We are pleased to announce our first ever partnership with the Rochester City School District Enrico Fermi’s School #17 for a spring Student Open Mic Showcase
We are pleased to debut our new monthly membership via the Patreon platform
Our goal for the month of April is to get 30 540 Monthly Members (patrons) to become members (at $25 per month) by April 30th! Help us reach our goal by becoming a member here
540, Inc. is an education brand that creates digital content and people centered education communities designed to connect underserved populations to educational programming rooted in the arts and wellness. The education company operates two people centered spaces locations 540WMain Communiversity located in the historic Susan B. Anthony district of Rochester, NY and 540 at the Yards located at
540, Inc. is funded by charitable gifts and donations provided by community members, partners, and corporate sponsors. Revenue from classes, programs and events is used to sustain and support doperations and all community programs. We need your continued support to help us continue to grow. You can support us by becoming a 540Monthly Member. Your monthly support will help to keep 540WMain Communiversity and 540 at the Yards busy full of learning and teaching the arts and wellness.
What perks are associated with a 540 Monthly Membership ($25)?
A 540 Monthly Membership is only $25 and is purchased via our Patreon platform (www.patreon.com/540WMain) Community members who become 540monthly members receive access to exclusive digital content, blog posts, video content, member only events, art galleries, showcases MOST IMPORTANT unlimited classes.
Patreon powers membership businesses for creators. Learn more by watching the video below:
We are pleased to officially announce our partnership with ROC Real Capital to manage and rebrand the Douglass Auditorium at 36 King St
I’ve am so excited to finally share what is most likely one of our worst kept secrets ever. 540, Inc has partnered with real estate developer Matthew Druin owner of ROC Real Capital, LLC to manage the re-branded Douglass Auditorium at 36 King Street. Through this partnership Calvin Eaton will serve as the Director of the Douglass Auditorium and handle the day to day event management and booking of the theatre and art gallery space along with the 540, Inc team. The benefits of this partnership are two fold. 540WMain will have access to a larger space to hold lecture style courses and presentations. The community now has a low cost, inclusive and accessible theatre space that is now available for rent by groups and organizations committed to the arts and social justice. The fact that the theatre lives right around the corner from 540WMain Communiversity is simply the icing on the cake. Matt Druin and I feel that this partnership will honor the original intent of the building and enrich the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood by bringing more arts and culture to the district.
The community should stay tuned for the launch of a dedicated website, Facebook page, and logo for the Douglass Auditorium. The website will be the main source of information for the space and be the portal for community members to see the master calendar and book the theatre for plays, lectures, and other events that are curated for a theatre environment.
Matthew Drouin, Owner is a full time real estate investor and REALTOR with 12 years of acquisition, disposition, development and management experience in Rochester, NY. Matt seeks to help others grow in their real estate investing career as well as serve communities with the best real estate service available. Learn more: www.rocrealcapital.weebly.com
The Frederick Douglass Resource Center opened in 2009 and was a not-for-profit, cultural organization and community center committed to articulating the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass and sharing African American heritage and culture. The Center was suppose to offer cultural tours, invigorating programs, dramatic interpretations, and historical reenactments to bring to life African American history and social movements for positive change. The facility originally included the auditorium with a seating capacity of 80, exhibit space, a computer lab, and a reference library. The building was constructed on the site of what was once the West Side School for Boys with public and private funding including grants from Wegmans, The City of Rochester and more.
About $1 million in funding went into establishing the Frederick Douglass Resource Center, but the building and the intentions never quit took off. Errol Hunt, who was the property owner and former pastor of Rochester’s African Methodist Zion Church said in a statement in 2018 : “We have not found the funds to keep it open, maintain some type of a staff and therefore you have ceased operations. However the center was vacant for most of it’s tenure and never materialized into the community and cultural institution for what it was built. Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Duffy was the mayor when the Douglass Resource Center opened. He says it was supposed to house artifacts of the abolitionists but for reasons that are unclear, the resource center sat vacant for most of it’s tenure until it was sold in late 2018.
