SJNC Working to Combat Racism

May 9, 2017

The St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center is spearheading a one-of-its-kind program to help combat racism in Rochester. Co-coordinated by The Catholic Family Center and YWCA, the Structural Racism Initiative is a two-year program that addresses institutional racism in our community organizations. Since its start in November 2016, more than 200 people through 29 local organizations have signed on for the program. SJNC Director, Sister Christine Wagner, said the Center decided to start a long-term program after her staff was involved with the Racism Task Force of the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative.

“We saw that work on racism was being done in Rochester, but it tended to be short, conference type things, or good intentioned strategies which did not come to fruition,” said Sister Christine.

The Structural Racism Initiative consists of two orientation meetings, and four workshop days with Dr. Kenneth Hardy throughout the two-year period. Dr. Hardy is a world-renowned expert in addressing racism and treating trauma. In the intervening months between the workshop days, the agency teams are expected to take the workshop information and implement strategies and processes within their organizations to identify and eliminate bias.

“We believe that true change happens with long-term effort. That is what Dr. Hardy does, and that is how we tend to operate – with a long-term view,” said Sister Christine.

The program runs through June 2018, but Sister Christine said it’s already sparked other community efforts such as involving corporate boards, financial institutions, and the City of Rochester.

“We have no idea where this is going to go, but we are so happy that a flame has been lit,” she said.