By Tyronda James
Founder and CEO of the Father Tracy Advocacy Center (FTAC), Rodolfo A. Rivera, and other concerned neighborhood leaders held a press conference, April 9 to address recent incidents of violence in the community, specifically the North Clinton Avenue area.
The city of Rochester recently marked its 19th homicide of 2021, two of those homicides were in the North Clinton Avenue neighborhood within the last couple weeks. Both deaths were within blocks of the center and the recently finished La Marketa Plaza.
On March 29, 33-year-old Markese Estimable’s life was tragically ended just 200 feet away from the Father Tracy Advocacy Center. Estimable, was shot in broad daylight.
Rivera said this murder was shocking and troublesome. He said he witnessed the victim dying and that cameras were out; selfies were being taken with the victim as onlookers laughed. “We had a crime scene with a human being slowly dying and concurrently a photo op and light heartedness which was mind numbing,” he said.
More recently on April 8, another man, Jacob Wims was shot multiple times while sitting in his car on nearby Mead Street. Rivera, neighborhood leaders and advocates question where the outcry and protests are when members of the community lose their lives at the hands of other community members.
“If the police were killing us at the rate that we’re killing ourselves I suspect this town would be on fire. If anyone wants to say, ‘you’re wrong Rudy’ then you don’t know what I’m referring to,” Rivera said.
“But yet when we kill ourselves, I say to myself, ‘Where are the protests lining the streets? Where are the people within our own community who know what’s going on here?’ And that’s the tragic part of this whole story.”
Rivera also questions where clergy and the BLM movement amid all the violence perpetrated by its own.
Rivera said the community wants change and wants to address the challenges. He said the FTAC is there to serve as a catalyst to address and explore a community driven change model and they “are letting out a call to all groups who are advocating and planning for change. “We believe that one by one every community can begin to support each other internally and externally with allies who are well intentioned and willing to begin the work of change at a ground level,” said Rivera.
Rivera, who said he’s been in the neighborhood for years, said he will not be silenced and will continue to try to make a difference.
“I’m trying to make a difference. They know the work of the center and they know I’m on the streets.” Ida Perez, leader of the nearby Scrantom Street block group as well as director at Ibero American Action League, Inc. says she has grown increasingly concerned with the violence, the open-air drug market and the number of individuals gathering between Evergreen Street and Kappel Place.
“I worry every time I leave my house and when I’m coming home and I have to turn the corner, if I’m going to be one of those people in the crossfire,” said Perez. “You know, bullets don’t have a name, right? They’re not assigned to any particular person. And that’s really, really my fear.”
Perez said she’s concerned that violence could impact herself, family, or other neighbors that simply walk the streets of their own neighborhood. Perez said must go by the location every day from work and has sought the Rochester Police Department for assistance with the ever-growing issues.
She said she’ll never accept the violence as a way of living. She said on the contrary, it’s constantly on your mind. “We’re human beings. We’re never going to get numb to that,” Perez said. “The trauma, it affects our health and our wellbeing. So, you never get numb to this. And if you do, then what’s the point of living, right?”
Rivera said he’d like to see more of a positive presence in the neighborhoods, protection and people bringing forth life. “What I’d like to see is more foot patrols, bike patrols, more presence, more people coming out. People participating in the Plaza. …and cooperation between businesses and residents,” he said.
“We’re fighting to get ahead of that fight and stay ahead of it. And we know that what we look for and what we hope will happen is that people will come to create the wall of protection around this area,” Rivera said. “And the more that you do that, the more likely that those who seek to destroy it, because you will outnumber them versus hiding in your houses or leaving the streets to them.”
Perez said they’ve tried different strategies, and nothing has worked.
“And it’s time that we really think outside of the box and start doing things differently,” she said.