YWCA Madison

Stand Against Racism


Women of Color Leading Change

YWCA Madison has partnered with Forward Community Investments to bring you a webinar on Women of color Leading Change with Vanessa McDowell, Interim CEO, YWCA Madison; Annahid Dashtgard, Co-Founder, Anima Leadership; Sagashus T. Levingston, Founder, Infamous Mothers; Sabrina "Heymiss Progrss" Madison, Socialpreneur, Motivational Speaker and Poet.

In this presentation, YWCA's Interim CEO, Vanessa McDowell will moderate a conversation in which each speaker will talk about their work leading change in their community. For a complete list of speaker bios, click here

This webinar is being presented as part of Stand Against Racism, which is a signature campaign of YWCA USA to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities. This campaign is one part of YWCA's larger national strategy to fulfill is mission of eliminating racism. Share your stand against racism using #StandAgainstRacism. Please join us! Register for this free webinar on the Forward Community Investments website. Take the Pledge.



Vanessa McDowell

A proven leader in the human services field, Vanessa McDowell brings nearly 12 years of experience to her position as YWCA Madison's Interim Chief Executive Officer. She was initially hired in 2014 as the Director of Support Services for the YWCA and later promoted to Chief Programs Officer. Vanessa is deeply committed to offering programs and services that support women and social justice, help families and strengthen communities. She has a passion for serving others by leveraging voices that have been silenced as well as empowering others to live out their purpose. She works from an empowerment model which aligns with the mission of the YWCA Madison which is to eliminate racism and empower women.

Prior to joining the YWCA, Vanessa worked for UW- Madison’s Wisconsin Equity and Inclusion Laboratory and was the Executive Assistant to the Pastor for Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

Vanessa is born and raised in Madison, WI. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. She has made a commitment to stay and work in the Madison community because of her dedication to this community.

In 2016 BRAVA magazine selected Vanessa as one of the 22 “Women to Watch”. She was also selected to participate in the 2015 class of Leadership Greater Madison.


 Annahid Dashtgard

Annahid Dashtgard (MEd) is co-founder of Anima Leadership an award-winning consulting company that believes when people feel like they matter and belong the extraordinary becomes possible. Annahid has managed national political campaigns, advised on policy and led many organizational and community change initiatives. She brings an in-depth knowledge of both psychological and political forces involved in creating widespread social change and believes both are needed. She is a published author, public speaker and media spokesperson on topics related to democracy, citizen engagement, belonging and diversity. She is comfortable reporting that her most challenging and fulfilling leadership experience to date has been her 2 toddlers teaching her about motherhood!



Sagashus T. Levingston   

Sagashus T. Levingston holds a master’s in Afro-American Studies and is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her dissertation is titled Infamous Mothers: Bad Moms Doing Extraordinary Things. While her research focuses primarily on literature, it is informed by theory and criticism from rhetoric, motherhood studies and black feminism. Her coffee table book, simply titled Infamous Mothers, is inspired by this work and so is Infamous Mothers, LLC. As the proud mother of six children—three boys and three girls, and partner of Tosumba, she and her family lives in Madison, WI.








Sabrina "Heymiss Progress" Madison

Award winning entrepreneur Sabrina Madison, affectionately known as “Heymiss Progress” is the creator of the Black Women’s Leadership Conference and The Heymiss Progress Show, Founder of The Conversation Mixtape, Creator of the Black Business Expo, and a Grand Poetry Slam Champion. In 2016 she was recognized by In Business Magazine as one of the most influential people in the Greater Madison area and named one of the most influential Africans Americans in the state of WI by Madison365. She's a BRAVA Woman to Watch and was also named to Madison Magazine's M List for 2016 on behalf of her work in creating the Black Women's Leadership Conference. 

Sabrina thrives as a motivational speaker and social entrepreneur. She has motivated students nationally including the National Conference on Student Leadership and local groups including AVID TOPS and the DELTA GEMS to live their dreams despite tough circumstances. As a quarterly speaker for the American Family Insurance DreamBank she’s helped countless community members leverage their strengths to live their dreams! From inspiring keynote addresses to leading workshops on personal branding success, she’s a woman who leads with purpose and does the work from a love ethic.

She’s a columnist for Madison365, a community organizer, poet, connector and master collaborator! She’s leveraged her Heymiss Progress brand to work with the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, Madison365, Boys & Girls Club of Dane County Adorable.io and many other businesses and community groups.

Other Ways to Get Involved

Take the Stand Against Racism Pledge

YWCA is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families and strengthen communities. You can take a stand against racism with YWCA and hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Take the pledge at your organization, school, community group, or in your neighborhood or family. Participate on social media by sharing a photo of yourself with this sign, telling the world how you will stand against racism. Use the hashtags #standagainstracism and #ywact.

Why Women of Color?

This year, we are focused on a very important theme: Women of Color Leading Change. Now, perhaps more than ever, our country, our government, our business sector, and our movement need the visible leadership of women of color. Download this PDF for resources, stories, and statistics that illustrate the crucial need to stand up for Women of Color leading change. For details on YWCA's national racial justice work, download this PDF that includes details of why YWCA  focus on women of color and how YWCA has worked to bring an intersectional approach to our work to bring social change and social services to communities across the country for more than 150 years.