Volume 02 |February 2022

Relationships are central to our mission and to any leader’s success. As I have been reflecting on the charge of leading the YWCA SEW’s mission - eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all – I am led to reflect on the impact of the late Vel R. Phillips in my own life. 

I remember the first time I witnessed her in action at a Community Brainstorming Breakfast. She presented as a beautiful woman, with class and dignity. Her small frame was barely noticeable because of the power that exuded from her vigor and words of conviction. What I didn’t know is that she would befriend me.
We had conversations that I remember to this day. She embraced me and innately understood challenges I faced as a black woman. She showed interest in my wellbeing. I remember her asking questions about my career and family with deep interest. I also recall her personal invitations, to include attending the renaming ceremony of Milwaukee County Children's Court Center as the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center in her honor. She had a great sense of humor and even allowed me to stop by her home to give her a Starbucks mug to replace the one she had lost. 

I am in awe that I have been influenced by a woman who lived for justice and has made history in our community, nation, and world. Vel Philips paved the way and allowed me to see glimpses of how she did it. I am reminded of her influence every time I enter our building sitting between Vel R. Phillips Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Her legacy touches the lives of many and is foundational to the impact I am looking forward to making with you. 
In the Pursuit of Justice,
Tracy L. Williams
President & CEO
Organization News
Special Thanks – Supporter Spotlight

Hats Off to Bank First for its Generous Investment in YWCA SEW’s #OneMission
Bank First is committed to relationship-based banking with innovative products valuable to the communities it serves – communities that are rapidly growing in number.  Similarly, YWCA SEW’s work is grounded in trusted relationships and its community impact has grown tremendously in recent years. This common ground prompted Bank First to make a significant investment in YWCA SEW’s long-term impact.  
Mike Molepske, CEO of Bank First, noted “We share YWCA Southeast Wisconsin’s commitment to the region’s vitality and want to assure it has the ability to innovate and try new program approaches as its mission expands. We are proud to make a true investment to support its growing impact and look forward to working with them all year-long.”

Many thanks to everyone at Bank First. To learn more about Bank First, its values and its services
Education & Training
Personal Financial Management Corner: Timely Tax Seasonal Tips
Our Personal Financial Management services, led by Director, Jackie Carter, will now include PFM tips in each monthly newsletter.  First up: a tip for tax season 2022 - although filing taxes can be confusing, reliable help is available through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The Social Development Commission (SDC) is one of the region’s largest VITA service providers.  SDC staff and trained volunteers help thousands each year.  For households with income of $66,000 or less per year, VITA programs feature FREE preparation and e-filing of tax returns and can assist with claiming Earned Income Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits and Homestead filing.
Remember, appointments may be required. You can also reach them by email at vitainquiry@cr-sdc.org
YWCA SEW’s Adult Ed Program 
Part One:  Success Built on Expertise and Trusted Relationships 
Do you wonder why during the 2-years we have lived with the COVID pandemic YWCA SEW’s adult education has seen graduations increase nearly 27%? 

With over two decades of experience providing a path to a High School credential for adults whose educations were interrupted, we are recognized as an expert in providing community-based adult education – an undisputed fundamental building block of economic empowerment. But expertise is only one ingredient to success.  Since 2014, our Adult Ed program has expanded dramatically through solid community partnerships and through the trust our staff builds with our adult learners, who increasingly recommend our program their family and friends.

And, this note from a recent graduate tells the story of how a HS credential is just the start.
Next month, in Part Two of this story, we will share how over the last 5 years YWCA SEW’s Adult Ed program has grown to be the region’s most robust community-based provider of High School credentials.
Collective Impact
Be Part of Stand Against Racism 2022 – Sign Up and Save the Dates!
For 2022, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin will significantly expand its annual Stand Against Racism activities. New this year, we will join YWCA USA and sister YWCAs nationwide in the Stand Against Racism 21 Day Challenge, starting April 1st.  We will also host two events as part of the traditional Stand Against Racism programming.
The Stand Against Racism 21 Day Challenge will connect participants with resources, information, and inspiration to support their equity advocacy, independently or with YWCA SEW.  We have a goal of at least 100 participants so we invite you to sign up in advance to get all the information promptly. Sign Up Here

And, for our annual Stand Against Racism events, save the dates – April 27th – 29th.  We’ll have more information next month so stay tuned!
February - Black History Continues
Salute to YWCA’s Beloved Geneva Johnson 

