The YWCA of Central Massachusetts, the longest-serving agency by, for and about women and girls in central Massachusetts elected new officers and directors at its 129th annual meeting on June 19th.
Newly elected to serve a three-year term to the agency’s Board of Directors are: Sonya Atherly of Worcester, In-Home Therapist/Outpatient Clinician with the Multicultural Wellness Center; Amanda Baer of Grafton, an associate attorney at Mirick O’Connell in the firm’s Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits Group, Litigation Group, and Family Law Group; Mary Feeney of Pepperell, a Partner at Bowditch & Dewey; Deborah Gavron-Ravenelle of Worcester, the Chief Compliance Officer and Director of Compliance and Privacy at Reliant Medical Group; and Sheila King Goodwin of Worcester, Senior Vice President of Retail with PeoplesBank.
Elected to serve a second three year term until June 2017 are: Deborah Bitsoli of Framingham, the Chief Operating Officer at Saint Vincent Hospital; and Susan Woodbury of Worcester, who retired in 2011 after serving as a Trustee of the Worcester-based George I. Alden Trust for 18 years. Elected to serve a one-year term until June 2015 is Micki Davis of Worcester, the Coordinator of the CEV Center at Clark University; and Linda Looft of Leicester, Assistant Vice President for Government and Community Relations at WPI.
Also, elected by the membership are the members of the Nominating Committee who will serve a one-year term until June 2015. From the Board of Directors: Joyce Augustus of Northbridge, a Financial Analyst at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette; Etel Capacchione of Worcester, Director of the Youth Academy at Dynamy/YOU, Inc.; Micki Davis; and Susan Woodbury.
Elected to serve as officers for a one-year term were: Linda Looft, President; Micki Davis, Vice-President/President-elect; Joyce Augustus; Karen Kempskie-Aquino of Worcester, of Seven Hills Bookkeeping, Assistant Treasurer; Etel Capacchione, Clerk; Christienne Bik of Shrewsbury, the Director of Government Relations for Fallon Community Health Plan, Assistant Clerk.
“All of us at the YWCA are honored and thrilled to have women of such high caliber leading the Agency and working on behalf of women, children and families in our community,” said Executive Director Linda Cavaioli.
Before finding the YWCA, Fyteema spent years bouncing around, taking care of her mother who had issues with substance abuse, staying with friends, and suffering in an abusive relationship, all so her son could have a roof over his head. The cost of housing, and child care held her back from making positive changes in her life.
When she did live with her mother there were many times when there was no food in the house, or the roles were reversed and Fyteema found herself as the caregiver. Without guidance from the adults in her life she did the best she could to get by. At 15 Fyteema became pregnant. What she initially viewed as a mixed blessing has now become her motivation for a better life.
After her son was born Fyteema spent some time living with his father. The relationship became abusive, but with no where else to turn she suffered through it for the sake of her child. So much of her life became taking care of her son and her mother, and trying to deal with her own pain and abuse.
After her mother passed away at the beginning of 2014, Fyteema explained that things became clear. She was ready to get off the emotional rollercoaster, get out of the abusive relationship, and stand on her own for herself and her son. “I started seeing things differently,” she said. “I wanted to give my son the life that I wish I had.”
When she found the YWCA she knew she found a place where she belonged. The YPP has put her on the path to financial stability and a brighter future, and the Domestic Violence Services program helped her get away from her abuser and into a safe home.
Fyteema found housing, and recommitted to her education and future. She is currently working towards her GED in the Young Parents Program. She hopes to continue her education after the YWCA and train to become a contractor or electrician.
Fyteema’s three year old son Maurice is doing well. She is working with the Worcester Public Schools to get him all the help he needs, and is focused on maintaining a stable life for him. “I knew being a teen parent on my own would be hard,” she said, “But I never knew it would be this hard.”
Recently Fyteema told her story at Teen Lobby Day at the State House, advocating for herself, and other women like her. She was also able to attend the Worcester Technical High School graduation to see President Obama speak.
