With a mission to empower women and eliminate racism, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Binghamton and Broome County hosted its annual Stand Against Racism campaign at its Downtown Binghamton facility on Saturday.
According to Jennifer Spencer, board member of the YWCA and a third-year graduate student studying public administration, the event was hosted in conjunction with 2018 midterm elections to stress the importance of voting and women in politics.
“This April, the theme was ‘our power, our mission, our future,’ and so we really wanted to be able to engage young people — hearing their voices and getting politically involved, becoming voters,” Spencer said. “We really wanted to tackle issues that impacted women, particularly women of color.”
The event comes just days after the YWCA released a statement on Facebook alleging that the Binghamton Police Department used “excessive force” while responding to a domestic dispute on YWCA property, an account that city of Binghamton Mayor Rich David and Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski have disputed. Despite the recent allegations, there was no mention of the incident at the event.
Sharon Ball, former 2017 Democratic state legislative candidate, gave the keynote address. According to Ball, voting is a type of enlightened self-interest because the laws and regulations politicians pass affect every aspect of people’s lives.
“I vote because people died so that I can go to the polls and cast my ballot,” Ball said. “It doesn’t matter that sometimes the candidate that I vote for and the cause that I hope for does not win [or] do not win the election. It matters that the people who do win know that a whole bunch of people like me have spoken with our vote and show them that they’re going to have to work to stay in office.”
Zenzele Franklin, a sophomore majoring in computer science and public relations chair of the National Society of Black Engineers, said she attended the event to learn more about the voting process.
“I’m not completely in tune with what’s going on around me outside of Binghamton or outside of campus,” Franklin said. “I feel like this would be helpful in learning about the different policies and learning about rights.”
The event also featured a voting rights session from BU’s Center for Civic Engagement and a discussion from members of Family Planning of South Central New York about affordable and accessible health care. According to Carole Coppens, executive director of the YWCA, it’s important for people to use their voting privilege.
“Don’t sit on the sidelines — as a woman, it is more critical and important than ever,” Coppens said. “If you see [racism], speak out against it. Do some research, talk to people who are working in the field but don’t sit on the sidelines.”
Spencer said she hoped attendees realized the importance of their vote and voice.
“I think sometimes young people are dismissed,” Spencer said. “I really just hope that participants feel that no matter what age you are, you can have a voice and you can be a part of the political process and have your voice heard.”