Everything Will Be Ok | A Year In Review (2020)

Child's pictures in a window in response to the COVID-19 virus lockdown

Everything Will Be Ok | A Year In Review (2020)

Dear Community,

Writing this year-end recap has probably been one of the most challenging tasks that I have had to complete in the last few weeks. Every time I started to write I just couldn’t seem to find the appropriate words that articulated the emotional roller coaster and conflicting nature of the past twelve months. To be honest, a post dedicated to sharing all of the highlights that we as a ‘540Team’ have accomplished over the year seemed rather disingenuous considering the fact that so many non-profit organizations, small businesses including restaurants, theaters, event spaces and others in Rochester and beyond are struggling to make ends meet and/or closing as the financial fallout from a devastating global pandemic sets in. All this doesn’t begin to encapsulate the loss of life, sickness, depression, isolation, and despair that has gripped each and every one of us, albeit in disparate ways. How could I talk about our successes amidst the sea of sadness in a way that didn’t seem disrespectful and self-congratulating to those that might not have had the same fortunes?

But then I kept going back to all the learning and reminders that I am receiving through my therapy; the thought that my framing and viewpoint about my life and its circumstances don’t have to live in the binary. Talking about 2020 doesn’t have to be black or white, good or bad, calamity or victory. Don’t get me wrong, this year has been one of unprecedented devastation, despair, and death. This is something that we need to document and be real about. Yet, this year has also seen great triumph, selflessness, kindness, joy, and hope despite the chaos and pain that remained at a constant lull always on the background of this year.

“How could I talk about the successes amidst the sea of sadness in a way that didn’t seem disrespectful and self-congratulating to those that might not have had the same fortunes”

Unprecedented seems to be the de facto word to describe all things 2020. When January 2020 rolled around, no one (including me) could have predicted how the world would literally be on the brink of transformative change merely eight weeks later.

What we accomplished

As a 540 monthly sustaining member, you join a community with shared values rooted in antiracism and social justice. We learn together, we have dynamic discussions, and we envision a cultural shift in our perspectives. We are here because we are committed to transformative work and we know that work can only happen when we come together. Our theme for 2020 was “Scaling Up” and little did we know that we would grow and stretch in ways that could have never anticipated.

A few of our accomplishments in 2020:

classes & membership

  • We shifted all in person classes to digital with relative ease, intention and success
  • Over 1,000 people attended our classes and events in 2020
  • Through these classes we have expanded 540WMain’s reach beyond the Rochester region and are now connecting with people from as far away as Australia including (but not limited to) cities like Buffalo, Toronto, Albany, Long Island, Columbus, Boston, Las Vegas, and San Francisco
  • We piloted our organizational membership model with the Partners in Service program at Nazareth College
  • Our sustaining members reached 190+

people & culture

  • We hired our first FT team member ~ Director of Community Engagement/Development
  • We hired our first contract Grants Writer
  • We hired our first PT Social Media Specialist
  • We expanded our team to 11 part-time and contract members
  • We worked with 5 interns over the course of the year

general

  • We left our brick and mortar space and pivoted to an all virtual organization
  • We celebrated our 4 year anniversary with our first ‘digital anniversary’ celebration in the month of June and raised over $25,000

All of this success, growth, and change was set against the backdrop of a devastating global pandemic that has taken the lives of over 592 people in Monroe County and 343,000 across the US (as of this writing). A resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement that saw unprecedented global moments protesting police brutality and murder against Black people and a corrupt criminal justice system. This corruption hit tragically close to home when the untimely homicide of Daniel Prude at the hands of Rochester Police Department was made public in September although the incident had transpired in March. All of this during this ominous omnipresent pandemic that saw many of us isolated and quarantined, which surviving sometimes felt like too much to bear. As someone that personally contracted COVID-19, dealing with this pandemic and navigating safety, and any semblance of work life balance was difficult and at times untenable to say the least.

Despite this tragedy, 540WMain not only grew but thrived over the course of this year thanks in no small part to your support. You liked, tagged and read our articles and social media posts, you donated your money to support antiracism education, and you volunteered your time. I am so very grateful for our community of supporters, our day 1 supporters that have stood by and stood up for our mission and watched my vision grow from a tiny seed into a glorious and thriving plant. In my darkest hours many of you have sent emails and text messages of support, paid for meals, sent flowers, prayed and celebrated.

I end this year feeling immensely grateful and thankful even with the pains and aches of chronic pain that plague my body and mind daily. I am blessed and thankful to have a career that allows me to do all the things that I Iove while tending to a chronic disease that affects how I exist every moment of every day. I find beauty in the madness and solace within the pain and feel hopeful for a fresh year. I implore you to continue engaging in the work of interrogating the bias and racism that lives inside yourself and the toxic systems that surround us even when the trend of doing so fades. My team will continue to share ways that you can practice antiracism in your every day life and hold the people and systems that you interact with to do the same. We will continue to provide the educational media and programming that helps you to do this and more and look forward to all that 2021 brings us. Here’s to new beginnings, new horizons, and a new year. Remember no matter how bleak things become, everything will be ok.

If you are engaging with us for the first time through this article do note that we have made some recent updates to our membership program, including new benefits, the ability to pay annually, and some new 540 merch. Take a look and consider becoming a sustaining member via the patreon platform, www.patreon.com/540WMain

little black boy wearing a yellow shirt holding a carrot
little black boy wearing a yellow shirt holding a carrot

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