A Call to Action and Proposal for a Community-wide Antiracism Summit

A Call to Action and Proposal for a Community-wide Antiracism Summit

Since my last Blog post in early April, several developments occurred which have heightened and strengthened my views on how the Rochester area (i.e., the entire Community of Monroe) can and must “move forward” as a model of antiracism. One of these was an adapted letter based on the blog that I wrote to the Rochester Beacon titled ‘Moving forward with and to Equity’.

The premise of the letter is that a community-wide “antiracism conversation offers a … hopeful possibility that ‘the glass might be half-full’ already including the innovation, acumen, and boldness that our community is known for while introducing new forces that will bring about equity, democracy, and inclusion everywhere.”

My letter stirred some comments which subsequently led to my participation on two Zoom conference calls, one re: Rochester’s Racial and Structural Equity (RASE) Commission and the other with the Rochester City School District’s (RCSD) Racial Equity Advocacy Leadership (REAL) team.

Additionally, there were some other subsequent articles and commentary in the Beacon about the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s (RMSC) program regarding teaching children antiracism at the Science Center.

How do these connect? As an active observer, contributor, and reader of these and other Beacon letters, as well as my recent observations of the RASE Commission and the REAL Team, I see an opportunity for the Community-At-Large.

As I stated in a comment about the RMSC’s antiracism program for children, “Now that the curtains have been opened to the Community by Mr. Lovenheim’s letter and your response on the background of TID (Take It Down), I hope and pray that there is further discussion that can move our community to another level of antiracism enlightenment that has been so long-awaited and needed. Perhaps the Beacon can assist in activating these essential conversations in other forums.”

To add to this, I share the following from the RMSC website ( …. “The RMSC is committed to taking a stance against racism by teaching about and addressing racism through exhibits and community-based work and programs. In addition to engaging in anti-racist education, the RMSC is also committed to confronting the historic and contemporary impacts and prevalence of structural, institutional, and individual racism in our society by collaborating with organizations and individuals of diverse backgrounds, ages, communities of origin, and abilities on program and exhibit development. The RMSC is dedicated to becoming a diverse and inclusive community resource where authentic voices are valued and represented.”

At this point I would like to make a bold proposal that I will soon share in another letter to the Beacon: that the moment appears to be timely to convene a community-oriented Antiracism Summit. The sectors and specific entities I outline within the diagram in my last blog post (and I may have missed some sectors) should all be involved and invited to participate.

A key objective for the Summit would be to answer the question as stated in the diagram included in my previous post: “For the ‘Common-Wealth of Monroe’ to be a Model of Antiracist Behavior & Full Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) and Equality, in the face of being one of the most segregated and impoverished Communities in the country, by ___.”

The leadership for such a Summit I believe should include an institution such as the RMSC (perhaps joined by The Strong and the Frederick Douglass Family Museum) based on its antiracism, community-wide commitment as noted above. Black, white, and “other” voices would all have to be at the table with equal voices and the RMSC does this well.

 Faith leadership is essential and I have previously mentioned Asbury United Methodist Church as an exemplary model of antiracism in many ways. They have held many community-wide programs on racism and antiracism over the years.

 Likewise, the Rochester Beacon has held similar forums and has been an influential voice regarding antiracism since its inception a few years ago

The important Business sector should be comprised equally of “established” entities such as the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce (GRCC), affiliated companies, and joined with the growing and exuberant energy of ROC Growth.

Other sectors such as Government, Funders (e.g., United Way, RACF, Farash Foundation), Educational Institutions, and Non-Profits should likewise contribute and participate.

Finally, what I label and identify as Prophetic Leadership hopefully would surface via individuals from these sectors and our grassroots on the ground within the spirit of our local, legacy antiracism icons such as Rev. Franklin Florence, Joe Wilson, Frederick Douglass, and others.

