50 Years - Celebrating A Blessed Heritage 1971 - 2021!

Black History: The Foundation of American History

Robert Saunders Library

By Ahmad K. Qawi, President/CEO Racine Family YMCA & St. Monica's Board Member

In 2001, I was participating in the Adult Centered African Rites of Passage. It was a journey, a process to better understand who I was as an African American and what was my purpose on this earth. During this journey I met my second cousin on my father's side of the family, Robert W. Saunders, Sr. He was receiving an Honorary Doctorate from University of Tampa and I attended his ceremony.  

Again, this was my first time meeting him, I knew nothing about this man at all. He wrote a book titled, "Bridging the Gap: Continuing the Florida NAACP Legacy of Harry T. Moore." I spent a day with him and came back home to Racine, WI. After finishing reading his autobiography, I knew what my purpose was on this planet. See,..."in January of 1952 he accepted the position as Florida field director for the NAACP after the state's first field director, Harry T. Moore, was killed in a Ku Klux Klan bombing of his home."

"Assuming a difficult and dangerous leadership role, Saunders guided the state through challenging years of change, including landmark legal decisions on voting rights, school desegregation, the integration of public beaches, facilities, and housing, equal pay for Black teachers, and many other milestones..." (https://www.hcplc.org/thpl/history/saunders)

I realized I had a family member that was on the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement in the 50's and 60's. He was friends with many of the African American heroes we read and hear about every February. I then knew that working in the nonprofit sector and serving humanity was what my family history was all about!

Black History is to me the foundation of American History and Robert W. Saunders, Sr., put my family in the American History books forever! On November 3, 2003, the Hillsborough County's BOCC voted to rename the Ybor City Library as the Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Public Library to honor Robert W. Saunders, Sr. 

I decided I wanted to make history and leave a mark on the world like my cousin Robert Saunders. On July 1, 2020, the Racine Family YMCA's Board of Directors promoted me to President and CEO. That day I became apart of American History as the first African American to be hired to lead this 144 year old organization and possibly the first African American CEO in the history of Y's in the entire State of Wisconsin. 

Black History is what my community makes it everyday and it is an important story to share of American history!