BHM | Sharing our Story: Zakiya Bell-Rogers

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BHM | Sharing our Story: Zakiya Bell-Rogers

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YWCA of Asheville Board Chair shares personal perspective

Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you (and/or your family) are connected to the YWCA of Asheville.

I am the current Board Chair of the board of the YWCA and I’ve been connected with the YW for over 20 years. I was an active member, and an employee when I was in college, my siblings learned to swim here and I learned to swim here as an adult.

When you think about Black History in Asheville and Western North Carolina, what surfaces for you?

Oooh, I immediately think of all the hidden or little-known stories of successful people we are just now learning about. It’s almost like there is a hidden history for those that weren’t a part of it and we are starting to explore a little and unearth these hidden gems.

How does the YWCA of Asheville play a role in that history?

While on the board I have learned so much about how the YW has impacted that history. Not only is the YW an all-woman-led organization but was one of the stories that are now starting to be heard. 

What is something most folks may not know about or remember?

That the YW had the first Black CEO in the Southeast and just the second in the nation. 

Then, Eleanor Roosevelt visited Asheville and refused to speak unless she could speak to a blended audience. The YW of Asheville hosted Eleanor Roosevelt when she visited Asheville.  You know, they (Thelma and Eleanor) are both my sorority sisters! We are all AKAs

Who was an important or inspirational black woman in your life growing up (and why)?

Of course my mom! She was an incredible role model for me. After going through so much adversity she was able to find her place when she moved to Asheville. When I think about it, it was all the women in my family. They were just strong women that knew how to do everything, from changing a tire and checking the transmission fluid, they taught us how to do everything! There is nothing they couldn’t do or couldn’t figure out how to do together. 

How have all those women contributed to who you are today?

By continuing to uplift me, encourage me, helping build a village for the adult in me. It’s not just a child who needs a village but adults need it too. All these women have shown me sisterhood, community, and support throughout my adult life.