Now let me pause with perhaps some obvious questions readers might have. First, why is an Antiracism Summit even needed given all the current antiracism initiatives, commissions, programs, movements, organizations, and on and on that hundreds of people across the community and demographic spectrum are engaged with passionately and actively? Ancillary to this question is that there have been previous convenings attempting to have similar outcomes with marginal success other then perhaps spawning or morphing into these current initiatives, commissions, programs, movements, and organizations.

My response is that the answer to this question resides in the question! Given all these many “oars in the water” of antiracism both in the past and currently, I will answer with yet another question; how much has the “needle moved” given all of this “activity” in solving the dual dilemmas of Rochester/Monroe County continuing to be one of the most segregated and impoverished communities in the country?

See the following from the Rochester Community Foundation’s ACT Rochester report… The answer to the question: hardly at all in comparison to both New York State and the United States as a whole especially regarding poverty, education, and housing, three of the biggest issues causing our current plight as being one of the most segregated and impoverished communities in the country.

Another related question that might be asked is how do I reconcile my call for an Antiracism Summit with the May 24, 2023 headline and statement in the Democrat & Chronicle that “in a recent analysis conducted by U.S. News and World Report, Rochester has been ranked the 3rd best place to live in New York and as the 26th best place to live among the 150 most populous metro areas in the United States”?

My response to that is to ask a Black person and the many additional, marginalized “others” in our community what they think of this article and associated claim about Rochester. (Note that Blacks alone account for over 40% of the population in Rochester and 16% of Monroe County. These “minority” percentages obviously increase when adding Hispanic and other populations). Their perspectives should be identified and juxtaposed against the premise and claim of the article.

To segue into my call for an Antiracism Summit, this U.S. News and World Report article might be a good place for the Summit to begin any antiracism conversation and be compared against the ACT Rochester data.

The next question then is what would be the necessary steps in the development of such a Summit, or said another way, what would best practices suggest? There are many resources that I could have spent hours researching online but I took another more powerful approach by using ‘ChatGPT’, a relatively new Artificial Intelligence app. The following is adapted from what ChatGPT provided:

“Coordinating an Antiracism Summit can be a powerful way to promote racial and social justice change. To ensure positive outcomes, it is important to consider the following best practices:

Define clear goals: Clearly articulate the goals and objectives of the summit. What specific outcomes do you hope to achieve? Are you aiming to raise awareness, build alliances, or develop actionable plans? Defining clear goals will help guide your planning process and ensure that efforts are focused and impactful.

Diverse organizing committee: Form an organizing committee that represents diverse perspectives and experiences. Include individuals from marginalized communities, activists, academics, and professionals who can contribute valuable insights and help create an inclusive and comprehensive agenda.

Engage community stakeholders: Involve community leaders, organizations, and grassroots movements that are already engaged in antiracism work. Collaborating with those on the ground will foster community buy-in, strengthen the impact of the summit, and ensure that solutions are grounded in real-world experiences.

Comprehensive programming: Design a comprehensive program that includes a variety of sessions, such as keynote speeches, panel discussions, workshops, and interactive activities. Cover a wide range of topics related to racism and social justice, including systemic racism, allyship, policy reform, intersectionality, community organizing, and biblical reinforcement. Ensure that the program addresses both individual and structural aspects of racism.

Diverse speakers and perspectives: Invite a diverse range of speakers and panelists who can provide different perspectives on antiracism work. Include experts, activists, community leaders, and individuals with lived experiences of racism. Represent diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders, and age groups. This diversity will enrich discussions, encourage dialogue, and help attendees gain a deeper understanding of the issues.

Safe and inclusive environment: Create a safe and inclusive environment where participants feel respected, valued, and heard. Establish a code of conduct that promotes respectful behavior, inclusivity, and active listening. Encourage open dialogue while also setting guidelines to ensure that discussions remain constructive and focused on the goals of the summit.

Action-oriented outcomes: Emphasize the importance of tangible outcomes and actionable steps. Encourage participants to develop specific strategies, initiatives, or policy recommendations that can be implemented after the summit. Foster partnerships and collaborations to support the implementation of these outcomes, ensuring that the momentum generated during the summit leads to sustained change.

