Construct the future we’re dreaming

photo of Curt Hazelbaker, President and CEO, YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas

Construct the future we’re dreaming by making Black lives matter

YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas President and CEO Curt Hazelbaker wants his organization to be a leader in diversity and inclusion.

“Look closely at the present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming.” ― Alice Walker

The YMCA mission is to put Christian values into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all. We work diligently to be a cause-driven organization that supports youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. It is consistent with our mission that we will lead in conversations about racial injustice. When tornadoes ripped through Dallas neighborhoods, we opened our doors to provide comfort and shelter. As COVID-19 has left people without food, childcare and created a blood shortage, the Y is there to support our community. When people endure racial injustice and violence, as Black communities are suffering, we raise our voices and take action.

The Y strives to “be for all, all the time.” At this time, we are called upon to do more. We must look closely at the present and demand a reality where race does not dictate health, longevity, safety or well-being. It is a statistical fact that being Black in America creates a greater likelihood of poverty, incarceration, poor health, underemployment, food insecurity, homelessness and death at the hands of law enforcement. These social-economic conditions suggest that Black lives don’t matter, regardless of declarations to the contrary.

So how will we construct the future we are dreaming? Oftentimes to improve the future, we have to start by reflecting on the past. We believe that understanding where we have been allows us to more fully understand where we are now. This is in service of deciding where we will go next.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas has a 135-year history as a non-profit organization and has been a fixture of the community, witnessing so many turning points that are proud moments in our history, and have navigated through difficult times too, including segregation.

Nationally, the Y endorsed a desegregation policy in 1946 and finally banned discrimination in 1967 as a part of annual certification. YMCAs are products of their communities, who at times make change a necessity and at other times make it seem an insurmountable challenge.

As the country and city changed through the years, the Dallas Y also transformed to serve the changing needs of Dallas and surrounding communities. Local branches were constructed throughout the area, bringing YMCA services to a broader group of people. But are we really serving all people?

While our Y has realized many advancements regarding diversity, like many organizations, I thought we could do better. It’s been a goal of mine for the last three years to make the Dallas Y a leader in diversity and inclusion. Together, I believe we can create communities where Black and Brown people flourish, reach their fullest potential and refuse to accept anything less. The Y is committing to be anti-racist by deepening our understanding of the impact of race, unconscious bias and privilege in our daily lives by:

   Prioritizing the eradication of racism

   Participating in unconscious-bias and undoing-racism training designed for leaders of community-based organizations

   Establishing a diversity and inclusion leadership position across our association

   Ensuring diverse candidate pools are sought for all positions

   Establishing a Y vendor participation percentage requirement for minority- or women-owned businesses

   Facilitating on-going conversations with our boards, staff and communities regarding race and related matters

   Addressing health disparities prevalent in Black and Brown communities

As we make these changes, we are living our mission in the construction of the future we’re dreaming. One where Black lives matter. Where skin color in America is not an indicator of poverty, incarceration, poor health, underemployment, food insecurity, homelessness and death at the hands of law enforcement. Where in the future, the Y and all of us, can be better than our past and truly a place for all.


Curt Hazelbaker is president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. In addition to his role in Dallas, Hazelbaker is active on the state, regional and national levels with the Y, serving on the executive committee of the Texas State Alliance of YMCAs and as chair for YMCA North American Network, which encompasses the largest Ys in North America. He served on the North American YMCA Development Organization from 2008 to 2018 and as a member of the YMCA of the USA board of directors from 2013 to 2017.


Authored by: David