby Irving’s book into the interactive 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge, which they launched in 2014. We also want to thank our sisters at YWCA of Cleveland for sharing the 21 Day Challenge with us!


OPTION 1: Watch this video that explains that while race and racism have a real and significant impact on our lives, race is a social construct and one that has changed over time. None of the broad categories that come to mind when we talk about race can capture an individual’s unique story. For more information, read this article on how science and genetics are reshaping our understanding of race.

OPTION 2: Read this article defining Anti Racism and why the term is so powerful. If you are ready for a deep dive, you can listen to the podcast featuring historian Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to be An Antiracist.

OPTION 3: Watch this video about the difference between being non-racist and anti-racist. YWCA's 21 Day Challenge will encourage you and give you tools to be an anti-racist because it doesn't require that you always know the right thing to say or do in any given situation. It asks that you take action and work against racism wherever you find it including, and perhaps most especially, in yourself.


2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees and protects women's constitutional right to vote.

However, the fight for women's suffrage was not as straightforward as you might think. Today we are going to examine the intersection of race and gender and how this played out during the fight for the 19th Amendment. Black women were marginalized in the movement and their contributions sidelined by history. Today we need to look back at these pioneering leaders and how they laid the groundwork for universal suffrage and the civil rights movement.

In addition to taking on one or all of the challenges below, consider adding Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All to your fall reading list.


OPTION 1: Read this article about the Black suffragists who fought for the vote, while fighting racist backlash from the movement's white leadership, many of whom did not believe that any Black person should have the right to vote before white women.

OPTION 2: Read about five amazing women of color who bravely fought for the abolition of slavery, the rights of women, and civil rights in the United States. They pioneered the idea of intersectionality more than a century before the term would be officially coined in 1989.

OPTION 3: Watch this video about the untold stories of Black women in the Suffrage Movement. This video encourages us to do more to honor and remember the Black women who bravely fought for universal suffrage.


The State of Tennessee played a crucial role in ratifying the 19th Amendment by earning the distinction as the 36th and final state needed to make women's suffrage the law of the land. Take 30 minutes to listen to this podcast and learn how race played a role in Tennessee’s women’s suffrage movement.


2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 15th Amendment, which extended voting rights to all American men "regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Today, we are looking at the history of voter suppression and how people of color were systemically kept from the ballot box and the challenges they had to overcome to exercise their right to vote, far after the 15th Amendment was ratified. This will provide much-needed context for tomorrow's challenge where we will be showing how voter suppression has changed over time and how it is disenfranchising marginalized communities today.


OPTION 1: From the 1890’s to the 1960’s literacy tests were designed to disenfranchise people of color from voting (white men were exempt). Print out and try to complete this test. Be sure to set a timer before you start, you would have been given 10 minutes to finish.

OPTION 2: View this interactive timeline of the history of the Voting Rights Act and see how access to the vote was expanded and restricted over time.

OPTION 3: Read this article highlighting the role that the Voting Rights Act played in protecting Asian Americans' voting rights. Until 1952, federal policy barred immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and having access to the vote.


On day 3, you learned about voter suppression and its impact on American history and people of color. Today, we are going to learn how voter suppression continues to impact our democracy and disenfranchise marginalized groups. With 2020 being a significant election year, it is important that we recognize the barriers to voting that many people still face and work to eliminate those barriers, so that our representatives and laws reflect our increasingly diverse country.


OPTION 1: On June 23, the state of Kentucky held its primary election. Read this article about what the experience was like for many who were trying to cast their vote.

OPTION 2: Read this article on the systemic barriers to voting that Native Americans face and what steps are being taken to protect the suffrage of Indigenous people today.

OPTION 3: 150 years after the 15th Amendment was passed, barriers to voting still remain. Learn about how social media, gerrymandering, access to polling places and other strategies have all been used to limit access to the ballot box.


Watch YWCA Nashville and Middle Tennessee's webinar titled Stand Against Racism - Voting in a Time of Crisis.. Experts from multiple organizations share their personal experiences and other helpful information about disenfranchisement, voter restoration, and absentee voting in Tennessee.


