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Rochester celebrates National Day of Racial Healing

Corn Hill Landing in downtown Rochester.
WXXI photo
Corn Hill Landing in downtown Rochester.

The city of Rochester celebrated the National Day of Racial Healing on Tuesday at City Hall.

City officials recognized the work of the Race, Equity, and Leadership project team, which included workshops and training sessions on race-related issues for city employees. Going forward, the project aims to expand that training for Rochester residents.

Deputy Mayor James Smith said small changes on a personal level can help transform the community at large.

“The city of Rochester supports the idea that every single person has the capacity to make a simple change within him or herself which can have a profound impact on an entire society,” Smith said.

City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot said city officials are also encouraging community members to reflect on what they can do to help foster more racial equity in their own lives.

“We’re asking our community to begin to look at themselves in the mirror and look at what type of things are holding them back from having a very diverse, inclusive, equitable society,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot added that the internal work at city government to address racial inequity was necessary and intentional to ensure success when reaching out to residents.

City Council member Mary Lupien shared part of the city’s proclamation, stating that racial equity is needed in education, government, and law enforcement.

“Systemic racism and bigotry continue to exist; especially ideologies and attitudes entrenched in our own established institutions,” Lupien said.

Sharon Owens, the deputy mayor of Syracuse, attended the event. Owens praised Rochester for its work done around racial equity though the REAL initiative. She said that to achieve equity, the work must start from within.

“We’re starting it by taking a look at ourselves as city government,” Owens said. "I can’t talk about what someone else is doing if I’m not doing it myself."

Though Mayor Lovely Warren was not in attendance, she said in a statement that Rochester is "committed to not 'looking away' to address racism and racial inequalities" and added that the city government is "looking within" public policies to "dismantle divisive practices and procedures."

In a closing prayer, the Rev. Steve Jerros said the divisions caused by bigotry hurt everyone.

"None of us has escaped the pain of separation which racism inflicts, whether we are conditioned to be the perpetrators or targets of that oppression," Jerros said.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.
Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
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