New Levine Center leader aims to champion youth and community in the fight against hate
Monica Gebell, a former high school English teacher, believes harnessing the potential of Rochester’s young people is essential in creating a kinder society.
“Those kids that have gone through some of these stewarding programs we have through the city of Rochester,” she says, “they’re hopefully going to be our return on investment when they come back from college or wherever they happen to be and continue to build programs that empower our youth to stop violence.”
Highlighting programs like Roc the Future Alliance and Rochester's Center for Teen Empowerment, which prioritize racial equity, the Levine Center to End Hate’s new executive director sees the importance of equipping youth for success.
Gebell, who says this is her dream job, underscores the power of simple human interactions in bridging divides.
“To be able to look someone in the eye and say, ‘How are you doing today?’ and really take a moment can go a long way in building community," she says.
Gebell's involvement in combating prejudice isn't new for her. She's a founding member of Community Uprooting Racism in Brighton, an initiative she says emerged in response to antisemitic flyers being distributed in her town in 2016.
Pointing to that experience as the beginning of her grassroots advocacy, she says, “I think I mentioned on social media, ‘What are we supposed to do with this?’ And it was the town supervisor, Bill Moehle, who said, ‘Why don't you come to a meeting, because you're not alone here.’”
Driven by her experiences and a mission to make a difference, Gebell intends to unite people from diverse backgrounds to address biases.
"We're not just talking necessarily about racism, Islamophobia, anti-Asian hate, and anti-LGBTQ forms of hatred, but we're including faith-based hatred, including the Jewish community," she says.
Looking forward, the center is in the process of planning a fall concert, leveraging storytelling and music as tools against hate.