Every 10 years the Federal Government undertakes the important task of counting every person living in the United States. Today, you are going to learn about the census’ history, why people of color are routinely undercounted, and how this seemingly old fashioned program impacts the lives of every American without most of us even realizing it.

Before you begin, click HERE to see a map of the census response rate for your neighborhood. Be sure to make a note of any observations you have.

This April, in partnership with YWCA USA and other local organizations, YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley participated in Stand Against Racism virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stand Against Racism looks to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our community.

This year's theme centered on the importance of civic engagement and census participation for communities of color. Listen HERE to the words of our staff, friends, and partners pledging to take the 2020 census and Stand Against Racism.


OPTION 1: At the end of May, 60.2% of Tennesseans had participated in the 2020 census. That response rate is almost a 16% point decrease from the 2010 census. Read more about the response rates across the state, and encourage your friends, neighbors and co-workers to complete the census!

OPTION 2: Watch this video about the challenges facing the 2020 census and how failing to accurately count the population would threaten the integrity of the country’s most authoritative dataset that drives public policy.

OPTION 3: Listen to YWCA USA's Organize Your Butterflies podcast about their YWomenCount campaign to encourage everyone to participate in the 2020 census.


Take 20 minutes and listen to this interview from Tennessee Voices with Attorney Raquel Oluyemo about the importance of the 2020 census, stories from DACA recipients and her personal experience with racism.



Welcome to week two of the 21 Day Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge 2020. This week we will discuss the history and impact of inequity within our education systems. Over 65 years ago, the landmark ruling in the Brown vs. Board of Education declared racial segregation unconstitutional, yet today we see our schools continue to be just as segregated, if not more than in 1954. The result of this continued segregation has perpetuated a lasting negative effect on children and communities of color. Today we will explore that history and its continued and renewed impact on our education system.

Clinton, Tennessee played a key role in the start of the Civil Rights movement with the “Clinton 12.” Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) that segregation was inherently unequal, twelve Black students registered without incident for Clinton High School. In the weekend following this, crowds of white pro-segregationists gathered to rally in protest. Even still, the “Clinton 12” made history by walking to school as the first students to desegregate a public high school in Tennessee and the first to do so in any southern state. We encourage you to check out the Green McAdoo Center in Clinton.

Watch this four minute video from the National Education Association about the Clinton 12.


OPTION 1: Districts can draw school zones to make classrooms more or less racially segregated. Read this quick article and find your school district to see how well it's doing.

OPTION 2: Read this article on how busing within school districts was implemented as a way to break segregation’s stranglehold within the education system and its impact on generations of students. Find out how in 2020, we find our schools continue to be segregated.

OPTION 3: Read this quick piece to better understand how America has used schools as a weapon against Indigenous People. From years of coercive assimilation and historical trauma, generations of children find themselves suffering with subpar education outcomes.

OPTION 4: As the child population becomes “majority-minority,” racial segregation remains high, income segregation among families with children increases, and the political and policy landscape undergoes momentous change, it s a crucial time to consider the consequences of segregation for children’s opportunity and wellbeing. Read this study presented at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies in April 2017.


If you’ve ever changed schools in the middle of the year, you may be able to recall minor differences in curriculum between districts. However, imagine moving from a predominately white high school in Tennessee, to a more diverse school in say California, you may not think much about the vast ways in which the exact same material can vary depending on a pupil’s school, school district and instructional materials. Today, we will examine how textbooks, authors and state legislation, or collectively “what we teach,” impacts society's world view and understanding of history.

Before reading today's material, create a quick list of five books that you remember reading in high school or before. Keep these in the back of your mind as you move through today's content. After reading the content, take a look at the authors of the books on your list and answer the following questions:

1. Is there any racial/ethnic diversity?

2. How did the "canon" affect your viewpoint as a young pupil?

Now create a list of 5 books you would add to the high school "canon" that you feel all students should read. Share one of those books with someone today!