Photo credits: Michele Ashlee
The turmoil surrounding weathercaster Jeremy Kappell’s statements on WHEC-TV last week raises significantly bigger issues about our city than just the nature of one individual’s brief verbalization. I’ve been listening to and reading about the opinions of white people and of people of color. According to comments I’ve read, the preponderance of white folks seem to think that Kappell did not intentionally say the word “coon”. Some do acknowledge the possibility that Kappell may be racist and that he may have accidentally let private sentiments show, as in a Freudian slip. But most whites have trouble believing that Kappell – whether “racist” or not – would think it professionally safe to utter such a word on TV in Rochester.
Many African-American commenters think Kappell did utter the word intentionally. In other words, their experiences in Rochester are so permeated by racism that they think Kappell would think it is OK here in Monroe County to say this on TV. People may never agree on whether Kappell said the word intentionally. But I’d like to hope we can agree on what is glaringly obvious: Most white folks have no idea how painful and frightening it is for African-American commenters to live with the racism they experience every day in Rochester. (And their pain, fear, and justified anger are compounded by the deep and horrible history of racism in the US).
If the experiences of reasonable, well-intended African-Americans in Rochester make them think that a well-known white weather reporter can get away with saying “Martin Luther Coon King” here in Rochester – and if the experiences of reasonable, well-intended white Rochesterians lead them to think intentionally saying in this would be career suicide here – then ALL Rochesterians urgently need to pay attention.
The many ugly racist remarks that have been made about this incident provide unarguable proof that racism is indeed alive, pervasive, and very dangerous in Rochester. Our community needs to address:
But it’s not just people of color. Racism severely threatens the future of all of us. It is urgent for the future of our entire community that we see this for what it is and change it. Please watch for upcoming opportunities to discuss this and other experiences of race in Rochester. We must learn the truth about each others’ lives – and then we must take action.
What did that meteorologist say that got him fired? Listen to Jeremy Kappell : Democrat & Chronicle
‘OMG I Didn’t Mean It Like That!’: Intent vs. Impact, Which Matters? : Only Black Girl
Rebecca Johnson is a Rochester resident and community leader.
The best thing about 540, Inc for me is not only our dedication to people centered spaces but our digital content. 540’s diverse array of digital content is what truly makes our organization special. From twitter, to Facebook to instagram, and 540Blog learning is the foundation of all we do and at the core is powerful thought provoking content. This best of list includes The Top 10 Most Viewed 540 Blog Posts of 2018.
Top 10 Most Viewed 540Blog Posts of 2018
by Calvin Eaton | (84 views)
by Calvin Eaton | (89 views)
by Calvin Eaton | (93 views)
by 540Blog | 124 views
by Erin Egloff | 194 views
by Erin Egloff | 230 views
by Erin Egloff | 267 views
by Calvin Eaton | (1,717 views)
by Calvin Eaton | (4,401 views)
If you’ve been out of the social media game for awhile then you might not be aware that I wrote my second open letter of the month; this time to Arena’s Inc. This time the injustice was due to a racial profiling incident I experienced while shopping in the establishment last week. What is my biggest takeaway from this experience:
Speaking up every single time about injustice is hard to do
This statement might come as a surprise coming from me given my antiracism education work and social media presence; but it’s so true. Calling out injustice whether from a local establishment, via social media, telling a co-worker their race joke is racist, sitting down with a close friend or family member letting them know that their viewpoint is xenophobic, or writing an open letter to a local owner about a perceived profiling incident is scary. Your heart beats fast. Your mouth goes dry. You might shake. You second guess your instinct. Questions fill your mind:
And you know what I am vowing for 2019 despite every thing I’ve mentioned above?
“Speak out every single time”
That’s’ right. No matter where you are or who you are with. When you see or hear injustice; speak out. Every single time. You don’t have to make a scene. You don’t have to become irate but you can use your privilege, your voice, your intellect to firmly call out injustice when you see it.
So in 2019 take the pledge with me. No matter who you are or where you are when you see injustice or experience it; call it out. If the situation doesn’t lend itself to a in person confrontation then write a letter. Call the owner or call corporate. Take to social media. Start a change.or petition. Whatever method you choose make sure you hold perpetrators of injustice intentional or not accountable. This is the only way we can begin to change the culture of white supremacy. Everyone, everywhere has to speak out every single time.
Are you questioning your ability to call out and speak out about injustice? Get in touch! Submit your question below and I will personally help you figure out the best way to speak out! We are in this together.