Follow-up and accountability: Develop a plan for post-summit follow-up and accountability. Establish mechanisms (i.e., measurables) for tracking progress on the outcomes and commitments made during the summit. Regularly communicate updates, share success stories, and address challenges that arise. Holding participants and stakeholders accountable will help ensure that the positive outcomes continue to drive racial and social justice change.

Evaluation and learning: Conduct a thorough evaluation of the summit to assess its impact and identify areas for improvement. Gather feedback from participants, speakers, and stakeholders to understand what worked well and what could be enhanced. Use these insights to refine future efforts and continuously improve the effectiveness of the summit.

Sustained engagement: Antiracism work requires ongoing commitment and engagement. Consider ways to sustain the momentum generated by the summit, such as establishing a community coalition, organizing follow-up events, or creating a platform for ongoing discussions and collaborations. Encourage attendees to stay connected, continue learning, and (most importantly) take action within their own spheres of influence.

By incorporating these best practices, an Antiracism Summit has a greater chance of facilitating positive outcomes and contributing to long-lasting racial and social justice change.”

I think this is a pretty good starting outline and the only “practices” I would alter a bit are the last three in a perhaps debatable way. Follow-up and accountability, evaluation and learning, and sustained engagement are each essential elements, but I would attempt to insure that creating another organizing/leadership group, and possibly with an associated acronym beginning with an “R” or “ROC”, is not as essential for follow through on post-Summit initiatives than individuals, small groups, and grassroots passion and activism are.

With intentionality in the structure of any convening, I believe a grassroots approach is the Community’s best shot at building an enduring and effective antiracism model.

Said another way, do not create yet another organization, commission, etc. to lead the changes emanating out of the “Action-oriented outcomes” practice as stated above, but have faith in those Summit participants to move forward, on their own, individually within their personal commitment and in allyship with others.

Let us fully adopt the grassroots, “bottoms-up” model vs. the “top down” organizational style this community is so well-known for, but that has not moved the needle much at all … and not for lack of trying. It is time to begin and/or expand a new grassroots paradigm of organization and leadership … it cannot do any worse and I believe will lead to broader systemic antiracism change due to the combined energy and passion of committed people moved by their hearts to make change vs. dependent on forms of leadership hierarchy which become ends of their own.

At the conclusion of this post, you will see a model program for the Summit again with the assistance of the AI app. I simply wanted to include it for demonstration purposes since there are many ways the actual program could be developed within these best practices.

Sponsorship, host location, scheduling, and facilitation for the Summit are other key factors. Fortunately, we are blessed with many local options. And in that regard, I would completely rely on our local knowledge base and diverse expertise vs. bringing in people outside of our region except for possibly a keynote speaker (see the model program below for one suggestion). Regarding scheduling, I strongly suggest that sometime later this year for the Summit be scheduled for the convening or perhaps in January (note: MLK Day is that month).

I want to close by telling you a little about my own local journey “on the ground” in Fairport/Perinton where I live. Beginning with the Fairport Central School District (FCSD) almost four years ago, I researched some of its policies and procedures due to a Democrat & Chronicle disclosure of alleged “dumping” minority students back into the Rochester City School District by suburban school districts. This began several months of engagement with the FCSD Board and the Superintendent; then COVID hit which disrupted those conversations. I have recently re-engaged with the FCSD on this as well as other matters.

Additionally, I have also begun conversations this year with the Town about issues associated with the Pines of Perinton and have been assisting tenant advocates to have their voices better heard. As background, the Pines was designed and constructed by New York State’s Urban Development Corporation (UDC) between 1972 and 1976. It has been designated as historically significant as an example of pioneering affordable housing development and urban community planning policy.

Both engagements have brought me closer into other Town/School discussions on topics such as the local Antiracist Curriculum Project (I recommended it to the FCSD), Urban-Suburban Program, the Critical Race Theory (CRT) controversy, Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (DEI), affordable housing, and several other related activities. This is already bearing fruit since the Town Supervisor encouraged key members of his leadership team to reach out to me for my perspectives on how the Town might broaden its Diversity outlook.