OPTION 1: Textbooks are supposed to teach us a common set of facts about who we are as a nation, but the influence of religion and politics in instructional material can skew those facts. Read this article to see how history textbooks reflect America’s refusal to reckon with slavery.

OPTION 2: Half of all school aged children are non-white. Of children’s books published in 2013, though, only 10.5% featured a person of color. In 2016, this number doubled to 22%, but white is still the “default identity.” Read this article to consider ways in which some educators are reconstructing the canon.

OPTION 3: Very few states require Holocaust education in their school systems and a 2018 survey showed that two-thirds of U.S. Millennials were not familiar with Auschwitz. Read this article on how one state hopes to change that statistic, as anti-Semitic hate crimes have surged in recent years.


Have some extra time today? Check out this 18-minute TED Talk with David Ikard, Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, titled "The real history of Rosa Parks -- and why we need to confront myths about black history."


You’ve likely heard of the term “school-to-prison pipeline,” and, if you haven’t, check out this infographic created by the ACLU. Most notably, this term is tied to the systems that funnel children, primarily children of color, from public schools into juvenile detention systems, and eventually prisons. Today, we will learn more about how school disciplinary policies disproportionately affect Black students, particularly Black girls. Stereotypes and misperceptions, which view Black girls as older, more mature, and more aggressive, have led to a lesser-discussed trend, the adultification of Black girls.

Attempts to counter these racial disparities in school discipline have manifested through various initiatives including Nashville Metro School’s PASSAGE initiative, which stands for “Positive and Safe Schools Advancing Greater Equity.” This teacher training initiative focused on non-punitive forms of discipline and helped tighten the standards on when administrators can suspend a child.

However, even after the investment of millions of dollars in PASSAGE and other reform efforts, the disparity has actually increased with Black students increased suspension rate over white students jumping from 2.7 times more likely in 2014-2015 to 3.1 times more likely in 2018-2019. Read this article about the five key takeaways from The Tennessean's investigation of racial disparities in school discipline in Metro Nashville Public Schools.


OPTION 1: Out of school suspensions have doubled since the 1970s and continue to increase even though juvenile crimes have continued to drop, despite a decrease in juvenile crimes. Watch this short video which explains the school-to-prison pipeline.

OPTION 2: In conversations about the school-to-prison pipeline, the focus has been primarily centered around boys. However, across the country, Black girls are 6 times more likely to be suspended than white girls. Read this interview with author, film writer and social justice scholar, Monique W. Morris, to learn more about her work advocating for the future of Black girls.

OPTION 3: By age 9, the behaviors of Black girls are often seen as and treated more like adults than children. Peruse this study on the erasure of Black girls’ childhood, particularly pages 9-11 as it pertains to discipline in school.

OPTION 4: In this iinteractive data-set, you can plug in your school system and those around you to investigate whether there is racial inequality at your school.


Yesterday, we challenged ourselves to look deeper into the ways in which school disciplinary policies disproportionately affect children of color and Black girls. Today, let’s take a look at the early impact teachers have on students' educational outcomes and their likelihood to attend college. Unconscious biases in white teachers, who favor a “colorblind” approach may cause unintentional harm to their students, while the early acknowledgment of differences can prepare students for a diverse world. Positive outcomes sparked by same-race role models can potentially shrink the education achievement gap and usher more students of color into colleges and universities.

In 2017-18, according to the Tennessee Department of Education data, the 2017-2018 academic school year reported 37% of Tennessee students were students of color, but teachers of color represented only 13% percent. In addition, half of Tennessee’s 147 districts had at least 95% white teachers. Furthermore 40 districts had no Black teachers, and 50 districts had no Hispanic teachers. Check out the graphs below to see this breakdown for YWCA’s service area.


OPTION 1: Read this article by Pirette McKamey, the first Black principal of Mission High School in San Francisco titled "What Anti-Racist Teachers Do Differently: They view the success of black students as central to the success of their own teaching."

OPTION 2: K-6 classrooms are led by a primarily white, female teacher population, whose inherent biases often come into play in their approaches to children and teaching. Read this interview with Dr. Robin DiAngelo on white fragility in teaching and education.

