Did You Know?…(10)



It’s always interesting to learn something new, even a little embarrassing at times. Especially when that ‘something’ new is about your own hometown of which you had no clue. I was watching t.v. last week and was very surprised to learn that 7/25/14, marked the 50th year anniversary of the Rochester Riots. Yes, I did say riots! I was so taken aback, that I found myself at a loss for words for at least a good half hour….and that is hard to accomplish for me.(smile) I still can’t believe that this tumultuous part of history, belonging to the place I’ve resided in for all of my life, had somehow escaped me.(Please click on the link above for a little background on these events) I sat dumbfounded in front of the television while witnessing the flashbacks of this ugly part of Rochester New York’s past. I was transfixed and did not move until I had familiarized myself with the sobering events that took place on July 25, 1964. Here’s what I gleaned from this eye-opening segment:

    • Rochester New York was once know as a ‘tale of 2 cities’. One tale was that of a city that was once known as one of the top places to live and work during those times, as it once thrived economically. The other tale depicted one of poverty, racial tension, and job inequality.
    • Lack of jobs, poor housing, and police brutality in the ‘black’ community, were thought to be the main causes that triggered the 3 days of rioting.
    • During this time, Rochester had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state of New York
    • The 1st indoor mall was opened in Rochester during these chaotic times.(see previous post: https://sporterhall.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/did-you-know-7/
    • Police were called in from everywhere to try and get control of the fed up and angry Rochester residents.
    • Nelson Rockefeller called on the National Guard to bring order and control back to Roc City. These riots unfortunately, put Rochester New York on the map for an array of reasons; some bad, some good.
    • Activist Malcom X and sociologist Saul Olinsky came together to form F.I.G.H.T. which strongly urged Xerox & Kodak companies to make manufacturing job opportunities more accessible to minorities.
    • Nearly 1,000 blacks & whites were arrested during the riots. There was over 1 million dollars in damages as a result of looting and damage of city businesses and neighborhood stores, etc.

I wonder what it must have felt like during those times. To avoid ‘dating’ myself, I will refrain from saying how I old I was back then. But as I sit here writing this post, listening to the chirping birds outside my window, it is almost impossible to imagine the events outlined above. Even with the occasional shouting, or loud booming stereo systems blaring from random vehicles passing by, there’s still a tranquil kind of peace that I find here…if I listen closely enough. But reality strikes back hard and I know all too well that these events did take place and the undeniable footage that I stumbled across last week is proof positive of that for sure. Yet, in spite of all the negative national publicity and attention that shined so brightly on this little corner of New York state during those times, there was some good that did come out of those dark events in Rochester New York’s history. The willingness of some companies to create accessible jobs for all, brought a diverse groups of people together. So, one of the very things that once divided the city, ended up being the one of the very things that brought it back together again! I guess you could say, a kind of bittersweet happy ending if you will. You may wonder, what is Rochester New York like today? Well, that’s a whole other post, so stay tuned! In the meantime, what’s your take on this?

By Sylvia Porter-Hall






July 2020

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