By Heather Steranka-Petit
The weather outside was indeed frightful as Northeast Ohio grappled with temperatures near zero and sub-zero wind chills. But in the world of business events, regardless of the weather, the show must go on.
And go on it did at the February 23rd It’s Time to Talk (ITT) forum on race convened by YWCA Greater Cleveland, The MetroHealth System and a host of partners. The weather outside might have been bitter, but it was warm inside as a variety of participants: corporate and manufacturing leaders (including Lubrizol, Parker Hannifin, Forest City, PWC, Key Bank, Medical Mutual), religious groups (United Churches of Christ, Jewish Federation of Cleveland, and others), healthcare (UH, Akron Children’s Hospital, Visiting Nurse Association, Neighborhood Family Practice, and more) non-profit groups, community organizations, colleges and even high school students came together to tackle the complicated issue of race.
The program began with an awe-inspiring keynote address from Dr. Akram Boutros, President and CEO of The MetroHealth System. In his address, Dr. Boutros got very personal and challenged participants to do their part to end racism by helping and supporting our youth, not blaming one another and committing to keep the conversation going by looking inward and determining what your personal definition of relevant is.
Following the keynote address, participants were guided at each table by trained facilitators armed with tools designed to get the conversation started. The conversations were intense and deep, as many participants were willing to open up and share information about themselves that they had previously never shared. Many were surprised at the emotions these conversations evoked. Often, it is in these kinds of discussions on race that real breakthroughs occur – breakthroughs that ultimately lead to actions that benefit the individual and the community at large.
The ITT program ended with a Call to Action – participants were asked to take what they learned back to their organizations and continue the conversations in with their colleagues, friends, neighbors and students. Dr. Boutros challenged everyone in the room to not only be color-blind, but more importantly, to be color-brave.
Our Call to Action at YWCA Greater Cleveland is now also very clear: we must continue to develop programs to support the continuing community conversations on race. In April, we will announce a series of workshops that will help our community take the next step. Stay tuned!
Heather Steranka-Petit, MA, CDP, is the Director for YWCA Greater Cleveland’s “It’s Time to Talk” programs and services. Heather participated in the It’s Time to Talk forum as both a facilitator and a facilitator for the It’s Time to Talk train the trainer sessions. With a wealth of knowledge about cultural competencies, Heather will support the “eliminating racism” mission of the YWCA. Through the continued development of programs and services, she will work to improve the cultural competency of individuals and organizations in the Greater Cleveland community through awareness, knowledge, skill