It was with great joy that I made a casual visit to your East End location this past Friday. With vacation time on my side I could finally cross your prolific gift shop and floral boutique off my grew up in Rochester but never visited list. Initially this visit was pleasant and business as usual from a local neighborhood establishment. A friendly greeting from the front desk clerk, my eyes wide and in awe after circling the lower level and gazing at all the gifts, trinkets, and plants in abundance; thinking who would be the best recipient of a well thought out gift from a local staple. It wasn’t until I attempted to venture upstairs that my visit ultimately led to this letter.
Before I could set foot on the top step, I was hastily stopped by a gentleman that approached me from behind friendly yet firmly telling me that before I could wander the second floor, I would have to remove my shoulder bag and set it behind the front counter. I initially gave pause to the request but in place of “making a scene” or seeming difficult quickly agreed to the request with a smile. Had it not been for the sole other patron in the shop, I more than likely would not have given this interaction a second thought. You see this middle aged white woman had also wandered from the first to second floor with not one but two bags on her shoulders. She apparently hadn’t been sequestered to remove her everyday luggage and was allowed to shop uninterrupted and without the same scrutiny as I, a black young black man had received. This scenario on the surface seems rather trivial. What is the big deal you may ask? But after reflecting on the situation and facts from my vantage point for the rest of my visit and into the rest of my day; several issues and unanswered questions remain.
Was I racially profiled? Is the most pressing question that I was left with after exiting your store. This burden in itself is tough enough as a man of color but even more disconcerting facing it after leaving an establishment that is literally down the street and around the corner from where I live, work, and walk daily.
The second question is: Why wasn’t the female customer also asked to remove her bag before she was allowed to the second floor? Did your two staff members miss her by mistake? How could this be since the two of us were the only customers in the store at the time?
Additionally, if this is standard practice and policy why is there no posted signage informing customers about the no bag policy? Why was I treated differently in that moment from another customer?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. Only theories based on anecdotal evidence. However this incident and these thoughts are daily burdens that black and brown residents have the burden of facing as we navigate Rochester spaces and increasingly; East End establishments that are quite literally gentrifying right before our eyes.
I write this letter not to accuse but to take a stand for myself and many others who have encountered similar treatment in Arena’s and other places in Rochester but chose to remain silent. This and many other microaggressions are one of many that happen daily that for the sake of being politically correct, for the sake of niceness, for the sake of turning the other cheek we are culturally forced to give establishments like yours the benefit of the doubt. Our silence leads to unanswered questions, broken egos, and hurt feelings. We vent to our friends. We vent on social media. We vow never to return again. But this silence fosters nothing but more complicity, more status quo, and more allowances for racism to fester and divide our City.
I write this letter openly to share my one experience. To be transparent and let others know that it is ok to speak up. To let you know that my voice matters. My feelings matter and that as a customer and more importantly as a human, I deserve to be treated the same as everyone else. I do not deserve to be treated differently, or thought of differently, because of the color of my skin.
This letter is a letter to foster positive yet difficult conversation on how we as a community both in the East End and at large are treating each other through our daily interactions and in the policies we create and promote in our places of business. I hope that your staff and owners join me in this conversation.
Founder & Executive Director
The Part-time Class Coordinator position is integral to the success of 540 at The Yards. A qualified candidate:
Download a PDF copy of job announcement FLYER
Download a PDF copy of Class Coordinator Job Description
Are you an artist and/or maker interested in community teaching?
540 at The Yards is seeking maker centric freelance educators for Sunday afternoons (1pm-3pm) in February and March 2019 to teach maker themed classes for children and adults.
Submit proposal to email@example.com or by using the form below:
^^ classes must range $15-$30 or less
Watch the video above to learn more about this exciting partnership between 540, Inc. and The Yards. Learn more below and stay tuned for more details over the upcoming weeks.
540 at the Yards Launch Party | Sunday February 3, 2019 | 4pm-6pm
540 at The Yards is a satellite location of 540, Inc. focusing on low cost single session classes based in the arts and wellness.