OPTION 3: Listen to this first-person story from Victor Rios, a high school dropout who had a teacher who truly believed in him. Victor went on to be a sociologist who studies youth and the factors that nurture their potential.


Through books, art, interactive activities, and stories, PBS offers numerous ways in which parents and caregivers can have meaningful conversations with their young children about race, racism, and being anti-racist. Check out their resources HERE.


To wrap up week 2 and our discussion around issues of racism and inequity within our educational systems, let’s challenge ourselves to consider some of the barriers that minorities face in attaining a college degree. Today, we will consider how standardized tests were designed to keep students of color and women away from higher education, the adversities low-income Black students experience while on campus, and the economic turmoil graduates of color face in repaying their loans. These hurdles and others are a part of a flawed higher education system in our country.


OPTION 1: Carl Brigham, the creator of the original SAT believed that American education was declining and “will proceed with an accelerating rate as the racial mixture becomes more and more extensive.” Watch this video on how standardized tests were designed by racists and eugenicists.

OPTION 4: Listen or read this story from NPR about a study that happened in New York comparing two identical, yet hypothetical, students applying tor loans. Their only difference was that one attended NYU and one attended Howard, one of the most famous historically Black colleges.

OPTION 2: Data shows that students of color are more likely to take on student debt compared to their white counterparts. Read this article to learn more about why, on average, 20 years after starting college, the median Black borrower still owes 95 percent of the initial student loan balance, while the median white borrower has paid down almost 95 percent of the balance.

OPTION 3: Read this piece by Harvard Graduate School of Education professor, Anthony Abraham Jack, on why colleges must learn that students who come from poverty need more than financial aid to succeed.



Bias within the criminal justice system is not a new phenomenon, however, in recent months, the massive impact of these biases on communities of color has been highlighted by the news media and social media, creating a national movement around criminal justice reform. Today, we will learn about the history of policing in America and the damaging and often fatal effects of bias and over-policing. To start things off, consider these statewide numbers showing racial disparities in police arrests.


OPTION 1: The modern police force that we know today was created in the early 1900s, but its origins date back to the colonies. This resource has numerous podcasts, videos, and articles to help learn more about the complicated history of policing and how it has evolved to where it is today.

OPTION 2: Following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, The Washington Post began creating a database cataloging every fatal shooting nationwide by a police officer in the line of duty. It's updated almost daily.

OPTION 3: Stanford University researchers found that Black and Latino drivers were stopped more often than white drivers, based on less evidence of wrongdoing. Read this study to uncover the extent of this evidence, which is driven by racial bias.

OPTION 4: There is a correlation between areas of high implicit bias and the killing of people of color. Listen to this podcast from NPR about how data and implicit bias tests can help pinpoint where disproportionate shootings of minorities are most likely.


Interested in taking the Implicit Association Test or the IAT test yourself? Click HERE.


Today, we will discuss the impact of racial disparities in incarceration in this country. Building on last week's discussion of education and the school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration of targeted demographics has an effect not only on the individual but entire ethnic and religious groups and future generations.


OPTION 1: Read this article about "American History, Race and Prison" dating back to the 1840s and how people of color, in both the north and the south, were disproportionately affected throughout history.

OPTION 4: The existence of racial disparity in the criminal justice system has a ripple effect on nearly every other social system. Read this article and infographic to learn about some solutions that chip away at those racial disparities.

OPTION 2: Watch or listen to this TED Talk with human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson as he discusses the layers of the criminal justice system and why a third of the country's Black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their life.

OPTION 3: Muslims make up about 9% of state prisoners, though they are only about 1% of the U.S. population, a new report finds. Listen to this report which sheds light on the obstacles some incarcerated Muslims face in prison while practicing their faith.


With more than 2 million people currently imprisoned in the U.S., conversations look to identify the root cause of mass incarceration. While some blame certain pieces of legislation, Reggie Jackson of America's Black Holocaust Museum, says it's the result of a “complex web of laws and policy decisions that created this issue.” If you're interested in taking a deeper dive into today's topic, listen to this 30 minute segment to learn more about his thoughts on mass incarceration, the "war on drugs," and racial disparities in imprisonment.


