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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Conference Will Aim to Achieve Community Healing and Social Justice

By Rodney Brown

 

Rev. Stewart 1The United Christian Leadership Ministry of Western New York (UCLM) is sponsoring a conference inspired by the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Saturday, Jan. 16.

The conference will be held at Wilson Foundation Academy, 200 Genesee St., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Speakers slated to deliver greetings during the opening ceremonies include Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott, and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.

According to, UCLM president Rev. Lewis Stewart, the event seeks to promote the philosophy, and implement the methods, of Dr. King, for effective community transformation, and to develop a sustainable movement for achieving community healing, restoration, and social justice.

“I want to take a psychological look at why young black people have killed each other with impunity,” Stewart stated. “Why do we, as a people, devalue each others lives?”

The seven-hour conference will feature more than nine workshops, each with its own group of panelists, and a facilitator. The workshops will cover:

  • Police accountability and transparency;
  • Education;
  • Poverty;
  • Structural racism;
  • and Political power.

The event will begin with a screening of “The Front Row,” to welcome participants.

The Front Row is a documentary about anti-gun violence, filmed and created by youth and adults, in the Rochester community. The video’s mantra is: “You have three front rows to offer your family: the front row of your trial, the front row of your funeral, or the front row of your graduation. Which will you choose?”

Ray Mayoliz and Moses Robinson will be facilitators for the film session. The welcome video will be followed by a symposium on “The Root Causes of Violence in Communities of Color” before lunch, and then the workshops will begin.

Organizers prepare literature for the event.

Organizers prepare literature for the event.

“The religious community has been remiss in not doing their job,” Stewart stated. “The only thing we’ve been doing is praying, and preaching, inside of our four walls, while the rest of our community goes to hell. The Bible says, in Peter, that judgment is going to begin at the church. Certainly, the black church is not the black church of Dr. Marin Luther King Jr., when many of those pastors were out there protesting racism, and unequal treatment by the society at large. Today, you don’t hear from our black clergymen about what’s going on in our community. Yet, we want to preach, and pray, and talk about salvation inside our churches. We want to scale the same fish every Sunday after Sunday, instead of catching new fish. The new fish are our young black people, and families that are disconnected from the church, that are in trouble. They’re the ones we need to reel in. In order to reel them in, we must go out there, and deal with them.”

The goals of the conference are to:

  • Reduce gun violence by engaging faith-based institutions, youth, families, and community stakeholders through dialogue, and developing a unified and coordinated action agenda.
  • Explore the root causes of American violence, and its impact on oppressed communities of color.
  • Examine the trauma, and impact, of violence on victims, families, and the community.
  • Familiarize the community with the politics of gun trafficking, and develop an intervention strategy.
  • Present tools for an authentic community policing agenda, to ensure transparency and accountability.
  • Challenge faith-based institutions, churches in particular, to respond effectively by empowering communities of color, and developing strategies to achieve equality, justice, and values restoration.

“We need to organize a movement that’s going to impact our people for the better,” Stewart stated. “We need social transformation. We’ve built into the conference an opportunity to have follow-up activities. We want the workshops’ facilitators, and panelists, to bring that information back to UCLM. We then will proceed in developing an agenda, where we can organize people of color around issues in order to achieve what we have set out to do in this conference.”

UCLM was organized in August of 2013. The group is composed of church leaders, and residents from the Rochester community.

“I am looking for a unified action agenda that will impale, and propel our people toward transformative action in our community,” Stewart stated.

For additional information regarding the conference, or to register for the event, go to www.uclmwny.org or contact Barbara Lacker-Ware at (585) 454- 0077.