February is Black History Month, a time to elevate the Y’s commitment to diversity and inclusion throughout the organization’s history. Black History Month is a time of education, reflection and action. The Y celebrates and honors the Black community every day. We are proudly spotlighting the contributions and achievements of our Black employees and volunteers.

#WeWearBlack - February 25

We invite you to join us for #WeWearBlack on February 25 to take a stand against injustice and racism in all forms. #WeWearBlack to bring awareness to systemic racism and oppression of Black people in the United States and around the globe. Join us in this awareness effort as #WeWearBlack to show unity with those who are working daily to fight injustice, prejudice and inequity and as a symbol of hope, awareness and togetherness. Capture your #WeWearBlack moment by taking a picture, posting it to social media with #Ywewearblack and tagging us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.


Joshua Foster

What is your title and how long have you been with the Y? I’m Sports Assistant at the Mission Valley YMCA. I have been with the Y for eight years.

Describe what you do at the Y. At the Y, I do my best to give a pleasant experience to whoever I’m interacting with. Between my jobs throughout the years, I’ve dabbled between a camp counselor, coach and sports official. Each one has their challenges, but I do enjoy them.

What is your favorite thing about your job? My favorite thing about my job is being given the environment to grow and understand others. Some find it challenging to express themselves in a safe way and because of that, I want to show them that it’s ok.

What does Black history mean to you? To me, Black history is the acknowledgment of the hardships and triumphs of Black culture. The peace and brutality should not be forgotten, but understood.

What would you like the community to know about Black history? What I want the community to know about Black history are the parts we briefly skip over as a youth. It is difficult to hear that humanity can do these things in the past, but from understanding these mistakes, it allows us to build a better future for all.

Which leaders, artists, friends, or family members inspire and guide you in your life? What inspires me is the potential growth that everyone is capable of. Everyone can do better for themselves and strive to pursue their goals. For me, this guides me in my goal of becoming a teacher. I want to help plant the foundation for others and help them find who they are. 


John Walker

What is your title? I am a Lead Preschool Teacher at Toby Wells YMCA.

What is your favorite thing about your job? My favorite thing about my job is watching the children grow throughout their time in the program. Children's first few years of life are pivotal to their development, so knowing I contributed to their success is what warms my heart.

What does Black history mean to you? It is an opportunity to enlighten the nation about the contributions and influences of African American people throughout the years. By having a month dedicated to them, it allows us to showcase how impactful and important their contributions are to our nation’s history.

What would you like the community to know about Black history? I believe Black history is constantly associated with more negative events, so our positive moments do not always receive the spotlight they need. For example, you may know about slavery and oppression, but do you know about the positive impacts we’ve had too? Do you know Garrett Morgan invented the traffic light? What about Granville T. Woods and his contributions to the railroad? Or Madam C.J. Walker and her ambition to become the first Black woman to be a self-made millionaire? We have much to offer, so I encourage you to look beyond oppression and negativity because we have such an extensive and positive presence in our nation too!

Which leaders, artists, friends or family members inspire and guide you in your life? Leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. inspire me to stand up for my beliefs because you never know how impactful it could be! Jackie Robinson gave me the strength to endure rough times because you are on a mission for the greater good! Coretta Buckley, my mother, provided me with confidence by empowering me to be anything I wanted to be and building my self-esteem! My favorite thing about these leaders is their ability to empower others by simply encouraging people to believe in themselves and their dreams!


Tanya Collins

What is your title and how long have you been with the Y? I’ve worked for the Mission Valley YMCA for 23+ years. I currently work in the Business Center Accounting/Finance.

What is your favorite thing about your job? My favorite thing about my job is my working for the communities we serve and my coworkers. I've made some lifelong friends working at the YMCA.

What does Black history mean to you? Black History to me means knowing the history and appreciating the struggle and accomplishments of my ancestors. Celebrating them and those to come.

What would you like the community to know about Black history? Everything! From the inventions to change-makers and the obstacles and fights they had to go through to get “us” where we are today. Black history is not just about being black but sharing the culture of Blackness with others.

Which leaders, artists, friends or family members inspire and guide you in your life? My inspiration comes from everywhere, I get inspiration from my surroundings. Such as my family, friends, coworkers, etc. We all have our own qualities and personalities that make us who we are.


Tony R. Russell

What is your title and how long have you been with the Y? I have been with the Y for 12 years and I’m a member of the Board of Directors at the YMCA of San Diego County. Also, I’m a member of the Board of Advisors at Jackie Robinson Family YMCA.

Describe what you do at the Y. As a member of the Board of Directors and Board of Advisors, my role is to oversee the operations of the YMCA of San Diego County and help ensure the long-term success of the Y through person contributions and effective fundraising.

What is your favorite thing about your role at the Y? My favorite thing about my role at the Y is that I get to play a part in improving the quality of life for kids all over San Diego County through educational and sports programs.

What does Black history mean to you? When I think of Black history, I think of compassion, impact, intellect, inventions, perseverance, strength and success that should be celebrated all year long.

What would you like the community to know about Black history? I would like the community to know and accept that Black history is replete with contributions that have helped to make this country what it is today. Armed with this information, I would like the community to celebrate and share them every chance they get, along with the ones that are currently celebrated and common knowledge.  

