To: Neal Green and Brad Konawalik, board chair and vice chair at Keith Family YMCA
Rename the Keith Family YMCA back to University City YMCA.
Why is this important?
The YMCA of Greater Charlotte should not be uplifing prison profiteers!
In March 2017, the University City branch of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, under the approval of its board of directors, was dedicated and renamed to the Keith Family branch, in honor of a family who, since 1999, has aggressively pursued private maintenance contracts in North Carolina state prisons where Black people represent 22% of the population yet make up 55% of state prison population. In Mecklenburg County, where privately held company, The Keith Corporation, is headquartered, Black people represent 30% of the county population yet make up 67% of the Mecklenburg County jail population.
Graeme Keith, Sr., a Charlotte developer and retired banker held three contracts totaling $3M in 2014. During October of that year, Pat McCrory, then NC Governor and longtime friend of Keith, convened a meeting at his Charlotte office where Keith told prison officials and McCrory that “he had been working on ‘private prison maintenance’ projects for over ten (10) years and during that time he had given a lot of money to candidates running for public office and it was now time for him to get something in return.” He further stated that he had worked with state legislators to expand private maintenance to additional prisons and seemed very pleased that he no longer had to go through the NCGA to expand his business. His blatant use of quid-pro-quo political tactics to influence lawmakers to privatize prison maintenance contracts is both reprehensible and illegal at best.
Although a federal investigation of the governors office concluded in 2016, just months before the branch was renamed, there remains no known legal action against Keith. His continues to profit from prisons.
In the University City area surrounding the Keith Family YMCA, residents are mostly non white: 40% Black, 9% Hispanic, and 8% Asian, whereas Whites represent 43%. Communities of color in Charlotte would rather see representations of the great contributions made by African Americans and other people of color adorn neighborhood institutions like the YMCA. In a city that ranked last in economic mobility according to a 2014 Harvard study, bold actions that challenge the generational hierarchy of white supremacy and structural racism should be embraced and modeled regularly, and not idolized and rewarded. We will no longer stand on the sidelines and allow our families to be subjected to legacies of wealth and power made off the backs of marginalized communities of color.
The name must come down.