MAY 2020
After a robust search process, the Board of Challenging Racism is pleased to announce that Alicia Jones McLeod has been hired as Executive Director of Challenging Racism. She hit the ground running on Friday May 1st.

The Board was impressed with Ms. McLeod’s energy, ideas and strong experience running small organizations poised for growth. In addition, her passion for our work - Disrupting Racism where we find it - led us to choose her as our first Executive Director with professional experience as an ED. 

Ms. Jones McLeod comes to us from the Ellicott City Partnership where she led a “Main Street” organization responsible for marketing the area as a destination for shopping and dining. Prior to that she founded the Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce, which continues to raise the profile of black-owned businesses. Her tenure at each of her employers has been marked by the implementation of innovative ideas designed to raise the organization’s profile and draw new supporters to the work.
Ms Jones McLeod is a resident of Parkville, Maryland and brings deep relationships on the Maryland side of the river to Challenging Racism’s work. She has a B.S. in Marketing from Kean University, New Jersey, and is in a Masters of Public Administration program at the University of Baltimore with a concentration in non-profit management. She and her partner are the parents of three children, Richard, 25, Alyssa (18) and Amanda (17) teen-aged daughters.
With Alicia’s arrival, Challenging Racism is saying farewell to two of its own. Mary Hynes, who has been Challenging Racism’s Managing Director for the last year, is stepping down this month. We are eternally grateful for everything she was able to accomplish during her time with us, creating standards and processes for contract, position descriptions, budget preparation and a myriad of other things necessary to the operations of the organization. Because of her extensive experience with non-profits, as well as serving as an elected official for many years, we have greatly benefited from her good counsel. Thank you Mary!
The Board also offers its deep love and thanks to Challenging Racism’s co-founder, Marty Swaim, who has been an inspiration to us, and to so many others, from the very beginning. Marty has poured her heart and soul into the organization, tirelessly stepping into any role that needed filling as Challenging Racism was conceived and grew. We wish her all the best as she begins her much-deserved retirement as ED on June 1st. Stay tuned for more details about a celebration for Marty when the threat of COVID-19 has lessened.
Becoming the new Executive Director of Challenging Racism is a dream come true. After spending my life working to support issues of black America, this is a way for me to finally engage my personal passion with my work. I have continually disrupted conversations in this space from my time with the NAACP, during my leadership of the Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce or as the local President of National Organization for Women - speaking up for black and brown women who felt marginalized in the movement. 

These conversations always need a structured environment to move forward, they need time and space to happen in a safe place where we can explore and express our ideas. Challenging Racism gives us that space. 

I am committed to working with all of you to increase our impact and expand our reach. I am ready to work with you on disrupting the conversation and moving closer toward the vision of an anti-racist society.

Alicia Jones McLeod
Dear Alumni, Friends, Supporters and other advocates in the struggle to end racism now,

I am delighted to welcome Alicia Jones McLeod as our new Executive Director. Under this grand circumstance of installing a new experienced ED, I am pleased to be leaving as the pro bono ED. I and the Board have been working to make this day a reality for at least two years. As Challenging Racism grows we need new blood and we also need new expertise. Alicia J. and I have been working together since May 1 and I am having a good time working with her. I am sure that you will also enjoy working with Alicia and helping to grow Challenging Racism.

I can leave the jobof ED, but I cannot leave being an anti-racist, no more than you can. As participants say in the conversations, “ Once you truly see racism, you can never un-see racism”. “You see it wherever it is.” I will continue to do anything I can for Challenging Racism and for Ms. McLeod. The same is true for you in support of the work. Just ask. I hope to find other specific ways to advance the cause.

I look forward to the continued growth of this groundbreaking organization that we have been privileged to develop together, first as a single 11 session Learning How conversation each year, then as a registration website and more conversations, then as a corporation with a Board, then as a 501(c)3, and now with a small paid staff. Challenging Racism has a demonstrated record of moving individuals to action to challenge racism. We are innovators in the work of anti-racist training because we ask a small group of participants to make a commitment of time, of self-reflection, of telling and listening to stories, of risk-taking and then doing the work to learn the skills of difficult conversations. Our conversations are a commitment.

