Rockford, Ill.

Award-Winning Videos Help Battle Racism — One Relationship at a Time

YWCA of Rockford’s racism awareness video, “How do Stereotypes Impact Your Relationships,” won a Telly Award.

Racism is bigger than individual acts of violence or harassment. That’s the message that YWCA of Rockford, IL., wants people to understand, and it is the focus of their award-winning public service video campaign.

YWCA of Rockford launched the television public service announcements “because our existing racial justice workshops revealed the need for more conversations,” said CEO Kris Kieper. “We needed something to serve as launch pad to help people talk about race.  The topics in the PSAs came directly from what’s happened in our community or in our racial justice workshops.”

The PSAs, which are designed to help people look at how race impacts their daily lives, began airing on local television stations in 2010.  There are four videos: “How Do Stereotypes Impact Your Relationships?” – which recently won a Telly Award – “How Segregated is Your Life?,” “Housing Discrimination Hurts Families,” and “Night Club Discrimination.”  All were produced by Comtech Corporation in Rockford.

“The PSAs are one prong in a multi-prong approach.  Not everyone in a community will attend a workshop in person and this is a great way to reach the general population and a wider audience,” said Kieper. “If we’re truly going to have a community-wide dialog, you have to give people an opportunity to be exposed to the message and to participate in the discussion.  The PSA videos make racism an accessible topic for everyone.”

And, the result: people are talking.

“The PSAs are doing exactly what we wanted them to do: providing a basis for people to have a discussion about race,” says Kieper.  “That’s the first step -- just being able to have the conversation.  For Rockford, that’s a big step,” she says.  Rockford was the last public school system in the country to go through federal desegregation in the 1990s and there was a racially-charged incident where a black man was killed by two police officers in a church basement in 2009.  “Even today, people don’t even realize that some of what they do and say is racist; they won’t stop it if they don’t understand it.”

YWCA of Rockford’s racial justice programs include a partnership with Illinois State University to provide cultural competency training for students that prepare them for careers as teachers in urban schools, diversity workshops for students at the elementary-school level, an annual “National Conversation on Race” event and other initiatives.

For more information on these and other programs and services at YWCA of Rockford, call (815) 968-9681 or visit