 I have met many people covering the demographic and political spectrum and have been told that I have had an impact and that my voice, especially as an older, white male, is greatly appreciated. Others of all ages can have a similar experience and reap the benefits I have experienced such as when my granddaughter told me what she learned via the antiracist curriculum taught at her FCSD school when she was in 4th grade. I will always remember that.

So, we CAN and MUST depart from the anguishes of our lingering tendencies and social DNA of white supremacy. We have it within our power to move from our legacy of racism as a general Community to a “moving forward” DNA of antiracism. But we must develop kinship, solidarity, and insure allyship with Blacks and other marginalized “others” that live around us such as here in Fairport/Perinton at the Pines. Hopefully the work I am doing in this eastern suburb of Rochester will ignite readers of this to do the same where you are rooted.

And I also hope and pray that my “call to action” via this proposed Antiracism Summit is a logical extension of not only what I am doing, but also the many other committed people involved with initiatives such as RASE, RMAPI, REAL, ROC Growth, and on and on. We must coalesce as one community, move from our many “silos”, bubbles, and cocoons to collaborate towards the promise of the “Common-Wealth of Monroe” as described in my diagram!

In closing, I offer the following from Fr. Richard Rohr’s 5.20.23 reflection attributed to Rev. James M. Lawson as follows:

“He used to share with the new interns and staff his interpretation of 1 Kings 18:20–39. In the passage, Elijah is competing with the false prophets. They each build an altar of wood and pray for divine fire to come down. The fire comes down for Elijah but not for the false prophets. The wisdom that Jim would draw from the story was that Elijah’s success came from three elements—the fire, the prayer, and the wood. The fire is analogous to what happens in a movement when suddenly the number of people engaged multiplies and floods of human beings break down previously impenetrable barriers. The element of prayer is always critical. But the fire could not come down if there were no wood for it to burn. The building of the wooden altar is the slow, daily process of movement building, the endless conversations and meetings, the actions that seem to have no impact, the multiple defeats of initiatives and proposals. No human being can control when the fire comes down, but we can and must pile up the wood.”

I think this is a perfect closing of this blog! Let the discussion begin and I welcome your comments.

Peace … Bill


Related links:

My previous Blog post at

Beacon letter referred to at  … initial quote: “When looked at in terms of certain metrics, our city of Rochester is not a happy place. For instance, it is one of the most racially segregated cities in the U.S. The poverty gap between whites and people of color is huge. Some would argue that local racism is systemic.”


Optimal program schedule for an Antiracism Summit that would bring about positive outcomes leading to racial and social justice change (adapted from ChatGPT)

Designing an optimal program schedule for an Antiracism Summit requires careful consideration of various factors, including the goals of the event, the target audience, and the available time. While specific needs may vary. Here is a suggested program schedule that can help create a meaningful and impactful summit:

Host Location: suggestions include the RMSC and Asbury First United Methodist Church

Facilitation: suggestions include the Urban League of Rochester and the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI— Rochester)

Day 1:

Opening Ceremony:

Prayer for a successful Summit

Welcome address by a prominent figure or community leader.

Land acknowledgement and acknowledgment of traditional custodians.

Keynote Speech:

Invite a renowned antiracism activist or scholar to deliver an inspiring keynote address; preference: someone local. However, a person like the well-known Heather McGhee, author of the ‘The Sum of Us’, would be excellent and would serve to draw attendance

Focus on setting the tone, framing the issues, and providing a vision for racial and social justice.

Panel Discussion — Understanding Systemic Racism:

Engage a diverse panel of experts to discuss the historical and structural aspects of racism.

Explore how systemic racism operates in different spheres, such as education, criminal justice, healthcare, and employment.

Workshops and Breakout Sessions:

Offer a variety of workshops addressing specific topics related to antiracism.

