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Two UCLM Events Provide Ingredients That Foster Racial Justice

Patti Singer

Rev. Lewis Stewart at a news conference June 1, 2020. File photo

One event offers prayer for the courage and faith needed to create racial justice.

The second event offers a way to turn that moral boldness into ways to ensure dignity and human rights.

“They both fold into the same underlying social and systemic issues,” said the Rev. Lewis Stewart, president of the United Christian Leadership Ministry of Western New York, which is organizing the events with cosponsors.

The issues affect law enforcement, the criminal justice system, jobs, housing, education and healthcare.

The first event is an interfaith prayer service at 1 p.m. June 27 in the parking lot of the First Church of God, 334 Clarissa St.

“In terms of where the civil rights movement was 50 or more years ago, the religious community right now is on the sidelines,” Stewart said. “The Black church needs to be involved, the White church needs to be involved. The mosques, the Jewish community needs to be involved if we are to save everybody because all of us are impacted by racism.”

Stewart said that Black people and Latinos may be the overt victims of racism but others aren’t immune to is effects. “It will take all of us in order to solve this problem.”

The prayer service calls upon “people of faith who believe in the dignity of human beings … and who share the values of freedom and liberation to be accountable to God and humanity by developing a more just and non-racist society and nation,” according to an announcement for the event.

The second event, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July 9, is a panel discussion on police reform. It also is in the parking lot of the church.

Speakers are scheduled to include:

  • Monroe County Undersheriff Korey Brown;
  • Rochester Police Department Chief La’Ron Singletary;
  • Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott;
  • Leticia Astacio;
  • Mike Mazzeo, president, Rochester Police Locust Club;
  • Rich Tantalo, Monroe County Director of Safet;y
  • Rudy Rivera, Father Tracy Advocacy Center;
  • Tim Donaher, Monroe County Public Defender; and
  • Willie Lightfoot, vice president, Rochester City Council.

Cheryl Hayward of the Center for Dispute Settlement is scheduled to moderate.

Stewart said UCLM doesn’t support defunding law enforcement agencies.

“Defund the police, quote/unquote, is nebulous and vague,” Stewart said. “It really doesn’t mean anything except that some people want to use it as a way of abolishing the police. That is not UCLM’s position.”

He said UCLM supports reallocating money to pay for programs such as annual mental health evaluations and education in racial justice.

UCLM also would like to have a citizen public safety panel that would interview applicants for law enforcement jobs about topics such as their background, biases and ability to work with people of different races and gender identities.

Stewart said the details of how such a panel would be formed and specific questions it would pose to candidates is being developed.

“If we’re talking about community policing and we’re talking about the community being involved, would that not then tend to help bridge this great gap of mistrust between police and community? That’s what we’re working on.”

Attendees are asked to park on the street for each event. They also are asked to wear face masks.

For more, call (585) 454-0077.