Op/Ed By Gloria Wintson
“In 2013, Dr. Melody Cofield began an oral history research study to determine the positive outcomes resulting from the interracial collaborations that came together for the purpose of rebuilding the city of Rochester. Among her many discoveries were the “Spirit of Humanity,” and the true “Legacy of ’64.” Both these discoveries have inspired the creation of Legacy of ’64: Spirit of Humanity, a social enterprise dedicated to building the beloved community, and uplifting humanity.” – Excerpt from The Legacy of ’64 brochure.
What do Minister Franklin Florence Sr.; Joseph C. Wilson; Mrs. Harper Sibley; Saul David Alinsky; Minister Raymond Scott; Dr. Matthew Augustine; Horace Becker; Dr. Walter Cooper; Constance Mitchell; and John Mitchell have in common?
On July 30, they will be the first class inducted into The Ripple Hall of Fame, at Oak Hill Country Club. The Ripple Hall of Fame, which is the brainchild of Doc Melody Cofield, is a movement which has been long overdue.
And Doc Melody’s museum and memorial celebrating “The Spirit of Humanity committee, created in part by her committee of “Ambassadors,” will only be a portion of the events planned for the evening of July 30, as part of the “Legacy of ‘64” banner.
Many in the community often complain about the torches that never got passed, or the history that has never been taught, particularly to our young folks.
In fact, some have said, the only local history traditionally taught in our schools has focused on Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and not much else.
Both are historical figures, worthy of the celebration they have received, but are, in my opinion, overused, again and again. And, as a result, what has gotten lost is the history of others who’ve made significant contributions that have revolutionized our community.
Consequently, the theme for the inaugural induction ceremony is “Legacy of ‘64,” and the honorees have had more than a “Ripple” effect on our community.
As a matter of fact, their contributions to our community have impacted us in a variety of ways. In 1964, the need for jobs was a factor which contributed to the frustrations of those who participated in the three-day riot that took place on the North side, and then the West side of Rochester.
The need for jobs also gave birth to the F.I.G.H.T organization, which was responsible for creating FIGHTON, a group which later became ELTRX industries.
In addition, the need for jobs also gave rise to the creation of Rochester Jobs, an organization which managed to control the CETA dollars coming into the city, and the county. The need for jobs, and other services, also then gave birth to Action for a Better Community (ABC), and the establishment of Rochester’s chapter of the Urban League.
A black man also became responsible for hiring at Rochester Products, and black engineers were recruited to Xerox and Kodak. Organizations like the North Star and CARI were also founded at Kodak and Xerox respectively. BIG (Blacks in Government) also established a Rochester chapter.
An influx of 25 black teachers were recruited and hired; healthcare issues were answered by the creation of neighborhood services, which were the forerunners to the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center, and more. The focus on jobs, and the changes in hiring practices which took place at both Kodak and Xerox also helped impact housing and social issues in the area.
The Rochester Chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was also established after the riots. The Rochester Black Political Cause, and the Black Leadership Roundtable were established, and programs for our youth like PRISM, which focused on science and math, were created as well.
The NAACP, and its Jr. Chapter became also more visible and active in the community. As a result, political doors began to slowly open for minority candidates.
Correspondingly, the Legacy of ’64’s HEAL programs will focus on Healing, Education, Awareness, through Art and Legacy.
And, in addition to the ten inductees representing the class of 2016, guests will be treated to the First Annual “Ripple Art” Window of Humanity.
The United Global Artists whose renderings will be on display this year will include Richmond Futch, David Haygood, Shawn Dunwoody, Jacqueline Cofield, and Loganic Logan.
And, any original art, or prints, auctioned or sold will have proceeds donated to support local artists and/or to support the HEAL programs.
The bottom line is, for me, this is the first effort I have seen in a very long time that actually makes sense, and may be more of a benefit to our community than some who may have had good intentions, but have only seemed to wing it, as opposed to targeting the reality of what just may be ailing us.
When we know better, we do better. In my opinion, knowing where we come from, and whose shoulders we stand on is imperative for growth in this community. If the goal of this event is to seat 500 people, at least 250 of them should be young people who may be clueless to their local history.
Some may not even have known there was a riot in the city of Rochester in 1964.
High school principals and educators who have access to a budget should also consider sponsoring a table of young folks to participate, and learn something that may not be taught in their classrooms.
And, those claiming to have a vested interest in our young folks should also get on board with this project, and consider it as a unique opportunity whose time has come.
The potential to celebrate our local history, and to educate the community to the RIPPLE effect these honorees have had on our lives is important.
Call 585.442.1704, or email legacy64.org, for additional information regarding the event. Doc Melody Cofield’s Ripple Hall of Fame has the potential to promote some of the healing our community needs.