President Patricia Pelton and Secretary General Carlos Madjri Sanvee journeyed to Anaheim, California from 17-20 July to attend the General Assembly of YMCAs in the USA. The event began with a meeting of multi-cultural leaders where Carlos was invited to give an address. He discussed his experience coming up through the Movement as a man of colour and what it means to him to be the first African Secretary General in today’s context.
“There’s still need for movement within the Movement,” Secretary General Sanvee said. “YMCA is making strides to achieve equality, but there is still more that can be done. Seeing all of these great leaders, gathered together in unity is truly an inspiring experience.”
The multi-cultural experience concluded with a Red Table Talk, made popular by actor Jada Pinkett Smith, where leaders from across the country discussed their struggles and their successes over their YMCA careers.
In the afternoon, Patricia and Carlos had an opportunity to speak together to assembly delegates. This time it was to the CEOs, Chairs and senior leaders of local YMCAs. The pair dialogued with each other about movement relevance and the need to adapt our practices, so we remain fit for purpose, before they concluded with a challenge.
“We encourage Y-USA to be at the forefront of social innovation by taking diversity and inclusion to a whole new level,” President Pelton said. “We challenge them to lead in promoting social justice through action against inequalities and extremism while developing inclusive, forward-looking, globally responsible citizens who are changemakers.”
The second day opened with a keynote from actor and gender equality activist Geena Davis who discussed her work researching gender in the media. One of the more shocking outcomes from the research was just how skewed gender balance is within film and television; more often than not, women are actually less represented in the fictional world than in reality.
The day continued with Patricia and Carlos visiting the Youth Institute of YMCA Greater Long Beach. This programme brings technology vocational training to low-income neighbourhoods giving young people the opportunity to learn photography, videography, production, coding and programming. Youth Institutes have since been opened in 18 locations across the USA and stretched to countries like Canada, Cambodia and South Africa. During the visit, participants and young staff asked questions and described their experiences within the programme.
“The tools these young people are learning are vital to today’s job market,” said Pelton. “I can’t wait to see what each of these young people will accomplish over their careers.”
Day two concluded by honouring a selection of exceptional YMCA people through the Y-USA Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Special congratulations and thanks goes to each of those individuals: Bea Betterton-Halk, Dr. Hedley S. Dimock, Jean Ann Durades, Harold Keltner, Dr. William K. Lee, Alice “Bonnie” Mairs, Harold Mezile, Barbara Roper, Robert “Skip” Wilke, and all the YMCA staff and volunteers who served in WWI.
Carlos spent his final day speaking at a special breakfast meeting of local YMCA CEOs and senior Y-USA staff where he shared his agenda for World YMCA and how local YMCAs can engage globally.
“It was such a privilege to have the opportunity to speak with so many leaders from the American Movement and see some of the great work they’re doing in their communities,” said Sanvee. “Kevin Washington [CEO of Y-USA] has been such a great supporter of World YMCA since I came into office, as evident by all their support for YMCA175.”
YMCA of the USA will be bringing the largest delegation to YMCA175 in August with more than 600 young people, senior leaders and volunteers. Six young people from the Youth Institute will be joining the delegation to film the invent and for most, it will be their first experience on a plane.