“Things are going well,” she said, “But most important is that I love being a Mom.”
YWCA USA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D. was the featured speaker at the YWCA Central Massachusetts’ Annual Meeting on Thursday, June 19, 2014. Dara had just finished up at the YWCA USA’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., where the theme “Fearless Future” governed the three day agenda. She continued this theme of looking forward in her speech to the YWCA Central Massachusetts.
Dara brought up many discussion points for the organization as it moves forward. She mentioned that she had visited many local YWCAs in her time as the CEO of the YWCA USA, and is working with YWCA leaders to move the organization forward as a national movement, while also making sure that each local YWCA is supporting the needs of the individual communities.
While the feedback of local organizations is important to her, she described her own vision: to have high impact, fiscally sound local organizations with a strong track record of social change; to continue the legacy of our famed historic past; to secure diversified and sustainable funding; to have strong talent at all levels and a ladder of opportunity for leaders to climb forward; and to build a movement that strengthens whole communities.
Her call to action for the YWCA is to dream big and take bold steps that propel us into a “fearless future.” She emphasized that as an organization we need to dream big, and continue our work as an impactful, mission-driven movement.
Massachusetts boasts some of the best schools in the country. Our students deserve the best health education, especially since 68 percent of our state’s chlamydia cases occur in young people, with the rate in Worcester dramatically higher than the state average.
Five women whose professional accomplishments have helped improve the lives of women and girls in their communities received the YWCA’s Katharine F. Erskine Award during the annual Tribute to Women luncheon Tuesday at Mechanics Hall.
N-Cite Media Collective and the YWCA’s Racial Task Force joined up to empower youth through the creation of two films that challenge existing ideologies and present stories that they say are not being represented in the media.
Residents, city organizers and politicians gathered on the Worcester Common Friday afternoon as part of the YWCA’s national Stand Against Racism campaign.
WESTBOROUGH _ Former NFL cornerback George “Butch” Byrd knows what it’s like to experience racism first-hand. As the third draft pick of the Buffalo Bills and the 25th overall pick in the 1963 NFL draft, Byrd began his professional football career in 1964, the same year the Civil Rights Act was signed.
On April 24, 2014 Byrd addressed the staff at PENTA Communications, Inc, during a Lunch and Learn event as part of the Company’s participation in the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism™ movement.
The YWCA’s Stand Against Racism™ is an initiative that works toward eliminating racism by raising awareness. Organizations across the nation are invited to become participants by hosting their own “Stand” and bringing people together to raise awareness regarding racism.
PENTA’s Founder and CEO, Deborah Penta felt the event was important as it brought awareness to the topic of racism that still exists in America. The Company is part of the United Nations Global Compact and participation in this event was in alignment with one of the Compact’s core principles of Human Rights. Penta and her team were pleased to have Byrd, a longtime Westborough resident, speak at the Agency’s Lunch and Learn program.
“Although we live in a world where people are becoming more at ease with diversity, racism unfortunately still exists, and events such as the ‘YWCA’s Stand Against Racism™’ are wonderful opportunities to bring the topic into a realm where intelligent discussions can occur,” said Penta. “Perhaps most importantly, it makes everyone stop and think.”
“Our Lunch and Learn series offers a wide diversification of topics to educate our team on a whole host of subjects for life enhancement and personal growth. We were so delighted that Butch was willing to share his journey with our team, and the struggles he encountered along his path to success,” Penta said.
Byrd discussed his experiences as both a college football player at Boston University in the early sixties, and as a professional football player.
Byrd told of one particular experience that made an indelible impression on him. In the early days, nearly half of the Buffalo Bills players came from the South.
According to Byrd, in the team’s locker room and on the field, differentiation between races was not felt. Byrd said he believes a lot of that was due to running back Cookie Gilchrist, a “massive black man,” who was a force both on and off the field.