540 at The Yards is located within The Yards Collective. The mailing address is 50-52 Rochester Public Market Rochester, NY 14609
The Yards Collective was created in 2011 as a collaborative art space founded by strong female identifying makers looking to offer a supportive artistic and inclusive space. The Yards Collective now operates under a dedicated director and hosts over a dozen permanent studio spaces along side a communal work space, gallery area, and wood-shop that are all available for rental. Learn more about The Yards Collective at their website: www.theyardsrochester.com
As a larger satellite classroom, 540 at The Yards hosts 540WMain Communiversity’s low cost single session classes every Sunday. These classes range from Hip Hop Cardio and All Abilities Yoga to Intro to Watercolor Painting and DIY Kombucha Making and more. In addition to classes, 540 at The Yards is a location of the gluten free chef’s Vegan/GF Pop Up Bakery which runs during the normal 540 at The Yards hours of operation.
540 at The Yards hosts classes every Sunday from 8:30-3:00PM
At this time 540 at The Yards location is not accessible to community members with mobility needs or who utilize a wheelchair.
Why does 540WMain Communiversity need a satellite location?
540WMain’s growth over the last two years facilitated the need for larger space than that exists at the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood location. This need espoused the original vision of 540WMain’s Founder to collaborate with other creatives, visionaries, and leaders and expand 540WMain into a brand (540, Inc.) that has satellite locations in underserved neighborhoods in Rochester and beyond. 540 at The Yards is the first site of this envisoned expansion.
Will 540WMain still have classes?
Yes. 540WMain will still offer weekly classes, events, and programming rooted in:
How can I apply to teach a class at 540WMain and/or 540 at The Yards?
Apply below using the form below
The courtyard garden project started in 2016 and since then we have been slowly working on it’s completion in a very grassroots way. Co-designed with Jeff Frisch and Rawson Duckett the Courtyard Teaching and Nutrition Garden will serve as an auxiliary classroom for 540WMain as well as house our garden teaching and nutrition program. The $1000 micro-grant received from Awesome Foundation Rochester will move us one step closer to completing the project.
Join us in person for the official photo and check unveiling Wednesday October 31st at 11:30 AM at 540WMain
Brick-building takes on a new meaning for Calvin Eaton of 540WMain Communiversity, the second recipient of the Awesome Foundation Rochester’s $1000 micro-grant award. Funded to support Calvin’s work to complete the masonry for a courtyard teaching area, the space will set the foundation for an outdoor garden and education space.“We are so excited to finish this project and work with our community to create a
courtyard teaching garden,” said Calvin Eaton, Executive Director of 540WMain. “We can’t wait to start offering classes on growing your own food and learning more about nutrition. It is something that our Susan B. Anthony neighborhood is eager to enjoy.”
“We are delighted to fund Calvin’s awesome project that supports the health and vitality of the community,” said Jill Freeman, Dean of the Rochester chapter of the Awesome Foundation. “Calvin’s courtyard teaching and nutrition project was chosen because the trustees agreed that reducing food insecurity and promoting nutrition through gardening and other classes is pretty awesome.”
Created to ‘forward the interest of awesome in the universe $1000 at a time’, the Awesome Foundation Rochester is part of a global community of individuals who seek to spread awesome in their communities by personally funding awesome projects. Launched in 2009 by a
small group of Bostonian’s eager to spread joy in their hometown, the Awesome Foundation has grown to 89 chapters around the world that give $1000 grants to individuals in their communities, with no strings attached. This loose confederation shares ideas and best practices, but each chapter is autonomous, with money pooled from the coffers of ten trustees and distributed to winners via cash or check. There is no tax-deduction, no 501c3 status, and all funds are managed by individuals in the community willing to donate their money to support great local projects, quickly and easily, with as little paperwork and process as possible.
The Awesome Foundation Rochester will provide $1000 micro-grants every other month, and the next awardee will be chosen on December 18th. Anyone interested in submitting a creative, intriguing and awesome idea can fill out the simple online questionnaire at
https://www.awesomefoundation.org/en/chapters/rochester (the deadline for the December award is December 10th, 2018). Ms. Freeman launched the Awesome Foundation with co-deans Dan Schneiderman, co- chair of the Maker Faire Rochester, and Kelly Cheatle, Artistic Director of Airigami.
