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By Lydia Thacker, Chief Diversity Officer of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta
SAGE Table is an initiative to fight loneliness and isolation in the LGBTQ community through the power of intergenerational connections. SAGE Table events are held all across the nation each year on November 8th. In the spirit of the Y’s need to do it our way, our version of the event expanded on the community-building that begins at our Y by continuing beyond the event itself.
We so often look for strength in numbers, so we originally looked for 35 participants to engage in an intimate and meaningful conversation. With about half the number in attendance, it turned out to be an intimate and authentic discussion. In attendance were representatives from the LGBTQ community as well as allies from all backgrounds, races, genders, sexual orientations and religions, to name a few of the many dimensions represented.
The circle included future and current Y youth participants, current and former staff, Y members who also volunteer for organizations that work in support of the LGBTQ community, a representative from a higher education institution and a research and evaluation consultant. We conversed about challenges facing the LGBTQ community and participants felt that the conversation needed to be continued.
SAGE Table presented a phenomenal opportunity to build intergenerational connections that can sustain all of us as we build stronger bonds in the community. We discussed ways that the YMCA can be more inclusive by being welcoming in all our spaces.
There is not one mold for the YMCA, and the expectation should be that our differences are a strength and an asset. All Ys need to be welcoming, engaging, and valuing each individual regardless of ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, income, faith, and cultural background.
This was the beginning of a courageous conversation and ended with participants’ requests to continue. What a picture we painted of a rainbow… mind and spirit.
Rainbow… Mind and Spirit
Looking around the space where individuals had not yet seen two decades,
Sitting with those holding over six decades of life experiences.
This the very picture of the Y across the miles.
Breaking bread to address any barriers, feeding the body, nurturing the soul and strengthening the mind.
Speaking of extraordinary powers that influence those around us, served to fuel the energy for what was to come.
Spoke of a safe place in our circle of light.
Authentic in the speak coming from the heart, fed by the soul while giving the mind the opportunity to digest.
Scanning the circle, an image of the original Pow Wow with representation from many tribes came to mind.
Visions of a time when value was given to Two Spirit people who could see life through the eyes of both genders.
Seen as blessed with this extraordinary power… yester year … today so very different.
The power of the circle is infinite energy without beginning or end.
The courageous conversation on inclusivity specific to our LGBTQ community was truthful but genuine.
All in the spirit to be inclusive and engaging so that all feel part of the Y.
Gratitude expressed with warm hugs, hearing that heart was full and soul stirred
A Rainbow … mind and spirit.
– L. E. Thacker
About the author:
Since 1995 Lydia Thacker has been part of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, Inc. serving in various capacities. For over 17 years Lydia worked in both the Achievement Gap and Diversity and Inclusion space. Today as Chief Diversity Officer, Lydia provides intentional direction and strategy for the Metro Atlanta YMCA around Diversity, Inclusion and Global Strategy.
She is responsible for all activities related to the creation, development and maintenance of all diversity and inclusion plans, programs at the Metro Atlanta YMCA. As Diversity & Inclusion Champion and Change Agent this role supports the association to carry out the important work and foundation built around our diversity priorities.
About the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, Inc.:
All organizations must deal effectively with change. As an organization strives for excellence while maintaining its relevance, progressive systems can fuel its growth, stability and sustainability. The YMCA of Metro Atlanta exemplifies successful change management with 160 years of viability, providing services and programs in the regional Atlanta area, spanning more than 12 counties, and beyond. As Atlanta has grown, the YMCA has also evolved to meet the changing needs of our community.
By providing impactful services and support networks, and building bridges between people from all backgrounds, the Y has maintained its relevance, helping to create stronger, more cohesive communities for all.