The National League of Cities chose Rochester as one of six cities to get “REAL,” which stands for Race, Equity and Leadership.
The national program seeks to advance racial equity through policy decisions, civic engagement, and accurate portrayals of people of color. The City of Rochester and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce are taking leadership roles in the local version of this initiative.
Former Mayor Bill Johnson, local nonprofit organization leaders like the United Way’s Jamie Saunders, and clergy like Bishop David Singleton of the Ark of Jesus Ministries attended the kickoff on Tuesday. Singleton, who gave the event’s closing prayer, said this kind of effort is not new, but he’s hoping it's different this time.
“You’ve had a number of grassroots organizations and persons try to lead the charge,” Singleton said. “But unless you have the support from the top down, many times you don’t get as far.”
As part of the program, Mayor Lovely Warren, the Chamber’s Adrian Hale, and City Councilman Willie Lightfoot signed a charter pledging to make progress in dismantling discrimination in Rochester. Lightfoot said this is the most important work of his career so far.
“I’m very excited to be a part of this work,” Lightfoot said. “I’m committed. I know this mayor is committed. I’m grateful that we have a mayor that’s willing to stand up for all people of the city of Rochester. And I hope and implore this entire community to really get behind this and start having these conversations.”
Training for city leaders started on Tuesday. Other sessions for various community members began Wednesday.