As Ms. Cheatle explained, “Too often an awesome idea gets stuck in the ‘idea’ stage simply due to lack of funding. We’re really excited about how accessible these grants are and we’re looking forward to unlocking more creative projects and other sparks of joy here in Rochester.”
Individuals with quirky, smile-inducing, curiosity-enabling, joy-making projects are strongly encouraged to apply. Awesome projects can be related to technology, art, science,community development, and more, and are only limited by the applicant’s imagination and
For more information and examples of other funded Awesome Foundation project around the world, go to https://www.awesomefoundation.org en and get inspired
Since 2016 540WMain Learning Academy has offered over 100 low cost classes and events for the Susan B. Anthony Preservation District and the Rochester community. During this time we have had hits and misses, trialed and erred and understand what classes work well in our communiversity™ at this time and which classes we might revisit later.
Below is a list of our Tried and True classes. These classes are offered most regularly in our community classroom and (for a fee) can be brought to your office, organization, classroom, or community space
**ASL interpreting can be arranged for all classes at an additional cost
Submit the webform below if you are interested in booking a private class at 540WMain or your organization:
American Sign Language for Beginners I & II | Instructor: Sarah Vitberg
Yoga Beats & Soul™Yoga Beats and Soul™ is a hybrid yoga and movement class designed to tone the body and ease the spirit. The class consists of basic asana posture, repetitive percussive movements, and some integrative flow to balance the demands of the asanas and recenter mental focus. YBS is beginner friendly and great for individuals that enjoy light cardio and free movement. (1hr)
Intro to Resume Writing | Instructor: Calvin Eaton
This presentation styled class teaches working professionals the basics (do’s and dont’s) of writing successful resumes. This is a intro theory/information styled class **no actual resume writing will take place. (1.5hrs)
I am pleased to announce that 540WMain is officially hiring for a brand new internship position
Baking (Highschool) Apprentice Intern
Under the direction and supervision of the Executive Director/ Gluten Free Chef (ED) the Baking Apprentice will learn and be able to understand the process of gluten free and vegan baking as it intersects with events and programs at 540WMain. The apprentice will assist in baking and baking production for in house events, pop up events, and community outreach events where baked goods are featured.
The Baking Apprentice will contribute to the successful development and growth of current and future culinary events and activities at 540WMain Community Learning Academy. Under the direction of the ED the apprentice will be taught the skills and experience needed to complete small batch gluten free and vegan baking. The apprentice will learn customer service, culinary, management, and small business management skills.
Ideal candidates: Students interested in Customer Service, Baking, Culinary, Front Desk Management, and Pastry Production
We are soliciting notes of interest from local high school and home school students in Monroe County that have the following qualifications and more:
To learn more about the internship those interested can download a copy of the internship description below:
We are holding open interview for this apprenticeship Saturday June 16 // 12-2 PM at 540WMain. Parents and students interested should register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Please submit the web application below as well as a resume to email@example.com
May is National Bike Month! and to celebrate 540Blog and social media platforms will focus content on how we begin to normalize biking in our culture, support cyclists, and more importantly push walkablity in Rochester and beyond.
Today is National Bike to Work Day. That’s right every third Friday in May, The League of American Bicyclists advocate for everyone to bike to work. Rochester like most cities across the nation are promoting bike culture and holding special events for everyone to get out and bike today. The more bikes on the road means the more biking is normalize as a respected and viable mode of transportation. The number of bicyclists is growing rapidly from coast to coast and many are advocating for their city and state leaders to include bikes in development and planning decisions. Many of these trips include professionals like Arian Horbovetz who bikes to work frequently and runs the national blog on urbanism, The Urban Phoenix.
Arian frequently writes about his experiences as a cyclisits and shares the joys and challenges that come with biking in a car-centric city like Rochester. In early 2016 life forced Arian to reevaluate how he looked at mobility after his car died and he went car free for nearly two years. He says; I biked to and from work every day, rain, shine, snow, monsoon, blizzard, ice storm, 50mph wind and 95 degree heat with 100% humidity. My commute by bike was about 26 minutes, and I could easily reach downtown Rochester in 20. When necessary, I rode the bus, and occasionally took advantage of Uber and Lyft. And when I really needed a car, I utilized Zipcar, which is a wonderful service by the way.
