Attending the YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix and Arizona Thurgood Marshall Inn of Court advocacy lecture was not only a learning experience but a communal one. Stacked up in seats in the open auditorium located in the lobby of the ASU Beus Center for Law and Society building, each attendee had all eyes on one man: Gilbert King.
Discussing his book, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, King spoke with charisma and captivated the audience with the horrifying story of “the Groveland Boys.” Persecuted by the local sheriff and damned by the political and social climate of Florida in the Jim Crow era, King’s book follows NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall through one of his most important, yet lesser cases defending “the Groveland Boys” from the serious charge of raping a white woman. King’s discussion of class and regional political and social stigmas was sobering.
Following King’s presentation, a Q&A ensued. With individuals in the audience from diverse backgrounds and ranging in age from 16-65, the questions asked of Mr. King were perhaps the most interesting part of the event. It is within this portion of the presentation that the connection between 1949 and today were made. With the current outrage and protests against police brutality, it would come as no surprise that several individuals in the audience claimed although progress since the time of the Groveland Boys had been made, it wasn’t enough.
In attending such an event, I quickly began to ask: what can I do?
The YWCA is committed to taking a stand to eliminate racism and promote inclusion and tolerance. It has a long history of collaboration within the Phoenix area and across the country as a part of the YWCA USA. Through their programs and services, they have developed partnerships with more than 100 organizations and continue to work with community groups, governments, schools, individuals and businesses.
More specifically, their Advocacy work stems from the Mission of Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women. Throughout its 106-year history in Greater Phoenix, the YWCA has engaged in Advocacy. Historically, this work has manifested in our serving women and their families in times of need, in serving the community’s immigrants, in serving women as they negotiate for equal pay, and for bringing to the forefront, conversations about racism and race. The YWCA Advocacy Committee leads these efforts.
So, in asking myself, what can I do, I quickly found that the first step in advocacy is awareness, the next is education, and the final is action. YWCA’s Advocacy Engagement Council encases these concepts and more. The newly formed Advocacy Engagement Council will help guide the work of the YWCA and strives to create a message that must be loud and clear so that the community can transform hate into love and forever improve the quality of life for all who live in this state, nation and world. The council and the YWCA are convinced that now, more than ever, leaders in the private, non-profit and for-profit sectors must do more to change communities, stop the intolerance and improve people’s lives. This change can take place in conference rooms, living rooms and community centers. Or maybe in the auditorium at ASU Beaus Center for Law and Society.
Here are some links about the event.
- NPR interview: http://theshow.kjzz.org/content/632674/author-gilbert-king-thurgood-marshall-and-groveland-boys
- Gilbert King event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paUVY8jiLn4
- PBS – “Horizon show”: http://video.azpbs.org/video/3010865259/