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NEWS. ARTS. LIFE. | JUNE 2021 | FREE | SINCE 1971 POLITICS

EATS

IN THE LOOP

SORT OUT THE PRIMARIES WITH CITY’S VOTER GUIDE

WAFFLEPALOOZA AT HOUSE OF WHACKS

CAN BIDEN’S INFRASTRUCTURE VISION BURY THE INNER LOOP?

WHO WANTS LOVELY TO BE MAYOR? We’ll find out on June 22nd


INBOX WANNA SAY SOMETHING? CITY wants to hear you rant and rave. Your feedback must . . . . . . be no more than 250 words . . . respond to CITY content . . . be engaging CITY reserves the right to edit for accuracy, length, and readability.

Send your rants and raves to: feedback@rochester-citynews.com

CITY, 280 State St., Rochester, NY 14614 (ATTN: Feedback) VACANT LOTS ARE NO PLACE FOR GARDENS An article in the May edition about urban agriculture featured a woman who wanted to turn a vacant cityowned lot into a community garden (“City, city quite contrary, how does your urban garden grow?”). Please note that this is a problem. No food should be grown in a vacant lot, as a home once was there, in most cases. When a house is torn down, there is a danger of lead or asbestos getting into the soil. Most vacant lots cannot be used for food production without testing and possibly remediation. Alternatives exist, such as using raised beds where soil is imported from a garden center. Or build a greenhouse, with food growing on benches inside. Just something readers should note. Mark Sweetland, Rochester

LANDLORDS ARE HURTING, TOO As a local landlord, former tenant, and locally employed, I find the eviction moratorium extension to be unnecessary and an infringement on the rights of landlords for a variety of reasons (“New York lawmakers look to extend eviction moratorium through August,” May 4, online). If a tenant doesn’t want an eviction on their background, they should work out an arrangement with their landlord for a move-out date. I wouldn’t pursue an eviction if it wasn’t necessary — that’s why the law is there. Having to pay back the rent owed isn’t unreasonable. Many people, including landlords, are facing a hardship right now due to COVID. I still have to pay a mortgage. Tenants should have to pay back the rent. Open the courts, allow evictions, and allow people to stand on their own two feet. Tenants who cannot afford the rent should go to the court for the eviction hearing and show the judge their hardship. As a landlord, I have to show proof the tenant should be evicted. The tenant should show proof they should not or cannot be evicted. Governor Cuomo is “opening up” the rest of the state and expecting us to spend money on Broadway tickets and other things. I cannot afford that if I don’t have income from rental property to help pay the mortgage. Since when do people need an

eviction moratorium just to find a job? People have paid rent and searched for a new job for years. If I have to sell my rental property, as other landlords are doing, it will almost certainly take money out of New York and result in an absentee landlord. Teresa Hemann, Rochester Hemann owns a rental property in Rochester. ABUNDANT REPORTING, BUT NO ABUNDANCE? I was pleased to see the extensive article on the Food Policy Council and grocery store situation in the city of Rochester in the May edition “Hungry for change”). It is so difficult for many people to get fresh healthy food near their homes. I was, however, disappointed that you made no mention of Abundance Food Co-op. Abundance is owned by its shareholders, but anyone can shop there and anyone can become a shareholder. When the Abundance board realized that the store needed to move from its very small location on Marshall Street, it began an extensive search to find a new, larger location in the city of Rochester. It took several years to find the location. But the board and the store shareholders were determined that Abundance would stay in the city. The store is now located on South Avenue and is a full-service grocery store. There are many benefits to shopping there. In addition to its wide selection of organic foods, Abundance offers a special discount to those customers that have an EBT card. For every dollar that they spend on fresh vegetables or fruit, they receive an extra dollar to spend as well. The best way to learn more about Abundance is to pay it a visit. Come and get a cup of hot soup and a sandwich wrap and a drink and sit in the lovely café for lunch. Afterward, you can do some grocery shopping. There are always special deals on organic fruits and vegetables! Paula Hansen, Rochester Hansen is a longtime Abundance shareholder and former board member.

NEWS. ARTS. LIFE. JUNE, 2021 Vol 49 No 10 On the cover: Photo by Max Schulte 280 State Street Rochester, New York 14614 feedback@rochester-citynews.com phone (585) 244-3329 roccitynews.org PUBLISHER Rochester Area Media Partners LLC, Norm Silverstein, chairman FOUNDERS Bill and Mary Anna Towler EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT themail@rochester-citynews.com Editor: David Andreatta News editor: Jeremy Moule Staff writer: Gino Fanelli Arts editor: Daniel J. Kushner Life editor: Rebecca Rafferty Calendar editor: Katherine Stathis Contributing writers:

James Brown, Irene Kannyo, Joe Massaro, J. Nevadomski, Jeff Spevak, Chris Thompson CREATIVE DEPARTMENT artdept@rochester-citynews.com Creative director: Ryan Williamson Designer/Photographer: Jacob Walsh ADVERTISING DEPARTMENT ads@rochester-citynews.com Sales manager: Alison Zero Jones Advertising consultant/ Project manager: David White OPERATIONS/CIRCULATION Operations manager: Ryan Williamson Circulation manager: Katherine Stathis kstathis@rochester-citynews.com CITY is available free of charge. Additional copies of the current issue may be purchased by calling 585-784-3503. CITY may be distributed only by authorized distributors. No person may, without prior written permission of CITY, take more than one copy of each monthly issue. CITY (ISSN 1551-3262) is published monthly 12 times per year by Rochester Area Media Partners, a subsidiary of WXXI Public Broadcasting. Periodical postage paid at Rochester, NY (USPS 022-138). Address changes: CITY, 280 State Street, Rochester, NY 14614. Member of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and the New York Press Association. Copyright by Rochester Area Media Partners LLC, 2021 - all rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, photocopying, recording or by any information storage retrieval system without permission of the copyright owner.