Eventually Arian, did get a new car but he continues to make use of his bike and public transit in his overall mobility routine. And he’s not the only one. . The National Household Travel Survey showed that the number of trips made by bicycle in the U.S. more than doubled from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009. In cities all over America many millennials and bike enthusiasts use their bikes for more than a casual bike ride. Professionals from all walks of life are advocating for more bike infrastructure in large towns and small cities. Rochester’s biking community is growing and the need for more folks on the road is essential for our City to move the needle on normalizing bike culture. Here in Rochester, the roads are built for cars, and for many; biking on major roads and intersections is not only unsafe but unfeasible. About the challenges Arian shared; You have to constantly push yourself, think ahead, and sometimes, there are just things you can’t do. Biking takes a lot more time to get around than driving, especially in a city like Rochester that lacks the real density of a big city. A 12-minute car ride to work was more than double that on a bike, which might not seem like much until you just need to sleep that extra few minutes in the morning, or finish that project before you head out the door. It’s getting home at 5:10pm instead of 4:45pm, and not being able to make that big grocery run on the way home.
You have to constantly push yourself, think ahead, and sometimes, there are just things you can’t do.
Despite these challenges National Bike to Work Day gives us all a chance to push ourselves out of our normal comfort zones and into the community (and to work) via bike, if we can find routes that are safe. Why bike?
Hundreds of American communities have been successful in increasing bicycle commuting by providing Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day events. So join the community, learn the safest route, hop on your bike, and bike to work today or one day soon.
It has been a week since the news broke, and I am still seething over the International Association of Athletics Federations decision against South African athlete Caster Semenya. Ten years after their original findings, after many more competitions and a long fight in courts, the IAAF won their decision to make someone alter her body for their comfort. They ruled that due to her body producing more testosterone than usual, she must take hormones to reduce her levels in order to compete in any races under their jurisdiction. Since this ruling, two more runners have been dropped from the Athletics Kenya team, citing this ruling as the reason. There is a good chance that even more athletes from Africa and Latin America will be affected by this ruling before year’s end.
There are multiple reasons why I am seething about this. Caster Semenya has been working her entire life to be the best athlete she can be, and she has the medals to prove it. She who came under scrutiny after she improved her naturally skilled performance. In 2009, the IAAF obliged her to be subjected to a medical examination because her improved times at the 25m and 800m races “usually arouse suspicion of drug use”. Perhaps that, or perhaps an 18 year old woman improved her form and training. Their report and findings, that should not have been published were somehow leaked to the public. I am always suspicious of an international governing body that somehow lets an individual’s private information go public without their knowledge. This is not a hack and a security breach of thousands; this is one person’s private information in which they forced her to partake if she wanted to keep her career.
Back in 2016 when Rio de Janeiro hosted the Olympic Games, Lynsey Sharp, a British runner who lost the 800m to Semenya, tearfully lamented, “It was difficult to compete against Caster Semenya and other hyper-androgenic athletes after the rule to suppress testosterone levels was overturned.” She also ignored Semenya and others to embrace two European runners in the race. Sharp had previously claimed that “there were obvious athletes with heightened testosterone” and that there were “two separate races being run.” The problem is that in that 2016 race, Lynsey Sharp finished 6th place. She would not even received Bronze for 6th place. You might get a paper clip. Had Semenya not been allowed to compete back then, she still would have placed 5th, which might yield a safety pin. There is nothing wrong with lamenting a loss, but to put that loss on someone else who was simply doing what she was supposed to do to excel is a bit pathetic. It reminds me of Maria Sharipova’s “beef” with Serena Williams, a beef that Serena Williams did not know she was participating in (incidentally, Serena Williams has been the target of criticisms of her body as well). Sharp has since finished 8th in London World Championships and 14th in Australia Commonwealth Games. So perhaps “Becky with the Bad Pace” should focus more on training than blaming others for her losses.
