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Aenon’s “Solidarity Sundays” Talks Focus on Issues of Social Justice

Patti Singer

Malik Evans, Rochester City Council member and chair of the finance committee. Provided photo

Malik Evans wants more Black people to think like entrepreneurs, even if they never post an “open” sign in the window of a business.

“Having an entrepreneurial mindset is something that is missing in the African American community,” said Evans, whose career is in finance. “Whenever we talk about poverty, it’s always about programs and services and it’s never about empowering people. … I want to change that thinking.”

Evans is among the speakers at Solidarity Sundays, a month-long series of talks focusing on issues facing the Black community that was developed by Dr. Jonathan Jamel H. McReynolds, senior pastor at Aenon Missionary Baptist Church.

The events are scheduled from 9 to 9:30 a.m. August 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, outside the church at 175 Genesee St.

Dr. Jonathan Jamel H. McReynolds, senior pastor of Aenon Missionary Baptist Church, started Solidarity Sundays to further discussion of key topics in the Black community. Provided photo

Each week a different speaker discusses a different topic – education, economics, solidarity, poverty, and voting and public policy. The public is invited. People are asked to wear masks and stay six feet apart. People may bring lawn chairs. Limited seating is available for seniors and people with disabilities.

McReynolds said that as he saw what was happening in the country and in Rochester over the past weeks, he started thinking about how the faith community could speak to the core issues of social justice.

“I don’t think you can separate Christianity and citizenship,” he said. “To be a good Christian, you are a good citizen. To be a good Christian, you are concerned about social justice, about equal rights. … If we’re just talking about heaven and we ignore the school system, then we failed. If we just talk about heaven and we ignore poverty, then we’ve failed.”

He said Solidarity Sundays is not a church service, and it’s not about starting a new movement. “It’s just encouraging people to be involved in the processes that exist to bring about transformative change in education, poverty, voting – things of that nature.”

McReynolds said he asked God for guidance on the speakers.

“I think they are emerging and powerful voices in our community that need to be heard,” McReynolds said. “I think they can share some very insightful information to inspire the community to engage.”

Evans said that holding the talks outside, in addition to being a safe practice during the COVID-19 pandemic, may help reach people who aren’t part of a congregation.

“A lot of people who need to hear the message don’t attend church,” said Evans, who is a member at Aenon. “On the steps of the church, the neighborhood can get it. People who may be passing by can hear it.”

Evans, who is business and prosperity program manager at ESL Federal Credit Union, said that too often the economic message is what he called a deficit model, not one that comes from a position of strength.

Evans, chair of the City Council finance committee, said the message needs to be one that promotes the idea of home ownership and the skills of financial literacy.

“Buying your own home, supporting other folks who might have businesses in the community, making sure you have a financial plan for yourself, all those things are entrepreneurial,” he said. “How you can encourage government to support economic development initiatives.”

While topic changes each week, Evans said the themes of education, economics, voting, poverty and solidarity are related.

“Poverty and economic development go together, and education goes together,” he said. “Education being one of the most important things we have in this community. They’re all connected and they’re all a part of things that have to be addressed within the community.”

Here is the Solidarity Sundays schedule:

  • Aug. 2: Blacks and Education, Dr. Lesli Myers-Small, superintendent of the Rochester City School District.
  • Aug. 9: Blacks and Economics, Malik Evans, at-large member of the Rochester City Council and former member and president of the Rochester School Board.
  • Aug. 16: Black Solidarity, Willie Lightfoot, at-large member of the Rochester City Council and former Monroe County legislator.
  • Aug. 23: Blacks and Poverty, Demond Meeks, Democratic candidate for the 137th New York State Assembly District and a former administrative organizer for SEIU 1199.
  • Aug. 30: Blacks and Voting/Public Policy, Dr. Cephas Archie, chief equity officer for the City of Rochester and former chief diversity officer for The College at Brockport.