Women’s History Month is a time to showcase women and their contributions to society.
Oftentimes, the month has a focus on white women, but here you’ll read about a few local Black women who are making strides in their own right here in Rochester. I met most of them this past Summer as the community organized and called for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and come September, Daniel Prude.
Chanel Snead (she/her)
Chanel isn’t someone you may recognize at first glance as an organizer. She operated behind the scenes and out of the spotlight. What I realized over the Summer was just how instrumental she was in Rochester’s organizing community.
“I think that’s probably a mixture of past experience and self-preservation–me understanding my position in the movement and the struggle. As a Black woman, you have to ask yourself just how visible you want to be.”
Chanel has built a community full of love and good food. She is an amazing cook and many in the community will tell you about her banana pudding (still waiting for my personal bowl). She says organizing is about more than being a public face. It’s about building a community; a network of people moving together.
“There are always people moving behind the scenes. No organization is built on just one person. It’s on all of us to see the work for what it is–It’s a collective of people, a network of folks moving things at their own pace.”
Jamia McCullough (she/they)
For Jamia, it was the death of Michael Brown that sparked her desire to speak out for her community. Brown was killed by a cop in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, just 15 minutes from St. Louis, Jamia’s hometown.
Years later, she is still in the streets demanding justice. Jamia is very outspoken and goes hard for her community. Before getting her current job, she was able to be on the ground for most actions. Today, her activism continues just in a different way than when she was always able to be there in person.
“I’ve contributed by being toes down, hands down. I remember marching for 8 hours and being able to help with food distribution. When I started my job, I was able to contribute to food stands through my job.”
She says even on nights she couldn’t be present, she found other ways to look out for those on the ground.
“I would listen to scanners, watch lives, send messages and communicate how people were moving and give them ideas and options for safe spaces. This is my community.”
Tiffany Porter (she/her)
Activism in Rochester and organizers have been at the forefront of media coverage, but Tiffany helps to shine a light on a community that isn’t often seen.
“My activism came through my struggle from being one of the folks I advocate for–the Black folks in the suburbs, poor folks in the suburbs, the marginalized communities that are pushed to the side in the suburbs.”
As a single mother, queer individual, and a differently-abled person, her goal is to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, even though it isn’t always easy to stay in the fight.
“My connections run deep with this community. I try to give them a voice and let them tell their own stories. Yes, it’s very exhausting. This work sometimes gets me sick, but I know if I don’t do the work the Black and Brown kids are going to leave harmed as I did by the curriculum.”
Speaking out in a predominately white space has had its own challenges.
“When you speak out as a Black woman you are always seen as a threat. It’s been hard to have this role and constantly have white males coming after me, but I want them to know I’m not going anywhere and I’m not backing down.”
Caryn Davis (she/they)
Caryn, like Jamia, has shifted their activism from being on the streets to helping out in a different way. She works as an LGBTQ+ Health educator at Trillium Health.
“I converted my activism to Healthcare exclusively because Black and brown individuals often do not feel safe in these environments. Healthcare has been a scary thing for a long time to many of us, so I wanted to be a familiar face they can trust when they need support for sexual health. I am a sex-positive person, so that is in every facet of how I educate and live.”
Caryn is a proud activist, artist, and member of the queer community.
“I have been out as a member of the alphabet mafia since I was 16. I was a volunteer for Pride events for many years– so a lot of people know me in the community. I am proud to be someone people recognize. I continue portraying that pride by living as my authentic self while supporting others in doing the exact same. When it comes to my art. I honestly just want people to feel something when they see it. Whether you’re the one being photographed. Or it’s a piece I created in photoshop. Art is supposed to make you feel. That and making people feel like they look amazing is always my goal.”
About Brianna Milon
Brianna is local media professional who loves writing, watching Netflix, and playing with her dog, Weenie and her cat, Fancy. She studied Journalism and Broadcasting at SUNY Brockport and was heavily involved in the campus radio station. Brianna also co-hosts a radio show, “Fat, Black, and Femme”, on 100.9 WXIR. You can find out more on Facebook and Blogspot.