All who know us well enough to read this letter are stewards of a wonderful group of facilitators and volunteers, a solid curriculum on the cusp of being revised and updated this June, a good reputation by word of mouth in this community, and now a good new ED. I am so sorry that the COVID-19 makes this a hard year for securing contracts, but we will persist.

I admire and commend your devotion to the cause of ending racism in ourselves, our families and our communities, and to supporting Challenging Racism and other anti-racist organizations in that task. Thank you all so very much. I hold you all in my heart. Racism is a system of advantage and beliefs in White superiority. It was created. Therefore, racism can be dismantled.

Yours in the cause of anti-racism,

Marty Swaim

Co-founder and now former Executive Director, Challenging Racism, May 19, 2020.
At its regular monthly meeting, May 18, the Board of Challenging Racism:

  • Adopted a newly created position description for the job of Coordinator of Facilitation and Curriculum, part-time.

  • Accepted two Executive Director reports, a final report from Marty Swaim and the first such report from the new ED Alicia Jones McLeod.

  • Provided a draft mission and vision statement, and an organizational values statement begun at the Board virtual retreat May 9; the mission and vision statements to be discussed and finalized at the June Board meeting.

  • Reported on the Strategic Plan discussions, also begun at the Board retreat, to be discussed and possibly finalized at the June Board meeting.
The Grants & Marketing Sub-Committee is looking for volunteers to join us as we design and implement a range of fundraising and outreach activities for the Executive Director and Board.

We help plan events, build partnerships, outreach via social media, apply for grants, and design programs for organizations needing our conversations.

All skills are needed and welcome! Volunteers can choose to help with discrete activities or lead on racial equity initiatives. Email us to find out more! 

Volunteer Need: Editor for monthly Challenging Racism Newsletter. Time requires 5 - 8 hours per month. You will meet great people and do some writing.
Keep up with upcoming events on the website at
On May 5, 2020, from 6-8 pm, Challenging Racism Continued Book club was joined by the Clarendon United Methodist Church Book Club to discuss Ibram X. Kendi's  How to be an Antiracist.  Gail Perry and Judith Knight co-facilitated the group discussion on Zoom. The CUMC hosts were Jane Dixon and Laura Bishop. About 20 people participated in the discussion.
After check-in, Gail presented a slide show giving highlights of each chapter in the book, which was helpful, particularly, for anyone who hadn't finished the book. The discussion which followed was rich, with participants sharing viewpoints on the book, what steps they might take to move to a more actively anti-racist life, and how to create a more anti racist society.

Challenging Racism - Learning to Lead
REGISTER NOW to Learn New Skills for an Anti-Racist Life

Challenging Racism:  Learning to Lead  is an intense 5-day facilitation training program that provides the skills and training to facilitate any group where race or topics related to race are likely to arise. The course provides direct work on how to create safe spaces for difficult conversations in any setting.

Learning to Lead  will be offered this summer from July 6 to 10. We are considering the possibility of offering this training over the weekends of July 10 and July 17, to support candidates who are unable to take much leave. Please let us know if this is of interest to you.

You can find more information on CR's website  here   or you can register by clicking on this button:
The 2nd Annual Running Against Racism 5K Run / Walk was a great success!
Challenging Racism would like to extend huge thanks to our sponsor at the Challenger Level, Arlington Democrats