Today, we are going to take a closer look at what is going on in Tennessee around criminal justice reform and the juvenile justice system. Tennessee has the fourth highest violent crime rate in the country, and over the past 10 years, the incarceration rate has increased to 10% above the national average. As these numbers continue to climb, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has pushed policy recommendations for upcoming legislative sessions that seek to "improve public safety, increase reentry support and reduce recidivism, address unmet behavioral health needs and make Tennessee communities safer."


OPTION 1: Check out this article, equipped with many helpful graphs and infographics, about the trends within Tennessee's criminal justice system. For example, learn why Tennessee's state prison population is disproportionately Black and how white women are the fastest growing segment within state prisons.

OPTION 4: Learn more about how the District Attorney General in Shelby County announced a new community justice program for 18-26-year- old offenders that involves community volunteers identifying an alternative solution to traditional prosecution for certain offenses.

OPTION 3: Gov. Lee's Criminal Justice Investment Task Force released an exhaustive list of policy recommendations for upcoming legislative sessions that are aimed at strengthening understanding of behavioral health needs, equalizing treatment within local jails and state prisons, pivoting responses to different types of offenses, improving community supervision and minimizing barriers to successful reentry.

OPTION 2: Watch or read this segment from News Channel 5 Nashville about the broken juvenile justice system in Tennessee, and the barriers that the Department of Children's Services, the court system, and families are experiencing throughout the state.


Over the past 30 years, the trend of confining more women to federal, state and local correction facilities has exploded, increasing 700% since the 1990s. Today, we will discuss the impacts of antiquated healthcare policies, harsh disciplinary actions, and unmet needs of incarcerated and recently released women, and how these issues perpetuate a cycle of generational imprisonment, poverty and trauma for women and families.


OPTION 1: A recent study of 22 U.S. state prison systems and all U.S. federal prisons, found that roughly 3.8% of the women in their sample were pregnant when they entered prison. Read this article to see how prisons neglect pregnant women in their healthcare policies.

OPTION 2: Read this article on the cycle of poverty, trauma and the unmet needs of women in jail and post-release, to understand how the criminal justice system exploits poor and vulnerable women.

OPTION 3: Listen to the findings of this report, which finds that in prisons across the U.S., women are disciplined more often than men and almost always for low-level, non-violent offenses.

OPTION 4: Read this detailed report on 231,000+ women and girls incarcerated in the United States, and how they fit into the even broader picture of correctional control. The report answers the questions of why and where women are locked up.


YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley is especially committed to meeting the needs of incarcerated women through our Freedom Inside program. Freedom Inside is a unique program that provides trauma recovery support and re-entry support to female survivors of trauma and violence at the Knox County Detention Facility. This program was noted as an “innovative project” in the 2018-19 Office of Criminal Justice Program Annual Report. Read here for their full overview of the YWCA's Freedom Inside program.


Life after prison can often be just as difficult as time spent behind bars. Most former convicts struggle with culture shock, mental health issues, disenfranchisement, unemployment, and a whole host of other problems upon release. Today, we will learn more about some of those issues and the struggle the formerly incarcerated face when trying to re-engage in society.


OPTION 1: Long-term imprisonment inevitably changes the personalities of former convicts. Read these findings from interviews with 25 former 'lifers,' who had served an average of 19 years in jail.

OPTION 2: Maryam Henderson-Uloho was convicted of obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 25 years in a Louisiana prison. When she was released, she felt dehumanized. Watch the incredible story of how she turned her life around and continues to support other female ex-offenders.

OPTION 3: Formerly incarcerated people are unemployed at a rate of over 27% - higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression. Read this article which outlines the barriers formerly incarcerated people face when looking for employment.

OPTION 4: After serving a total of 25 years behind bars, Jonathan was released under the First Step Act. As a middle-aged former felon, he faces a world full of new challenges with the unintended consequences of a long sentence. Listen here for his experience in life after prison.