Include sessions on allyship, unconscious bias, cultural competence, and strategies for dismantling racism.

Ensure a mix of interactive activities, group discussions, and skill-building exercises.

Day 2:

Interactive Activity — Exploring Privilege and Intersectionality:

Facilitate an interactive session that helps participants understand their own privileges and the intersections of identity.

Encourage self-reflection and promote empathy among attendees.

Panel Discussion — Building Inclusive Communities:

Bring together community leaders, activists, and representatives from diverse backgrounds.

Discuss the importance of inclusive communities, strategies for creating safe spaces, and the role of grassroots movements in driving change.

Case Studies and Best Practices:

Highlight successful initiatives and programs that have effectively addressed racism and promoted social justice.

Showcase case studies from different regions and sectors, including education, business, and government.

Skills Training — Advocacy and Community Organizing:

Conduct training sessions on effective advocacy and community organizing.

Equip participants with practical skills, such as grassroots mobilization, policy advocacy, and coalition-building.

Day 3:

Panel Discussion — Media, Representation, and Storytelling:

Explore the role of media in shaping narratives around race and identity.

Discuss the importance of representation, accurate storytelling, and challenging stereotypes in media and popular culture.

Workshop — Addressing Racism in Education:

Focus on addressing racism within educational institutions.

Discuss strategies for promoting equity, inclusivity, and culturally responsive teaching practices.

Policy Roundtable:

Engage policymakers, legislators, and advocacy organizations in a discussion on policy reform and systemic change.

Address issues such as criminal justice reform, equitable access to resources, and anti-discrimination laws.

Closing Ceremony:

Recap the key takeaways from the summit.

Emphasize the importance of sustained commitment to antiracism work.

Encourage attendees to form networks, join existing initiatives, and commit to individual actions.

Closing Prayer

Throughout the summit, provide ample opportunities for networking, informal discussions, and reflection. Consider incorporating cultural performances, art exhibits, or film screenings to add depth and engage participants emotionally. Remember to prioritize inclusivity, representation, and meaningful dialogue to ensure a transformative and impactful Antiracism Summit.

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Comments ( 5 )

  • Ted Naylon

    I admire your continued, non deterred efforts on this huge problem. Here’s some thoughts, (most of which you may have already thought of) meant only in the spirit of making your work gain more cred if your conference idea takes wing:

    1. have it recorded or live for on-line word spreading and participation.
    2. if you can get Malik and Adam
    approval, get public service (fire, police,) attendance as well as -possible workshop.
    3. There are many black comedians (chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Dave Chapell) who humourously comment on racism. You could get a half-hour of comedy for participants which also reaches through the racism barriers. It would be a good tool.
    4. DON’T have topics like Police brutality, White Privelege, and trigger issues as workshops. that stuff is widely known by most of the people participating. Instead, offer your conference personal invites and on line accessability to rural churches, veterans org.s,
    nurses, postman, any working class group you can think of.
    5. Have an expert Explain Critical Race Theory and other hot-button topics all at once, not in seperate workshops where they have to choose between topics.
    6. have a post conference chill down with some cool music and refreshments. There ha

  • W.E.Wynne

    Thanks, Ted … great suggestions and I appreciate you taking the time to share. Your support as always means a lot. We’ll see what happens and what traction can be generated … I simply sowed a seed.

    All the best … Bill

  • Ted Naylon

    continued from above) there should be a casual social event afterward. The chat will tell you a lot.

    Of course, the legitimacy of the effort will be born out by the minds behind it. Your call to action summit needs to be guided and for the most part, have input from as many by community based orgs., black/minority businesses, teen focused programs, etc. The planning of the event will be daunting, if it is not to be just another gathering of talking heads.

    That’s off the top of my hairless head, Bill. Gonna do some deeper thinking. Hope some of it is helpful

  • W.E.Wynne

    It is … thanks! … I’ll add you to any Committee! … no comment necessary!

  • Update Week Ending 6/03/2023 –

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