Which leaders, artists, friends or family members inspire and guide you in your life? There are many. First and foremost, my mother and all of the other strong women in her life who helped raise and shape the person I am today. Not to leave out the men in my life, there are many who have mentored me along the way. The one leader who has made an impact on my life is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He stood on the shoulders of many others who came before him, so as a result, everything he accomplished during the Civil Rights era and beyond should be attributed to all of them.


Ferrari Funches

What is your title and how long have you been with the Y? Sports Director at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA. I’ve been with the Y for seven years.

Describe what you do at the Y. I inspire and lead youth and adults via sports leagues and clinics.

What is your favorite part about your job? Providing beneficial sports programs to keep youth active, engaged and safe. As well as being able to inspire youth to become the best versions of themselves.  

What does Black history mean to you? African American History Month is a month of remembrance to appreciate and acknowledge the triumphs and struggles of the many courageous men and women that fought to forever change the course of American history.

What would you like the community to know about Black history? America would not be the country it is today if it weren’t for African American pioneers and activists that came before us. African American history is celebrated all year long, not just in the month of February.

Which leaders, artists, friends or family members inspire and guide you in your life? I am inspired by those who made the impossible possible, by creating pathways and opening doors for future African American generations to prosper


Curtis Lee

What is your title and how long have you been with the Y? I’m the Gymnastics Head Coach at Cameron Family YMCA and I have been with the YMCA of San Diego for 8 years.

Describe what you do at the Y. I coach boys and girls classes and competitive team for boys and girls daily.

What is your favorite part about your job? I like that I have the opportunity to work with a variety of ages. I feel it makes me a better coach.

What does Black history mean to you? Black history to me is knowing your history/culture while understanding how you fit in your world history.

What would you like the community to know about Black history? Black History is American History and should be everyone’s interest to learn more about.

Which leaders, artists, friends or family members inspire and guide you in your life? My inspiration came from my parents. Their motto was “Be the best you can be and treat others how you want to be treated”.

Anything you would like to add? If we all tried to know each other’s story the world be a better place. We all have a story. My story started in Mississippi, Pennsylvania and now California.


Alexa Toure

What is your title and how long have you been with the Y? I am a Wellness Coach and certified Yoga Instructor and I've been with the YMCA for less than a year.

Describe what you do at the Y. I give new members orientations and assist members with safe usage of equipment and keep our wellness area clean and free of bad vibes with my eye brawl smile (mask), and periodic random dance moves on the way to the janitorial closet.

What is your favorite part about your job? My favorite part of my job is helping people to feel welcome and appreciated and also all the love they share with me.

What does Black history mean to you and what would you like the community to know about Black history? Below is a Black history poem I wrote:

To have the courage to explore within
Present, I listen
The audacity to educate myself beyond oppressive history.... 

I awaken the codes in my DNA, unveil beautiful Black mystery
Black is not a month in time, performative diversity
Intellectual concepts, imagery, or superficiality
Black is the universal order, rhythm, a poet's rhyme
Black is love is life is family, is Divine

Black is embo (origin).... my conduct and character
Not an attachment to identity
The cosmic womb, the waters of nuun
As Black folks say... It's how I be
Black matter is, was, and will always be harmony, an experience, a frequency

For Grandma Berniece
Written by Alexa Toure

Which leaders, artists, friends or family members inspire and guide you in your life? Leaders I admire are my honored ancestors, Wangari Maati, Josephine Baker, Fred Hampton and Lilian Gregory.


Ira Canada

What is your title? I am a Member Services Representative at YMCA Krause Family Skate & Bike Park.

Describe what you do at the Y. I work with the youth here in San Diego County — uplifting upcoming action sports athletes while promoting an inclusive environment for people of all ages, color, religious backgrounds, etc.

What does Black history mean to you? Black History Month represents a time to celebrate all of the amazing things that the African community has brought all over the world. Black culture has been an integral part of all cultures, all over the world and it’s amazing to be able to celebrate our accomplishments with my peers in such a great environment that promotes equality.

What would you like the community to know about Black history? I want our youth to know about racial equity and that, for the Black community, it has not been an easy road to get to where we are now — we still have a long way to go before we can fully be represented fairly and equally.

Which leaders, artists, friends or family members inspire and guide you in your life? I gained a deep respect for political science and international affairs from the late former Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Through reading his books and journals from his time in the White House, I learned the basis of what it takes to keep our nation safe, especially in tumultuous times such as 9/11. As far as my family members, my grandfather is a very large inspiration in my life and played an extremely large role fighting for civil rights in the 1960s. One thing he always reminded me of was all the hard work himself and his brothers put in to get our recognition in this nation.


INCLUSIVITY STATEMENT

The YMCA of San Diego County is an organization open to all people. We welcome and value individuals of all age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, gender expression, ability, sexual orientation or financial circumstance. We are committed to having programs and services that embrace diversity, reflecting the people and needs of our community.

RACIAL JUSTICE TASK FORCE AT THE YMCA

The YMCA of San Diego County acknowledges the racial injustices that have been faced and are still being endured by our Black and Indigenous communities. The past several years have reignited strong feelings related to social justice that many disenfranchised communities, specifically our BIPOC community, have felt for a long time. The Racial Justice Task Force at the YMCA was created to unify and empower efforts towards racial equity within our YMCA and our community to make San Diego more inclusive.