Can Rochester achieve racial and structural equity?


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The path toward racial and structural equity in Rochester is visible according to a new report released by the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity.

The Commission on Racial and Structural Equity or RASE was convened in 2020 to evaluate systemic racism in our community and make recommendations for solutions. Co-Chair and former Rochester Mayor William Johnson along with Commission member and Rochester City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot discussed the inaugural report and its findings Wednesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

“This is a very dynamic and comprehensive review of structural racism,” Johnson said. “A lot of people will have to grasp the meaning of that concept. We’re not talking about individual acts of racism or what people do to each other. We’re talking about things that are systemic and how they tend to disproportionately affect one particular group of individuals – people of color – African Americans, Latinos, and others. Our report sets forth numerous ways that those disadvantages, those inequities can be overcome.”

The RASE Commission evaluated a number of areas from police/community relations to education and housing.

Lightfoot focused on structural racism and local business, including Minority/Women-owned Business Enterprises or MWBEs. “We talked to business owners,” he explained. “We petitioned them through petitions. We also worked with having an online community forum engaging our community in several ways – of course, with the pandemic, we had to be very creative on how we did that. But I felt that we got an extensive amount of feedback. The three areas of priorities that we identified in the business development committee were – access to capital was number one. Also, we identified that mentorship and/or technical assistance was needed from these businesses. Many of them had had no dealings with the City or County. They didn’t know about any of the business resources that were available. And some had been in the business for over 30 years. Also, fast-tracking the MWBE process.”

Identifying the inequities is one thing. Coming up with solutions and creating accountability measures to achieve them is another. “This has to be a holistic approach,” said Lightfoot. “All forms of government have to be involved in order for us to see great successes in a lot of these recommendations. But it’s imperative that we have some type of accountability measures in place so that we can constantly keep a timeline and put timelines to some of these priorities and keep the community constantly engaged and updated on our progress.”

Johnson added, “Willie and I are going to be on the Agitation Committee. We’re going to make sure that nobody forgets – that the people in power don’t forget. And it doesn’t matter who the Mayor or County Executive is – it’s not a Lovely Warren or an Adam Bello plan. It belongs to the community and whoever fills those shoes will be held as accountable as the people who established this Commission. It’s as simple as that.”

To see the full interview with William Johnson and Willie Lightfoot click the link below:

To see the full report issued by the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity and to learn more about the Commission members, visit

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