Lynsey Sharp is not the only person to make comments about Caster Semenya and her bout with the IAAF. Many men, including black men, with no credentials to discuss the topic have been discussing Caster Semenya’s looks. People have been discussing how muscular she is compared to other women. She is an Olympic runner, though. She is SUPPOSED to be muscular. Her gender has always been under scrutiny. Fox News miscategorized her as transgender. The IAAF itself added salt to the wound recently by stating that Semenya could still participate in racing so long as she competed in men’s events. Mind you, though Semenya has 3 times more testosterone than the average woman, that is still less testosterone than the a man’s. All this controversy, and it is still questionable that naturally occurring testosterone actually gives anyone an athletic advantage. People with higher testosterone have lost, and people with lower testosterone have won.
The most frustrating thing about this is that we have seen this before, in many ways. The most obvious case is Saartjie Baartman, the Khoikhoi woman who was taken to Europe and examined by “scientists” and then put on live display for her natural features. Baartman was nicknamed “Hottentot Venus”, and was literally poked and prodded by the public as she was paraded naked around Europe. She was over sexualized and described as a savage prone to prurient behavior all because of her body, nothing she said or did. Even in death she got no respect, as she was stuffed and put on display.
Black women bear the brunt of these indignities. White and European “standards” have been the governing body on what is an acceptable body. Black ballerinas are often told they are too “thick” or dark or muscular. Black women teachers are often admonished for what they wear to class, even if they are completely covered up. Black women will regularly be blamed for harassment they receive based on how much skin they are showing, not just by white folks, but also by black folks playing respectability politics. Black hair is often governed and punished and used as an excuse to fire or not hire qualified professionals. Companies would rather you pay hundreds of dollars a month to chemically burn your hair straight to the detriment of your own health than let to wear your hair in a natural comfortable way. This is all legal, since the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to this. But let’s be honest: how much faith do we have that 50 year old white men and Clarence Thomas would see how discriminatory this is?
“White and European “standards” have been the governing body on what is an acceptable body”
I hope Caster Semenya does not give up her fight. Whether she takes hormone suppressants or decides to compete with men, I hope she smokes anyone she runs against. There is one thing extraordinary black folks are good at doing that can’t be stopped by any white governing body: that is excelling despite the obstacles put in their way.
Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog , he currently writes the Chronicles of Nonsense segment for the Almost Tuesday show on WAYO-FM 104.3, and regularly posts and writes on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon.Additionally , Chris is a Food Writer for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is www.chroniclesofnonesense.com
On a very rainy Monday, when my allergies were in high flare and a persistent cold rain had forced day four of the 2019 Rochester Lilac Festival to close I told myself that despite every reason to stay in bed I would push myself to attend Rochester Beacon’s sold out forum titled “ Rochester Schools: The Elephant in the Room. As a regular reader of Rochester Beacon, I was excited for this forum for many weeks. Given the digital newspaper’s mission and commitment to fact based reporting and bringing a different voice to Rochester’s media line up, I had high hopes for the forum event.
I was optimistic and anticipating a real “truth to power” session. Something that would call out the status quo and make what has for decades impeded true progress in the Rochester City School District abundantly clear. I was hoping for an outline that would detail what changes need to happen to not just move the needle but affect true systemic reform at the individual, institutional, and systemic levels. When I learned that Mayor Lovely Warren and Jackie Campbell of Roc the Future would be panelists my interest was only heightened. I had this event on my calendar for weeks and I intended to be present with bells on.
Naturally, the day came and even after careful planning, I found myself running late. The rain, coupled with more rain and public transit made me about 30 minutes late to the forum. I arrived soaking wet but energized (in my head) and ready to engage.
After about 45 minutes I found myself forcing myself to sit through a languishing and lengthy presentation by Chris Cerf, the forum’s keynote speaker and former commissioner of education for the state of New Jersey.
Chris Cerf’s keynote didn’t lack data, facts, or good information. The true problem is that everything he shared I’d already heard before. In fact, I have no doubt that every single person in the room already knew everything he was presenting . Those of us who have lived for any length of time and discussed the decades old challenges of the Rochester City School District ad nauseam; know that teachers matter. We know quality evidence based curriculum matters. We know that teaching and instructing that is aligned to said curriculum matters. We know that parents and the community must be engaged. We know that all decisions should center students and not put adults first. In Rochester we know all of these things and more; so the goal shouldn’t be to tell us what we already know, but to ask why the district, why the community elected board, and why the community at large isn’t doing what research shows is best. This is (1) of the elephants I came to this forum wanting to be called out. It never was.