When it comes to metro-area Black women leaders who have shaped our community and who have a deep and abiding relationship with YWCA, Geneva Johnson’s influence is beyond remarkable. Her connection to YWCA began as a teen and then as an adult she began her career as a program director for YWCA Houston.  As recently as 2018, she served as honorary chair of YWCA Southeast Wisconsin’s 125thanniversary celebration. The former president and CEO of Family Service America, Inc., and Families International, Inc., earned a master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University, as well as a certificate in executive management from Harvard Business School.  Her long list of accomplishments and awards includes being named one of the top 12 nonprofit women executives in America by Savvy magazine in 1985. And, her impressive roster of Board service includes the Peter F. Drucker Foundation, National Center for Nonprofit Boards, Medical College of Wisconsin, and Mount Mary University.
Learn how in 2018 Geneva Johnson shared the history of advocating for women of color within the YWCA network. 
Celebrate the Reemergence of America’s Black Holocaust Museum February 25th

Make sure to support and amplify the mission of this national treasure around the corner from YWCA Southeast Wisconsin.  America’s Black Holocaust Museum will open its doors again on February 25th.  The day will begin with a brief ceremony at 9 AM, followed by a ribbon cutting.  Museum doors officially open at 10 AM and visitors can tour the museum until 5 PM.  

We first shared this news at An Evening to Promote Racial Justice last December – join us on February 25th and bring your friends as we celebrate this momentous reopening.  

March is Women’s History Month –
Here Are Just Two of the Shoulders We Stand on in Southeast Wisconsin 
Thelma Orr – Often Hailed as Racine’s Rosa Parks
An activist for most of her life, Thelma Orr went door-to-door to address redlining and worked tirelessly to improve race relations, especially relationships between police and people of color.  According to her profile on the City of Racine web site, she survived multiple bouts of tuberculosis and the death of three children. Her remarkable life included field work for the National Urban League and service as Human Resources Director for Racine’s Franklin School. And, her awards include an Honorary Doctorate in Social Work from Carthage College. Learn more about this remarkable woman leader, Thelma Orr, here
Marcia P. Coggs – the Conscience of the State of Wisconsin
Born in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1976, Marcia P. Coggs became the first Black woman elected to the Wisconsin legislature and, in 1987 she became the first Black member of the Joint Finance Committee.  She served her constituents until 1992.  Her legislative efforts focused on education, school desegregation, housing and racial justice.  Among her many legislative initiatives was a bill limiting the tenure of Milwaukee police and fire chiefs.  Before holding elected office, she spent 13 years focused on children living at what was then known as the Milwaukee County Children’s Home.  Tirelessly focused on the needs of others, on holidays she often brought those children who didn’t have a family  nearby home to celebrate with her family.  Learn more about her decades of distinctive leadership here
Milwaukee Film’s March Focus on Films that Center Female Voices and Relationships 
From classics like Real Women Have Curves to the foreign film gem Daughters of the Dust, Milwaukee Film has curated a distinct line up of film and events to mark Women’s History Month 2022. Those events include a March 10th panel on mentorship and collaboration, titled Lift as We Rise and a post screening deep discussion of Daughters of the Dust on March 13th.  The month will wrap up with a Black Maternal Health Symposium on March 26th at the Saint Kate Arts Hotel. Click Here For Full Details
City of Milwaukee Residents – there’s a Mayoral Election Around the Corner!
On April 5th, City of Milwaukee will elect a new mayor and, for the first time in decades, neither candidate is the incumbent mayor.  Based on the results of the February 15th primary, two candidates will be on the ballot, former Alderman Bob Donovan and Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

To learn about upcoming candidate forums, follow YWCA Southeast Wisconsin’s Facebook and Twitter.
Make Sure You Are Able to Vote – Register & Have a Plan

  • Learn about how, where and when to register here
  • Learn about Absentee voting rules and procedures here
  • Learn about who the candidates are here
  • For other questions, check the City of Milwaukee Election Commission web site or call 414.286.3491 (TTY 414.286.8445)
Why should you support YWCA SEW’s one mission to eliminate racism and empower women? Because the work we did in 2021 and will expand in 2022 are the building blocks for a shared vision of a thriving, inclusive and just southeast Wisconsin defined by racial and gender equity. 
Thank you for continuing to support YWCA's mission!
Have a question about our work or want to request a speaker, please reach out at communication@ywcasew.org.