UPLIFTING BLACK VOICES IN ROCHESTER
COMMUNITY PROJECT SHINES LIGHT ON LOCAL LEADERS
It was the end of May 2020. Much of the country was socially isolated due to the pandemic. Times were tough enough with that. But things would get even tougher for many, including long-time YMCA of Greater Rochester volunteer Jeanne Strazzabosco, following the death of George Floyd.
“It was horrible,” Strazzabosco said reflecting back on that time.
In the wake of the tragedy, Strazzabosco, who has had a long-time passion for social justice work, became friends with a young artist who shared his artistic response to Floyd’s death. A conversation with him led to an idea.
“I wanted to find a way to elevate his work and the work of other Black leaders in our town,” she said.
As a white woman Jeanne knew she couldn’t – and shouldn’t – do this alone. That’s when she was introduced to local artist and curator Amanda Chestnut.
“The whole project happened because Jeanne decided to let go of ego and self, and provide a platform for Black artists and leaders,” said Chestnut.
That project is In This Moment: Revolution Reckoning Reparation. Chestnut and Strazzabosco worked together to form ten teams of Black writers and Black photographers to profile Black leaders from the City of Rochester. Through Visual Studies Workshop, they found a Black-owned press company. Some of the leaders featured include artist Shawn Dunwoody, musician Herbert Smith and New York State Senator Samra Brouk. It was important for them to highlight people who are currently making positive impacts on our community.
“I want people to know and understand how many different ways there are to be Black, and how much of that is present in Rochester on a day-to-day basis, and the work people are doing on a day-to-day basis to uplift our community,” said Chestnut.
Strazzabosco is realizing that – and more – by working with Chestnut and the other Black leaders on this project.
“Through this project I’ve learned we exist in segregated worlds,” said Strazzabosco. “I want people to read these [Chapbooks], be moved by them and change. My goal with these was that these gorgeous images and these stories would really start to chip away at these hidden biases.”
IN THIS MOMENT
For Chestnut, this project came at an important time for our community as Rochester learned of the death of Daniel Prude. Chestnut said she and many artists felt adrift. In This Moment allowed them to focus their energy on something that would be good for themselves and others.
“People are using the phrase ‘In This Moment’ in lieu of saying what they actually mean,” said Chestnut. “The project has kind of given shape to all of those things that people are meaning when they say words like ‘in this moment.’”
The project was able to raise $30,000 in six months; most donations came in the shape of $20-$40 contributions. For that much to be raised during a time when so many were going through financial hardships proved to both women that this project is embraced and supported by the community.
So far, four of the 10 Chapbooks have been published. Strazzabosco and Chestnut agree that while there is a lot to be celebrated, there is still so much work to be done – including creating a curriculum around the books for local schools and publishing the remaining six in the series.
Strazzabosco said her experience with the Y gave her the confidence, skills and inspiration to take on this project.
“The last two words of your vision – for all. I don’t remember what anything else is, but I remember those words. And that propelled me.”
Learn more about In This Moment: Revolution Reckoning Reparation and see a full list of the Black leader featured in the project.