By the time the first panel came to the stage (yes there were two panels) I was hoping that the monotony of Chris Cerf would be livened up by questions and answers from the large audience.
All questions that I have asked at every single panel that I’ve ever attended about The Rochester City School District and here I was asking myself these same questions. Again.
Each panel member was allowed to speak individually on what was basically a reiteration of what Chris Cerf had already presented for nearly an hour. Thankfully Mayor Warren kept her words very concise saying only that she agreed with everything that Chris Cerf shared in his presentation. Most of which I can barely remember since it was nothing I haven’t heard before. Chris alluded to the elephant in the room, maybe mentioned but still this elusive elephant wasn’t very clear from his words. So, you can imagine my continued frustration that after each panel member spoke their interpretation, there was still little clarity on said elephant.
Unfortunately there was no one from the State Regents or Department of Education present to answer this profound “elephant in the room”. What frustrated me further was after all the time spent on the panelists reiterating what we had already heard for an hour, we barely got through any of the audience questions. The ones that were shared were heavily paraphrased by the moderator Kent Gardner.
And just when my body seemed to be at the height of rebelling against my mind; a second panel was called to the stage. All I could think was ” Not another panel” However, this panel seemed to make sense for the forum. I couldn’t help but keep thinking to myself why the second panel wasn’t placed first since it was made up of leaders that are beacons of change in the district. This second panel included:
This panel although encouraging and further reinforcing the idea that transformative change actually works when quality schools and leaders are given the autonomy and finances to do change work, it only emphasized what we already knew.
The elephant in the room is why isn’t the school district replicating and scaling what works?
These quotable gems although powerful were stated at the very final final hour of the event literally as folks were checked out, leaving, or just about checked out. I so wish these content experts and their quotes framed the beginning of the decision rather than said in passing at the very end of a long three hour forum.
“And just when my body seemed to be at the height of rebelling against my mind a second panel was called to the stage”
I didn’t learn much really. This forum like so many before it reinforced much about what I already know about Rochester and the Rochester City School District
(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton aka theglutenfreechef (www.theglutenfreechefblog.com) is a digital content creator, social entrepreneur, and educator whose areas of expertise includes antiracism, diversity, inclusion, K-12 curriculum writing and teaching, gluten free plant based living, and higher education.
I adjusted my knit tie and stepped into the front door of 540WMain. Immediately, I was taken by the humble and beautifully simple space on The City of Rochester’s often underappreciated west side. The whole vibe felt almost like a cafe, putting me at ease while inspiring with an eclectic style and beautiful art. I was greeted by a kind young woman who offered me a brief tour of the place, making me feel right at home.
540WMain is an organization that works to connect Rochester residents with key issues in the community, such as preservation, sustainability, workforce development and anti-racism. Founder and Executive Director Calvin Eaton has worked hard to create a physical space that welcomes lectures, discussions and community conversations, as well a strong social media presence that is beginning to gain traction across the Greater Rochester Area.The mission is not easy… Calvin and his team dig deep into some of Rochester’s most difficult topics, such as gentrification and race relations. But it’s grassroots efforts like these that are slowly changing the often polluted tides that work against underrepresented populations, especially in our urban cores. The 540WMain team does a beautiful job at creating a space where these issues can be discussed positively in a comforting and inspiring environment.
My “Intro to Urbanism” lecture went very well. I always love talking to smaller groups in more intimate settings like this one. I’ll be teaching this class again, for anyone who is interested, on May 13th (sign up today!). Organizations like 540WMain deserve our attention, our respect, and our backing. The deepest cuts in our communities and the most difficult issues we face going forward are the ones we need to engage first if we want our cities to become the sustainable and equitable centers of culture, diversity and opportunity I know they can be.
** This post was originally published in The Urban Phoenix blog**
About Black Women Roc!
“540WMain is pleased to announce a call for art by Black & Women of Color artists for the 3rd Annual Black Women Roc Campaign”
Who should submit art?
We are looking for art by black women, and femme identifying women of color that represents the central theme of the power, creativity, and beauty of Black Women and Women of Color.
What type of art should I submit?
How do I submit my art?
If selected, when and where will be art be displayed?
How will my work be selected?
Where do I deliver my art?