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YCP alumni sisters use talents, platforms to highlight and advocate for the Black Experience

February 01, 2021
The sisters in front of graffiti holding a sign saying we care

Sharee McFadden ’08 remembers the late-night conversation with York City’s Mayor Michael Helfrich. The two returned from a protest on June 1 that led demonstrators past the York City Police Department on their way to the steps of the York County Judicial Center.

Mayor Helfrich wondered, what could the City do to make a statement? Together, Helfrich and McFadden landed on the words “Racism is Not Tolerated Here.”

In the following days, the City hoisted a banner over the square as a declaration of support and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

McFadden's social justice work isn’t new. In fact, the York College of Pennsylvania Public Relations alumna comes from a family that has been persistent in working to change perceptions. Her mother served as Executive Director of the York City Human Relations Commission and organized unity marches which gathered thousands in the name of unity, justice, peace, and equality. Throughout their teen years and into college, McFadden and her siblings advocated alongside their mother to fight for social justice and community improvement. 

Her younger sister, Shelby Wormley ’13, a Mass Communication alumna, is also an activist who uplifts the Black community. Together, they’re pushing the conversation on racial justice in Central Pennsylvania and beyond.

Fixing the systems

As the Economic Development Specialist with the City of York, McFadden has an inside perspective on issues that impact the community. Racism and inequality play a role in housing, healthcare, workforce, and business. “Having racial injustice in those systems affects the overall goals of my position and the economic advancement of our city,” she says. “It’s all connected.”

McFadden’s role in addressing social justice goes far beyond her job with the City of York. As CEO of a coaching and lifestyle empowerment company, InJOYourLife, LLC, she works on various community projects and initiatives aimed at improving the community and the lives of those in it through coaching, consulting, and events.

Currently, she is working with a grassroots group of community leaders to educate and confront organizations and businesses that perpetuate inequality and racism. She’s also on the YWCA Racial Justice Committee and chaired the 2019 and 2020 Race Against Racism Committee, and most recently was a guest panelist with WITF as a part of its Racial Justice PA campaign.

“We can say racism isn’t tolerated and shout ‘Black Lives Matter’ all day, but if the systems in place don’t commit to intentional and concrete actions that support those statements, then this is all in vain,” McFadden says. “We don’t want to be in the same place in two or three years.”

Connecting through joy

When the Black Lives Matter protests first broke out in Lancaster City, Wormley grabbed her camera.  As a photojournalist for ABC27’s Lancaster office, documenting the protests was part of her job.

She recently co-produced a town hall series called Finding Hope Together to discuss race relations in America, including the Black Lives Matter Movement. She and her husband, Jordan Wormley, who are co-owners of Lancaster-based media company, We&Company, also use their platform to share stories of the disenfranchised, unseen, unheard, and misunderstood. They are passionate about telling the real stories. Most recently, the couple produced a special for the City of Lancaster, highlighting their first responders.

Like her sister, Wormley has found ways to use her abilities to amplify the voices and highlight the real experiences of Black men and women. In 2017, Richard Craighead of Inclusive Arts Movement York asked Wormley to be the photographer on a project and capture his vision. Craighead’s idea was to create “positive propaganda” that would uplift members of the Black community, portraying them in ways they often aren’t shown. Their first photoshoot in 2018 was called Men in Black, followed by Women in Black and Families in Black, thus, leading to the series called Assemblage.

The title came from Ophelia Chambliss, who worked closely with Craighead and Wormley on the project. Chambliss also is an adjunct at York College and an esteemed artist with gallery space at Marketview Arts. “We had no idea what the end result would be other than we just wanted the images to be seen and to spark open conversation,” Wormley says.

For the past two years, the photos were displayed at local galleries, including Marketview Arts, online, and entered in different photo competitions. Recently, one of the images, called Reflections, which shows a father looking up at his young son sitting on his shoulders, was selected to be included in the State Museum of Pennsylvania as part of the Art of the State exhibition slated for this fall. The entire Assemblage gallery has been displayed in York City’s Penn Park as part of an outdoor walking gallery. The series has also been in residency at York College’s Center for Community Engagement since October 2019.

“When people look at these photos, we hope they see the joy of a father, the strength of a daughter, the love of a family, and we start to change perspectives,” Wormley says.

Keeping the conversation going

The Black Lives Matter movement is often seen as a political statement. “The BLM movement is just a part of our experience—we are so much more. We need to be seen in all our brilliance. We want our humanity to be felt,” McFadden and Wormley say. They want people of all ethnicities to push themselves to have the uncomfortable, yet open and empathetic, conversations around race.

Together, they hope to challenge people to make small changes that leave lasting impacts. For example, that could include taking time to examine and change their biases and behaviors toward people of color. It could also be supporting specific programs that serve the underserved and underrepresented, or bringing attention and focus on injustices within their communities, workplace, schools, or places of worship. For some, it could simply mean being more intentional about purchasing from Black-owned businesses.

McFadden and Wormley also want to see organizations, businesses, and institutions, including their alma mater York College, begin to internally and externally address and create realistic solutions to change the injustices and inequalities they themselves are facing. They believe this will be a big driver of change, especially in Central Pennsylvania.

“I’m very passionate about creating a legacy of change and a legacy of justice,” McFadden says. “At the end of the day, everything that affects me as a Black woman, a Black person, a mother, a woman—if I can influence those issues, I want to do that.”