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The Critical Importance of Anti-Violence Activists & Others Moving Beyond Reaction

Op-ed by Howard Eagle

Howard Eagle. File photo.

It was good to see a sizable group of local anti-violence activists stand on the steps of City Hall a few days ago, and call the City’s Administration out regarding accountability for millions of newly-allocated taxpayer dollars.

For the most part, the money is going to the same, usual, so-called “anti-violence experts,” or more appropriately, really anti-violence suspects _ many, if not most of whom were also “anti-poverty experts” _ that is, when multi-millions of public dollars were being allocated for that particular cause, especially and particularly via RMAPI (Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative), as well as newly developed pots of money for the latest foci, such as so-called “social, emotional, mental health,” and other such very lucrative, and mainly non-productive, so-called support mechanisms (for you know who). See a short list at the reference links below.

As the activists pointed out during their 12/15/22 press conference, held on the steps of City Hall __ “If these organizations (that were funded) were doing their job we would not have 81 homicides, we would not be approaching and surpassing that number again this year. The City is cushioning nonprofits who have million-dollar budgets.”

Mayor Malik Evans had declared early on in his Administration that he would “NOT support poverty pimping.” Again, as alluded to by the activists, it may well be time to seriously question the Mayor’s above referenced assertion. For example, he attempted to explain “a $225,000 dollar allocation” to one organization, which has been called into question, by claiming that the organization “has been in Rochester for more than 25 years and [that] the $225,000 is to help teens of color in Rochester reject violence by learning valuable skills to overcome systemic racism and engage in positive behaviors.”

I must say that is a very weak defense, especially and particularly the part about “rejecting violence by learning valuable skills to overcome systemic racism.” I would love to hear the Mayor, or anyone else attempt to discuss an apparent supposed correlation between avoiding violence and so-called “learning skills to overcome systemic racism.” What are the specific “skills that help teens of color in Rochester overcome systemic racism?”

That sounds like the typical language that hustlers use to secure grant-funding, period. Additionally, it’s very, very doubtful that the organization in question, as well as all others on the list, are working directly with youth who are most likely to end up engaged in gun violence in particular. Also, the idea that the organization “has been in Rochester for more than 25 years,” and even longer than that in the cases of some on the list _ is not necessarily a strong point. In fact, that’s part of the argument that activists are making, e.g., considering how long some of these “anti-violence gurus” have been around __ how is it that they have not been more effective, especially regarding their engagement with youth?

Ineffectiveness is definitely evidenced by a crystal-clear pattern of both victims and perpetrators of gun violence in particular, becoming younger and younger.

Yet, it’s so very important for activists to understand that protesting and well-deserved criticism is one thing, but being organized is quite another. It’s one thing to stand on the steps of City Hall and call folks out, which should be done. However, such reaction, as opposed to calculated strategic action, does not, will not, can not (in-and-of-itself) change anything. The responsible, and sometimes irresponsible parties in charge will just keep moving forward with their status-quo schemes, unless and until they are met with deadly-serious, ongoing, organized resistance. For example, in this particular case, even though grant applications have been approved __ because of the manners in which the rusty, slow wheels of entrenched bureaucracy turn, the resources have probably not been actually allocated yet.

Thus, if serious, grassroots organization exists, that creates opportunity for strategic influence, as opposed to mere protest and criticism. This can be true, even if the resources have been allocated. That is, serious organization allows for and can lend itself to monitoring, and possibly influencing specific use of public resources.

It goes without saying that here in modern-day-slave-town U.S.A., there is a chronic lack of organization on the part of the grassroots activists community. Many grassroots “organizers” decry operational-silos all day and all night, and then go right back to laboring within them on a daily basis. It’s the damnedest thing that I have ever witnessed.

GETTING ORGANIZED

A starting point is coming together (in person), with the understanding that we are NOT trying to accomplish some sort of quick-fix (there is no such thing). So, we need a core group of people (leadership) who will commit for the long haul. When we meet, it can’t just be about jaw-breaking-rhetoric and noise. Instead, we have to identify (together) either a single, or perhaps several realistic, achievable, goal(s) that we agree and commit to work on together __ let’s say in this particular case (for example), influencing (in concrete, specific, measurable ways) expenditure of this year’s 5 million dollar Peace Collective allocation.

Once we identify a goal(s), part of our work would entail striving to get broader community support. We need victories. The next step would involve devising action-oriented strategies and tactics designed to achieve the goal(s) over time __ with the understanding that strategies and tactics are rarely static. They are usually fluid, and might change in the process of working toward the goal(s). There is no mystery around organizing. Some of us were fortunate enough to be taught by some of the greatest organizers in this town during the 20th century (such as the man featured at the first link below). However, today, we are so fragmented that we can’t even seem to pull together and keep together a core leadership group. Many of us have never witnessed such massive disunity among our people in our lifetimes. It’s at a chronic level. If we get organized, we can make deadly-serious, concerted demands, on behalf of our people and our community, and win!

~ Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and taught as an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport for 20 years, before retiring in 2020.

Etc… Etc… Etc… _ BY THE BILLIONS.

References:


https://www.rochestercitynewspaper.com/rochester/franklin-florence-on-rochester-and-racism-little-has-changed/Content?oid=8130388

https://www.whec.com/top-news/anti-violence-groups-scrutinize-rochester-peace-collective-funding-allocations/

https://www.cityofrochester.gov/article.aspx?id=21474849799

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/rochester/public-safety/2022/04/27/mayor-malik-evans-unveils-plan-to-reduce-ongoing-violence-in-rochester

https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2021/12/28/can-malik-evans-get-rochester-ny-antiviolence-programs-work-together/6508471001/

https://www.wxxinews.org/local-news/2022-11-01/city-of-rochester-seeks-proposals-for-youth-support-programs-at-r-centers

http://minorityreporter.net/stimulus-money-in-rcsd-budget-is-once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity/

https://www.rcsdk12.org/relieffunding

https://www.rcsdk12.org/site/Default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=1&PageID=1&ViewID=6446ee88-d30c-497e-9316-3f8874b3e108&FlexDataID=57075#:~:text=Rochester%20received%20the%20highest%20award,than%20other%20subgroups%20of%20students

https://bja.ojp.gov/funding/awards/15pbja-22-gg-02153-jagx