YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee hosted the annual Stand Against Racism on April 25 on the steps of the Historic Metro Courthouse and Public Square Park. Neither the threat of rain nor the NFL Draft (kicking off a few blocks away) could keep more than 100 advocates, supporters, and partners away from this annual gathering that builds community among those working for racial and social justice. The program was packed with prominent political leaders and Civil Rights icons, including Kwame Lillard, King Hollands, Gloria McKissack, and Ernest ‘Rip’ Patton. The Freedom Rider led the crowd in a powerful rendition of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’
Mayor David Briley and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper urged the crowd to continue working towards justice and reducing racism and intolerance. YWCA was presented with a Metro Council Resolution for its social justice work, and YWCA President/CEO Sharon K. Roberson shared with the crowd how national policies can have a very real local impact during the public rally. This year’s Stand Against Racism theme was aptly titled ‘No Hate No Fear’ and examined the intersection of racism and immigration.
“In recent months, YWCA presented a series of community conversations where we heard compelling stories of the human cost of racism for very vulnerable people,” she said. “We learned that immigrant children are being separated from their parents right here in Nashville. These conversations served as a call to action for all of us to understand the moral imperative that we must treat all people with dignity and respect.”
Martesha Johnson, the first African American and woman elected to lead the Metro Davidson Public Defender’s Office, urged the crowd to speak up and speak out against racism and hate. Chris Echegaray with Metro Nashville Public Schools reminded the crowd that the ‘It City’ of Nashville is being supported through immigrant labor. Co-founder of the American Muslim Advisory Council, Sabina Mohyuddin, made a passionate plea on how we can work together to eliminate racism.
“These systems are not just about our individual biases or fear of others or even ignorance, but it is about institutionalized methods of discriminating against people of color, immigrants, and Muslims,” said Mohyuddin. “In order to dismantle and eliminate racism, we must bring down all of these systems.”
The Metro Human Relations Commission and Tennessee Human Rights Commission co-sponsored the event and luncheon series. Tennessee HRC Executive Director Beverly Watts led the crowd in the pledge against racism to close the event. MHRC board members Dr. Erin Pryor and Commissioner Kobie Pretorius attended the Stand Against Racism and joined Watts and the Civil Rights icons and speakers in the pledge.