“You have to remember this was the mid-sixties and we had players from all over the country who had their own ideas regarding race relationships. I do think the only reason there weren’t any racial issues vocalized on the field or in the locker room was because people would have had to deal with Cookie,” Byrd said.
However, Byrd said Jack Kemp, then the quarterback for the Bills and a future Republican Vice Presidential candidate, was a very influential person and a voice of reason regarding locker room emotional issues.
However, the stark reality was that racism did exist in the Bills organization.
Never was that more pronounced for Byrd than at a team Halloween party at a fellow teammate’s home. The party brought a level of fun and relief from the rigors of the grid iron and everyone was in a jovial mood, Byrd said.
“Then I asked the wife of one our offensive tackles, a man from the South, if she wanted to dance,” Byrd said. “In a flash, his hands were on me tossing me to the wall and saying, ‘you’re not dancing with her.’ I felt surprised, embarrassed and actually teared up. I never saw this coming. We were all having fun and then this.”
Byrd said teammate Ed Rutkowski and his wife tried to smooth things over, but the damage was already done. Several days later the Bills’ Vice President Jack Horrigan found out about the incident and brought Byrd into his office to discuss what had happened.
“I thought at first he was concerned about me; however, I found that he just wanted to make sure the team was all right, which took away some of what he said,” Byrd said. “It’s been over some forty-odd years since that party and I see him, the offensive tackle, occasionally at some Bills events. We’re both cordial to each other but we both remember the incident. I get the feeling that we both would like to forget about it and pretend it never happened, but I did.”
A turning point in history
Nowhere was racism more prevalent than the American Football league All-Star game that was to be played on January 16, 1965 at Tulane Stadium, in New Orleans. The format was that the AFL-All Stars from every team would play the 1965 champion Buffalo Bills.
Byrd, along with fellow African American teammates Cookie Gilchrist and Ernie Warlick, were on that championship team. At the time, New Orleans was vying for a professional football franchise, in either the AFL or the NFL. In all, 21 African American players went to play in New Orleans with the assurance that the City would respond in a positive manner to African American players. Players were even encouraged to bring their wives and children.
However, once players began to arrive in New Orleans, the true nature of what was in store for them set in. African American players were stranded for hours at the airport, denied cab rides, turned away at restaurants, verbally put down, and, in some cases, were even given rides and dropped off miles from their destinations.
In the end, all 21 players, including Byrd boycotted the All-Star game. Several white players also supported their African American teammates, and in the end AFL Commissioner Joe Foss moved the game to Jeppsen Stadium in Houston, Texas. This was a turning point in history and the unprecedented stand the African American players took brought about change in New Orleans. Ultimately, two years later the league granted New Orleans a team.
The repercussions of what had happened in New Orleans were felt in the Bills organization. Bills owner Ralph Wilson never said anything directly to Byrd, Gilchrist or Warlick on what had happened in New Orleans; however, Byrd and many others felt Wilson held that incident against them.
“We know the city of New Orleans lost a great deal of money. The supporters and sponsors of the game lost lots of money,” Byrd said. “This was to be the venue to show the AFL that the City of New Orleans was ready to host a professional football team and then the black players boycotted for reasons unsympathetic to the people in power.”
Today, Byrd looks back on an impressive legacy. He started every game during his tenure with the Bills; was on five All-Star teams in eight years; is still the Bills all-time interception leader with 40 interceptions; was selected as one of the best 22 players in the team’s then 25-year history in 1984; was inducted into the Boston University Hall of Fame in 1985; was named one of the best defensive cornerbacks in the Bills 42-year history; was inducted into the Albany Capital District Hall of Fame in 2003; was inducted into the Bills Hall of Fame in 2008;was selected to the Bills All-Time Team in its 50-year history, and was inducted into the Albany Region Hall of Fame in 2010.
“I believe the explosion over the years of black players in the NFL has helped to stem overt racism,” Byrd said. “However, I believe in ways it still goes on.”
For more information on Stand Against Racism™, visit www.standagainstracism.org.
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