"Having Arlington Democrats financially sponsor our 5K two years in a row as well as host Challenging Racism  Getting Started  workshops in our county demonstrates their commitment and belief in our shared mission for racial equity," explained Christine Albee Purka, Challenging Racism alumna and volunteer. "They are always prepared to take a visible stand against all forms of racism, especially important now during this COVID crisis which has shined a light on the disparities and inequities in our nation".
Thanks also goes out to all 5K registrants. We were close to 100-strong!  Rachel Avenick, this year's 5K Chair and also a Challenging Racism alumna, said, "Spreading awareness about Challenging Racism's mission and how each of us can make a difference is really what makes an event worthwhile. We considered cancelling when we found out an in-person event would not be possible, but Marty Swaim, Challenging Racism's Executive Director, encouraged us not to cancel. It is Marty and the 5K volunteer committee's shared hope that the Running Against Racism 5K will be a springtime tradition for years to come."
Finally, we are grateful for our promotional partners who helped spread the word within our community: OAR, Rock Spring United Congregational Church, Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington, Encore Stage & Studio, and the Arlington County Council of PTAs. 
Thank you so much for sharing in the work of  challenging racism  in Arlington and beyond!   Although we brought in less money than we did last year at out live event, our initial report looks as if we earned close to what we earned last year, because we had so few expenses. We will have a complete report next month.
Watch here two videos written and drawn by Alisha Foster; she is a Yorktown senior and daughter of alumna Ami Foster.These cartoons were originally drawn for the  Let’s Talk  walk-in conversation series that Ami Foster and LaTonya Francis led in the Fall of 2018 at the Central Library. Both videos are used here with Alisha's permission. We thank her for sharing her good work with all of us.
In the meantime, you can take advantage of the following options offered by the Central Library:

Announcing $599 K in CARES Act Grants
Read Virginia Humanities Announcement , as well as many other interesting resources like A Political History of Food Stamps an more.
The Case for Cancelling Rent and Mortgage Payments

Read all different articles from the Othering & Belonging Institute on this topic here .
Included is the very interesting "Op-ed:The clash over shelter-in-place rooted in slavery" from the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Households, Financial Capability Month, Leaders of Color in Philanthropy and More!

Read the most recent Scorecard Brief from Prosperity Now to find lots of information on inequity in the virus' impact.
Why Don't we Know Who the Coronavirus Victims Are?

“If we can’t see racial disparities, then we can’t see the racist policies behind any disparities and deaths. If we can’t see racist policies, we can’t eliminate racist policies, or replace them with anti-racist policies that protect equity and life.”

This is what Ibram X. Kendi wrote recently in The Atlantic. You can read the full article here .
SURJ: Combating Anti-Asian Racism and COVID-10 Toolkit

SURJ is offering this document as a guide to help illuminate the specifically anti-Asian racist, xenophobic scapegoating that is occurring in these times and to offer resources to combat it. 

You can register to download the toolkit here or at SURJ's website at
Check out the resources that our facilitators Dawn Kyser and Stephanie Hammel are sharing with their APS Learning How Group at Campbell / Tuckahoe APS
Videos & Podcasts


  • Washington Post: Two black men say they were kicked out of Walmart for wearing protective masks. Others worry it will happen to them.

  • Newsone: How Coronavirus Affects Black People: Civil Rights Groups Call Out Racial Health Disparities

  • The New York Times: The Hardest Questions Doctors May Face: Who Will Be Saved? Who Won't?

  • NPR: When Xenophobia spreads like a virus

  • Washington Post: Perspective | In the hands of racist officials, the COVID-19 pandemic may be a weapon

  • The Root: Your Racism Is Showing: Coronavirus and the Racist History of Pandemics
Teaching Tolerance Resources and Others for Talking to Children

  • Teaching Tolerance: Speaking Up Against Racism Around the New Coronavirus (aimed at kids but broadly applicable)

  • Embrace Race: Supporting Children in the Struggle Against COVID-19

  • Immigrant Food - a new "cause-casual" restaurant at 1701 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006
  • Determined: The 400 year struggle for black equality Virginia Museum of History & Culture in Richmond. The story is told through the lives of 30 people, some famous, some not. It will go on through March 29, 2020.
  • The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today - Every three years, artists living and working in the United States are invited by the museum to submit one of their recent portraits to a panel of experts. The selected artworks reflect the compelling and diverse approaches contemporary artists are using to tell the American story through portraiture. National Portrait Gallery, 8th St NW & F St NW, Washington, DC 20001
  • Rosa Parks: In her own words Library of Congress
Share local events, field trips, webinars, books and podcasts with Challenging Racism Operations Coordinator Pilar Afshar at

Also, follow us on Facebook to see even more events and shared resources.
Challenging Racism: Continued |