Thousands of Tennesseans released from incarceration during these past few months have re-entered a much different society, greatly affected by COVID-19. With businesses closed, a depressed economy, and lack of essential and basic resources, they are cut off from necessary lifelines needed to rebuild their lives. Read more about the challenges they face.



Welcome to the last week of the 21 Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge. People of color suffer worse health outcomes than white people, especially when considering income and other factors. Learn why these disparities aren't about race, but racism. Today, we are talking about the health impact toxic stress has on people of color when exposed to discrimination.


OPTION 1: Being Black is bad for your health. And pervasive racism is the cause. The data is stark: Black women are up to four times more likely to die of pregnancy related complications than white women. Black men are more than twice as likely to be killed by police as white men. And the average life expectancy of African Americans is four years lower than the rest of the U.S. population. Read why these bleak statistics have helped convince more than 20 cities and counties and at least three states to declare racism a public health crisis.

OPTION 2: Listen to this podcast about the effect that chronic stress and frequent racist encounters can have on the health of people of color. The article also features a case study on how a large-scale ICE raid in Iowa impacted the health of pregnant Latinx women across the state.

OPTION 3: Watch this TED Talk about how research has found that higher levels of discrimination are associated with a broad range of negative health outcomes such as obesity, high blood pressure, breast cancer, heart disease, and early death.

OPTION 4: Read this article about how the mental burdens of bias, trauma, and family hardship lead to unequal life outcomes for girls and women, particularly those of color.


America is the most dangerous wealthy country in the world to give birth. This is, in part, due to the dramatic racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality. Toxic stress and bias in medical care mean that women of color are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications. Racism is a public health crisis and it is time to treat it as such. Take a look at the graph below to see the dramatic differences between Black and white infant mortality rates in Tennessee.

Take a look at the Tennessee Department of Health's Infant Fatality interactive dashboard to better understand the causes and disparities in infant death by region by clicking HERE.


OPTION 1: The U.S. is one of only 13 countries where the death rate is worse now than it was 25 years ago, and among the worst of the wealthiest countries in the world. Watch this video and learn why it's dramatically worse for Black women.

OPTION 2: Tennessee ranks 41st in the health of women and children. This poor ranking is due in large part to high rates of maternal and infant mortality. Read this article about how prenatal care, dental care, and postpartum care all play a role in this crisis.

OPTION 3: The history of institutionalized racism in medicine goes far deeper than most realize. Take a look at this video which shines a light on the shocking mistreatment of Black women by American medical pioneers like James Marion Sims, the "Father of Modern Gynecology."

OPTION 4: Read this article on how the negative impact of institutional racism on maternal and infant mortality for Native American women closely parallels that of African American women.


Have some extra time today? Watch this interview featuring Stacey D. Stewart, the President and CEO of March of Dimes, where she and her co-panelists grapple with the growing maternal health crisis, and how to provide every mother the best care.


A large part of our health is determined by our environment. For generations, the impact of pollution and environmental damage has largely fallen on marginalized communities. Systemically racist policies have resulted in people of color having an increased likelihood of exposure to unsafe drinking water, lead paint in homes, and industrial waste. Today, we are looking at the environmental justice movement and the people of color pushing for change.


OPTION 1: Watch this video about how systemic racism means that Black Americans face disproportionate rates of lead poisoning, asthma, and environmental harm.

OPTION 4: This article discusses ten key links between racial and environmental justice including the lack of diversity among leadership of major environmental organizations, insufficient diversity transparency among environmental funders and the value in creating new career paths for people of color.

OPTION 3: Read about the climate crisis’s disproportionate impacts on Indigenous communities, and how Indigenous people have been at the forefront of the fight against the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and other environmental injustices.

OPTION 2: Listen to this podcast, winner of NPR's Student Podcast Challenge, titled "climate change Is racial injustice." This podcast features a group of high school youth in Manhattan discussing the environmental racism they see in their community.


