There was sunshine aplenty for the YWCA of White Plains 5th Annual Stand Against Racism breakfast on Thursday morning, April 25, co-sponsored by the Jay Heritage Center. Featuring a diverse panel of local Westchester voices attuned to the importance of human rights advocacy, the free public program drew a crowd of about 60 people. Community leaders like Mark Fang (Executive Director of the Westchester County Human Rights Commission,) Millie Jasper (Executive Director the Westchester Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center,) Dr. Iris Pagan (Executive Director, Westchester County Youth Bureau) and Olney Reynolds (Vice President of the African American Men’s Association of Westchester) addressed the root causes of racism in an effort to encourage conversations across all cultures in Westchester County. They were joined by Deputy Westchester County Executive Kevin Plunkett and NY State Assemblyman Steve Otis who commended the YWCA and Jay Heritage Center for this successful community forum. After a stirring presentation where the panelists revealed their personal experiences with bigotry, a lively Q & A session with the audience covered topics from housing discrimination to the challenges of developing school curricula about tolerance and important topics like the Holocaust.
The Stand Against Racism™ is a movement of the YWCA with the goal of bringing people together from all walks of life – to raise awareness that racism still exists. The methodology of the Stand Against Racism™ is to bring together like-minded people who wish to share in our vision of eliminating racism and celebrating the richness of diversity.
The event was held at the Jay Estate in Rye. This landmark site continues to be a meaningful touchstone for dialogues about human rights. It is here that one of our nation’s Founders and a leading anti-slavery advocate grew up and found inspiration and refuge. Jay’s complicated legacy today continues as his home is being transformed into a 23-acre educational campus and community center offering programs on Social Justice, American History, Architecture, Landscape and much more. Archaeology shows that the Jay Estate was also the home and burial site of several generations of people, both free and enslaved, who worked for the Jay family. We know many of their names—Mary, Clarinda, Plato and Peet. One man, Caesar Valentine, inspired the very first significant African American character in an American novel—James Fenimore Cooper’s book, “The Spy.”
The Jay Estate hosts a full calendar of programs related to African American History and Social Justice. Both the American Women of African American Heritage Martin Luther King Literary Celebration and Westchester Trailblazers Awards ceremony is held at the site annually. The venue is also the home of the acclaimed interactive play “Striving for Freedom,” which is offered for free to all middle schools in Westchester County; bus transportation for this cultural field trip is also free through New York State Parks.