WXXI AM News

race relations

The story of a white woman in New York City who called police and falsely accused an African American man of threatening her has gone viral. Amy Cooper was walking her dog in an area of Central Park where leashes are required. Christian Cooper (no relation), an avid bird watcher who was in the park for that purpose, approached her and asked her to leash the dog. When she didn't, the situation escalated and led to the woman calling police and claiming the man was threatening her and her dog. Christian Cooper recorded a video of the incident. When police responded, both people had left and no charges were filed, but the video has been shared widely and sparked discussions of the history of black people being falsely reported to police.

This hour, our guests discuss that history, the impact of the incident in Central Park, and more. Our guests:

A powerful play at the Multi-Use Community Cultural Center is generating conversations about race. “Blues for Mister Charlie” is an award-winning work by James Baldwin that’s loosely based on the assassination of Emmett Till. 14-year-old Till was lynched in Mississippi after being accused of offending a white woman in a store. In the play, Richard Henry returns to the deep South from New York City to find his segregated home town embroiled in racism and hate. Heated encounters with a local white store owner lead to his murder and his family’s quest for justice. The play explores brutal moments of truth. 

This hour, we’re joined by the director and members of the cast to discuss Baldwin’s work and their goals for the production. In studio:

  • Gary DeWitt Marshall, director of “Blues for Mister Charlie”
  • Almeta Whitis, actor who plays Mother Henry
  • Richard Kendrick, actor who plays Parnell James

A new play on stage at the JCC CenterStage is generating conversations about race in America. “Division Street” is the latest project by playwright Jason Odell Williams. It tells the story of an interracial couple in Hollywood after the white husband is nominated for a Golden Globe for playing a racist police officer.

The play explores a range of issues, including race relations, cultural appropriation, and which voices are elevated in Hollywood and how. We discuss those issues with our guests:

We’re joined by Nanette D. Massey, a writer and diversity and inclusion trainer. Massey lives in Buffalo, but will be in Rochester for several upcoming events during which she’ll educate audiences about racism, white fragility, and more.

She recently wrote an op-ed for the Democrat and Chronicle and USA Today, responding to a local business coach who expressed his frustration as an “old white guy” who is “increasingly blamed for all the ills of society, both real and imagined.”

Massey joins us in studio to discuss her process and how she facilitates conversations about race. In studio:

  • Nanette D. Massey, writer and diversity and inclusion trainer

A new play on stage at Geva Theatre Center explores the history and current state of race relations in America through the perspectives of two very different women. “The Niceties” is an explosive and provocative look at the relationship between a white history professor and a driven black student as they discuss who controls the narrative in American history, and how that narrative has shaped their experiences.

We sit down with the cast and members of the production team to talk about the play, and the role of discomfort when it comes to examining our own lives and privilege. In studio:

The Irondequoit Police Department is working to improve the diversity within its ranks. We discuss the department's efforts and how having more officers of color can impact policing and police-community relations.

In studio:

  • Chief Richard Tantalo, Irondequoit Police Department
  • Patrina Freeman, community advocate, minister, and founder of New Directions Ministries
  • Randy Henderson, president of Henderson Ford, minister at the Church of Love Faith Center, and police chaplain
  • Andrae Evans, community member with the Irondequoit Police Community Advisory Team, and retired U.S. Army Colonel
  • Thomas Brady, co-chair and founder of the Greater Rochester Chapter of Conscious Capitalism

Keuka College is preparing to welcome Beverly Tatum, author of “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” Here’s how the college describes her upcoming presentation: “Dr. Tatum explores the ramifications of an education system that remains separate and very much unequal. Why are public schools still so overwhelmingly segregated? What does that mean for students of all backgrounds? And most importantly, what can be done about it?”

Our guests on Connections:

  • Aqua Porter, vice chair of the Keuka College Board of Trustees
  • Alan Ziegler, member of the Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation, and member of Table 23

Martin Kaufman/WXXI News

People across Rochester gathered Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Walk in the Light" was the theme of the Community-Wide Celebration held at the Eastman Theater's Kodak Hall. Community members sang and danced to "This Little Light of Mine" and heard a keynote speech from the Rev. Stephen Cady, the pastor of Asbury First Methodist Church, which focused on acknowledging and overcoming racism in our community.

Mayor Lovely Warren said she wants Rochester to take advantage of this moment to heal our racial divides.

Martin Kaufman/WXXI News

Mayor Lovely Warren is holding a series of events focusing on racial healing this week beginning with an event at City Hall on Tuesday.

Project Let’s Get REAL -- which stands for Race, Equity and Leadership -- seeks to advance racial equity through policy decisions, civic engagement, and accurate portrayals of people of color.

Speaking after the Martin Luther King Jr. Community-Wide Celebration at the Eastman Theater on Monday, Warren said the racial divide in this country is deep and there’s much work left to do.

We talk to Arshay Cooper, an author, chef, and motivational speaker who has dedicated his life to keeping young people off the street. Cooper grew up on the Westside of Chicago and was raised by a single mother who struggled with a drug addiction. He says his brothers and friends joined gangs and were involved with drugs, but he had a different vision for his future. In 1997, he joined the country’s first all-black high school rowing team – an experience that changed his life. It’s the subject of his memoir, Suga Water. 

Cooper is in Rochester to give a talk and attend the Head of the Genesee Regatta, but first, he’s our guest on Connections.

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