There are over 3.1 million Tennesseans who live in a food desert, including over 300,000 children. There are multiple food banks, local community gardens and others working to combat this issue of food insecurity. Watch this segment from WBIR Channel 10 Knoxville about local organizations who are trying to balance the food insecurity scale, including YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley. Also, check the areas that you live in by visiting the United States Department of Agriculture food desert map HERE.


The history of the exploitation and brutalization of people of color by doctors and others in the medical field is one of America's most tragic and largely untold stories. Thanks to the work of people like Harriet Washington, author of Medical Apartheid , there is a new willingness to grapple with the impact of this trauma. Knowing our past is the first step towards a more equitable future.


OPTION 1: Listen to this podcast about the United States Supreme Court ruling, Buck v. Bell, that institutionalized the racist eugenics movement and led to 70,000 forced sterilizations of people of color and people with physical and mental disabilities.

OPTION 2: Read this article that explains the many differences that Black and white Americans experience in the health care system dating back to the 1930s in this county.

OPTION 3: Read this chilling article about how racist stereotypes led to approximately 20,000 people – many of them Latinx – being forcibly sterilized, the documentation that supported these procedures, and how this is echoed in the political landscape today.


Listen to this podcast during your commute, while folding laundry or during your afternoon walk to discover how newly emancipated slaves were freed without access to any resources, particularly health care, and how that played a major role in building the nation's first federal health care programs.


Have you ever been to the doctor and have them tell you that the pain or discomfort you are feeling isn't real or isn't serious? Do you worry that, in an emergency, unconscious bias could delay or deny you life-saving care? If you are a person of color this is an all too common experience. Today, we are learning how a history of racism in American medicine combined with unconscious bias from health care professionals is impacting the quality of care that people of color receive today.


OPTION 1: People of color are being disproportionately affected by the coronavirus at much higher rates, in both urban and rural areas. Read this article and see the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

OPTION 2: Watch this interview with Harriet Washington, author of "Medical Apartheid" who talks about how, even though the worst medical practices of 18th and 19th centuries are over, there are still a lot of medical research studies that can be abusive.

OPTION 3: Read this article about the dangerous racial and ethnic stereotypes that still exist in medicine today and how they impact the care that people of color receive from their healthcare providers.

OPTION 4: Listen to this podcast about how unconscious bias becomes dangerous in emergency medical situations where providers are much more likely to default to making decisions based on stereotypes.


Take a look at the current COVID-19 data in Knox County by clicking HERE. Data shows that the hospitalization and death rates of Black Knoxvillians is much higher than their white neighbors.


We are privileged to be part of a network of 200-plus associations buttressed by YWCA USA. We are indebted to YWCA Greater Cleveland, creators of the original YWCA 21 Day Challenge, for propelling us into the “eliminating racism” facet of YWCA’s mission. Thank you! I am also awed by our dedicated staff who customized the Challenge with local, regional, and statewide data, while ensuring that everything worked seamlessly on the backend. I appreciate you!

The bookend dates of our 21 Day Challenge were planned and serendipitous. Planned because we intentionally launched the Challenge on Juneteenth, the national day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Serendipitous because the last full week of the Challenge coincided with the passing of two civil rights giants—U.S. Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian—and the birthday of Nelson Mandela, an international icon who also fought for racial equality.

In speaking with several of you during the Challenge, your reflections mirrored my own and those of other YWCA staff. “I had no idea.” “Is this for real?” “How could they this do this to other human beings?” “This is still happening in 2020?” As you ask yourself, “What’s next?,” pledge to stay on this path for the long haul. Long after this global pandemic and long after the media headlines flip to the next social crisis.

Is it a stretch to think that any of us can be on the level of Rep. Lewis, Rev. Vivian, or the legendary Mandela? No matter where you are in your racial and social justice journey, I implore you to keep going. You have committed to this work by choosing to increase your self-awareness. You are communicating the importance of this work by sharing your reflections with others taking the Challenge or those who don’t know where to start. You are educating others by forwarding links from the Challenge and having uncomfortable conversations with family members and co-workers. You are taking action by writing elected officials, supporting related nonprofits, and taking your voice to the voting booth and ballot.

Thank you for standing with YWCA. We stand with you.