Honor Sylvia Ferrell-Jones this Giving Tuesday

Photo By Nate Photography

On November 29th, we honor the one-year anniversary of the passing of our dear friend and former President and CEO Sylvia Ferrell-Jones. Sylvia, who led YW Boston for over ten years, worked tirelessly to bring people together across difference to learn from one another. She brought hundreds of people into the YW Boston community, and by forging strong relationships, Sylvia inspired change across Boston.

Shortly after Sylvia’s retirement in September 2017, YW Boston created the Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Fund to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. In October 2017, Sylvia wrote a letter to the YW Boston community, stating that “When I heard the news that the Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Fund had been created to support the work of YW Boston, it brought me a great sense of peace knowing that this fund will help this important organization continue to grow and impact the lives of future generations.” Through this fund, YW Boston continues the important work that Sylvia spear-headed during her tenure as President and CEO.

We are thankful for the generosity we’ve seen from Boston and beyond. The fund began as a way to celebrate Sylvia as she stepped away from the organization, and we watched it grow as an entire community came together and honored her. In just over a year, 475 people have donated to the Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Fund. As of November 1, 2018, the fund has raised $193,000, just $7,000 from surpassing the $200,000 mark.

Over the years, Sylvia worked with Boston’s most influential leaders to ensure the city is dedicated to racial and gender equity. Mayor Marty Walsh spoke of Sylvia at YW Boston’s 2018 Academy of Women Achievers, remembering her dedication to make sure “everyone’s journey into adulthood was one to be of empowerment, especially for girls and for people of color.” United States Representative Ayanna Pressley, in a video remembering Sylvia (below), described Sylvia as “soft spoken, but yet still firm” and always intersectional in her approach to equity. Sylvia also served as a mentor and inspiration for women of color in Boston, including current YW Boston President and CEO Beth Chandler and the first Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Awardee, Nai Collymore-Henry.

During her tenure, Sylvia oversaw the acquisition of the YW Boston programs Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity, LeadBoston, and InIt. Each of these three programs seek to educate and empower leaders across Boston to make change within their institutions. As Sylvia stated at YW Boston’s 150th Anniversary Gala, “every life that we intersect with gives us the opportunity to change someone’s future.” This is why Sylvia’s vision for YW Boston focused on connection and collective change-making.

Over the last year and a half, YW Boston has worked to refine our strategic direction in order to be responsive to the most pressing needs in our community. We believe that Sylvia would be proud of where we are as an organization today. During the summer of 2017, Sylvia, alongside YW Boston’s leadership team, recognized the need to evaluate YW Boston’s effectiveness in the community. As a group, the team began to work with The Bridgespan Group to determine the right next steps for the organization. Sylvia was excited for the future and participated in this planning process until she stepped down as President and CEO due to illness.

Driven by Sylvia’s momentum, we have strengthened our ability to create inclusive environments where women, people of color, and in particular women of color, can succeed. To quote Sylvia speaking about the Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity program, people don’t talk about difference because they “are afraid of offending others. They are afraid of saying the wrong thing. They need a safe environment to do that.” Each of YW Boston’s programs seeks to do this and more – to serve as an environment for people to speak about race and gender and then identify ways they can make a difference.

Supporting the Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Fund carries Sylvia’s legacy forward as YW Boston continues to create change through connection. We are only $7,000 away from our $200,000 mark. This is why on Giving Tuesday, November 27th, we are asking people to donate in Sylvia’s memory.

Almost a year following her passing, Sylvia continues to inspire YW Boston and the City of Boston. In response, we must recognize the legacy she left for us. In her letter, Sylvia wrote, “I am deeply honored and humbled by your generosity of spirit, and your willingness to remember me, and to keep this work moving steadily toward a more equitable society.”

Will you help create a more equitable society in Sylvia’s honor? Donate to the Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Fund here.