Dr. Maya Angelou Helps Charleston YWCA Celebrate 100 Years
In Charleston, the YWCA is celebrating 100 years of service to the city with a very special guest. On September 28, 2012, the Clay Center will host award-winning poet, actress, composer, and producer Dr. Maya Angelou as part of the organization’s signature centennial event. Tickets are $50 each, and 200 had already sold by late June.
Elizabeth Pellegrin, the centennial co-chair, says the YWCA wanted the event to be available for everyone, so they will also have 400 tickets on reserve for people who cannot afford to go otherwise. “In accordance with our mission, we wanted to reserve the tickets for young women and those without the money so anyone who wants to can hear Dr. Angelou,” she says. “I really feel like this is part of history.”
The evening will celebrate the last 100 years and look forward to the YWCA’s goals. As one of Charleston’s oldest social service agencies, the YWCA has been committed to serving a diverse population. Elizabeth says, “We want to continue the tradition of evolving with our community and meeting the needs that emerge. In the past, we have seen where the needs are and prepared for them.”
The Charleston YWCA began offering services to women in 1912, providing a safe place for those pursuing careers. Today, the organization has grown to include a wide variety of community programs. Each year, at least 10,000 people utilize the services, including homeless shelters for women, a resolve family abuse program, and childcare for low-income families. With a mission to dissolve racism and empower the women of Kanawha, Clay, and Boone counties, the YWCA hopes to create a better life for all people.
When it came time to plan the 100-year anniversary celebration, Elizabeth says YWCA leaders were searching for the perfect speaker. “We have been meeting about this for about a year and a half, and we talked about a lot of potential speakers,” she says. “Our main focus was to find someone who was an embodiment of the mission of the YWCA.” When Elizabeth saw Dr. Maya Angelou’s name one evening on the computer, she knew who the best speaker would be. “I was thinking, ‘Wow. Is there any way we could get her to come here?’” she says.
After careful planning and contact of Dr. Angelou’s agent, it was confirmed that she would not only be the keynote speaker, but was in support of the cause. “When you look at eliminating racism and empowering women, there is no one better,” Elizabeth says.
Dr. Angelou grew up in rural, segregated Kansas and is the author of 12 best-selling books. She is a national book award nominee and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972. She was also the first African-American female director in Hollywood. She has written, produced, acted, and composed for film, television, and the stage, even being nominated for a Tony and an Emmy. Elizabeth says the YWCA is thrilled to have her speak in Charleston. “I am giddy with excitement just to hear her,” she says. “People like Dr. Maya Angelou don’t come along every day—they come once in a generation.”
The event will start with a small video explaining the history of the Charleston YWCA and a few words from the current president about goals. Starting at 7 p.m., the celebration will be held in the Maier Foundation Performance Hall. Tickets can be purchased at the Clay Center building, theclaycenter.org, or by calling 304.561.3570.
More information is available by contacting Sarabeth McDowell at 304.414.3113.
Check out another YWCA centennial event:
August 25, 2012, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences; leadership conference for women ages 15 to 35; register by August 3, 2012, at ywcacharleston.org.