Urban League and RIT announce INTERRUPT RACISM, a collective action platform

The Urban League of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology are collaborating on a project aimed at engaging the community to identify immediate action steps to address systemic racism, inequity, and power differentials.

The platform, entitled INTERRUPT RACISM, will use a collective impact approach to engage all community members interested in sharing ideas that will help the greater Rochester community heal and move forward.

The Urban League will act as facilitators of a “community-wide suggestion box,” designed to especially hear and uplift the voices of individuals who might not otherwise have a seat at policy tables, from frontline essential service and healthcare workers; to teachers, parents, and students; to veterans and small business owners,

“Everyone, across generations, cultures, languages, and experiences, has social power and value that we must mobilize to see true change,” said Seanelle Hawkins, President and CEO of the Urban League of Rochester. “While we request and value the input of social service organizations, government officials, and large corporations, we respectfully acknowledge that these representatives already have influence in policy. Now is the time to let individual voices be heard.”

Keith Jenkins, Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at RIT, played a pivotal role in securing RIT’s support for the project and echoed Hawkins’ sentiments: “INTERRUPT RACISM will serve as a conduit, to chronicle the voices and lived experiences of our community and facilitate discussions about them.”

Those interested in participating in, or learning more about, INTERRUPT RACISM may do so beginning today at the Urban League of Rochester website. Online submissions will be accepted through July 5.

Beginning next week, community members will also be able to record videos of their personal stories in facing racism, thanks to support from TheirStory and G-FORCE Collaborations.

“While we know the problem—the many facets of racism—we don’t have the solution,” Hawkins added. “We instead want to embolden and empower our community members to share their own effective strategies of resisting racism and practicing antiracism. We firmly believe that you are the experts on your own lives, and we need your insight. Together as a community, we believe we can create a more equitable Rochester.”

This is the first step of a long-term strategy for the Urban League to ignite change that will also offer new town hall and educational programming to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. After collecting proposed ideas and personal narratives in Phase One, the INTERRUPT RACISM team from the Urban League and RIT will then compile and analyze them as substantive pieces of qualitative data about equity and prejudice in Rochester.

The anonymized data will be shared in the form of a final report to all of the actors in the community—nonprofits, government, businesses, educational institutions, etc.—to seek a common agenda for overarching, actionable steps for moving forward toward equity. These steps may then be implemented within and across all households, organizations, schools, and businesses using their own expertise and meeting their own needs.

“The more we share, the more we gain,” Jenkins said: “Everyone can do this.”

“Let’s keep this movement from becoming just another moment,” Hawkins added.

Any questions may be addressed to William Rivera-Bloodworth, Digital Engagement Officer, at wrivera@ulr.org.