Rochester Commits to Racial Equity

January 22, 2019 - (3 min read)

On January 22, 2019, Mayor Lovely Warren gathered with the National League of Cities Race, Equity And Leadership (REAL) Director Leon Andrews, former mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Betsy Hodges, and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce to commit the City of Rochester’s time and resources to a new racial equity initiative. Mayor Warren issued a proclamation commemorating the National Day of Racial Healing (NDORH) in the city of Rochester, and officially signed a project charter kicking off a year-long initiative to address racial equity in city workforce planning, training and the philanthropic sector. The charter also supports new strategies for community engagement in this process.

“We are thrilled to be in Rochester as part of their participation in the Cities for Racial Equity and Racial Healing Technical Assistance Initiative, which is generously supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Rochester was one of six cities selected to join this initiative,” said Andrews.

NLC’s REAL team will be on the ground in Rochester for half of the week, conducting meetings and workshops with city staff and leadership across the public, private, non-profit, and philanthropic sectors. A key focus of the site visit, which is part of NLC’s six-city technical assistance program with support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, is to help the city team coalesce around an overall plan to move the work of the charter forward. All of the resources and relationships at the city’s disposal will be aimed at this effort which will include close work with community groups.

REAL staff have worked with the six cities chosen for the technical assistance since early 2018, building their knowledge and skills to understand the best ways to advance racial equity and support racial healing. The charter signed in Rochester, under Mayor Warren’s leadership, will embed racial equity and inclusion as an overarching framework. Specifically, it:

  • Creates training and new recruitment and retention protocols for the city and the Chamber of Commerce
  • Develops racial equity-focused philanthropy guidelines with accountability provisions to develop more root cause-oriented grantmaking
  • Creates educational platforms to build greater understanding of systemic oppression and its history in the community
  • Engages local media in racial equity trainings to support equitable journalistic practices

Rochester is one of several cities marking NDORH by issuing proclamations and hosting community events to delve into the meaning of racial healing. This work is part of city’s newfound belief that racial inequities and distrust cannot be solved without deep understanding of the history informing current racial tensions. By taking concrete actions towards repair, similar to the Eureka, CA, City Council’s recent vote to return 202 acres of land to the Wiyot Nation, local elected officials can demonstrate that efforts are genuine. The action in Eureka came about as a direct result of listening to voices of those most impacted by systemic oppression.

As more and more local governments embrace the charge to govern in a way that values healing and relationship building, they will begin building a template for what transformation and equity can look like.

About the Author: Aliza R. Wasserman is the senior associate with NLC’s Race, Equity, And Leadership (REAL) Initiative.