@ROCCITYNEWS 4 CITY

JUNE 2021


IN THIS ISSUE OPENING SHOT

Britian Tinsdale spends most days playing basketball at the YMCA Center for Equity on Lewis Street. Tinsdale wants better street lights in his neighborhood and lighting for the basketball court. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

NEWS ON THE COVER:

8

12

THE BRAWL FOR CITY HALL

30

CARL CHIARENZA IS THE REAL DEAL

Lovely Warren and Malik Evans square off in the Democratic primary as Warren fights for her political future.

A retrospective exhibit looks back on 70 years of the photographer’s work.

BY GINO FANELLI AND JEREMY MOULE

BY REBECCA RAFFERTY

CITY HALL ON THE INNER LOOP: FILL. IT. IN.

The Warren administration eyes Biden’s infrastructure vision to bury the Inner Loop for good. But some neighbors are wary. BY JAMES BROWN

16

ARTS

32

GETTING BACK TO THEIR ROOTS

LIFE RANDOM ROCHESTER:

58 64

YOUR GUIDE TO THE PRIMARIES

The rundown on key local races and the candidates who want your votes. (That means you, Democrats.) BY GINO FANELLI AND JEREMY MOULE

Longtime syndicated radio host Michael Lasser signs off. He had rhythm. He had music. He had his girl. Who could ask for anything more?

WHAT ALES ME: TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

Rochester breweries go wild with wild ales. BY GINO FANELLI

BY IRENE KANNYO

‘FASCINATIN’ RHYTHM’ GOES SILENT

How the pool table that shaped Martin Luther King Jr. wound up in Rochester. BY DAVID ANDREATTA

Black artists tackle biased beauty standards and embrace their natural hair.

48

POOL SHARK FOR THE PEOPLE

LOVE THY LABOR

68

Nani’s Kitchen workers unionized with the blessing of their boss. Why aren’t more restaurants union shops? It’s complicated. BY REBECCA RAFFERTY

BY JEFF SPEVAK

MORE NEWS, ARTS, AND LIFE INSIDE roccitynews.org

CITY 5


INBOX

axomhome.com 661 south ave

   

      6 CITY

JUNE 2021

ABOUT THOSE DELECTIBLE EDIBLES I thought I’d shed some additional light on your article in the April edition about THC-infused edibles (“The edible enigma”). In the edible article, the writer mentions that THC edibles can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes to kick in. That’s an okay ballpark estimate. But well-controlled studies of orally administered THC show that peak effects can be delayed as long as four hours. There is also a pharmacological reason as to why eating cannabis edibles hit us harder than smoking cannabis. When we consume THC in edible form, it is absorbed in our small intestine and travels to our liver, which converts the THC to 11-hydroxy-THC. This is an active metabolite that is more potent and longer-lasting than THC and is not produced in high amounts when smoking/inhaling cannabis. I hope this helps someone avoid an overdose, which isn’t likely to be lethal but could result in hospitalization. Geoff Brown, Buffalo Brown is a pharmacist at a medical cannabis dispensary in Buffalo and the publisher of CannaBuff magazine.   POTPALOOZA When I saw the headline “Lessons in Legalization” and the tagline “What New York can — and should — learn from other states” in the April edition of CITY Magazine, I thought, “Great! This issue is not just a celebration of pot. It will bring up the dangers of marijuana to traffic safety and to young brains as they form.” I was disappointed. I am not against legalizing pot. But I am against treating it as though it were universally benign or beneficial. Wendy Low, Rochester LOVIN’ CITY I really enjoyed the May edition of CITY (“Hungry for Change”), which I picked up at Lori’s Natural Foods. Almost every article is timely, relevant, interesting and enjoyable. The article on Schittin Good Coffee is a lot of fun (“Good to the last plop”). Keep up the good work. John Lukes, Henrietta

WELCOME

Image City has an image problem

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aise your hand if you got a text or other message from an out-of-town friend over the last year whose substance was along the lines of, “What the hell is wrong with your city?!” Yeah, us, too. You’re not alone if you’re tired of Rochester making national news for all the wrong reasons. Oh sure, we get a warm fuzzy from CNN once every four years for the throngs of people who visit Susan B. Anthony’s grave on Election Day. But as far as news under Rochester datelines go, the bad has outweighed the good way more often than not over the last year. The death of Daniel Prude and the weeks of civil unrest that followed made headlines coast to coast. The mishandling of the situation by Mayor Lovely Warren and her administration only exacerbated the attention. A month later, Warren was indicted on felony campaign finance charges, plunging the city into more turmoil. She has pleaded not guilty and that case is pending. Over the winter, Rochester police used pepper spray on a 9-year-old, handcuffed girl, rightly prompting outrage across the country. That was followed by an incident in which a police officer tackled and pepper-sprayed a woman with her young daughter nearby. The woman had been accused of shoplifting. Then there was the arrest of Warren’s husband on drugs and weapons charges in May. Prosecutors allege he was a player in a cocaine ring and said he had guns in the home he shares with Warren and their 10-year-old daughter. This at a time when gun violence in the city is on the rise. Can you blame your out-of-town friends for thinking Rochester is an unruly place where lawlessness is the order of the day? These headlines are Rochester’s face to the rest of the world, including to people of influence in Washington and Albany and businesspeople who may be looking for opportunities to invest. Image City has an image problem. That problem is not the fault of any one person in city or county government, although the mayor’s personal circumstances have been aggravating factors. But at the end of the day, the people who run things in this town bear some responsibility for how it is perceived. Anyone wishing to alter Rochester’s image should consider the primary election on June 22 an opportunity to do so — and by “anyone,” that is to say enrolled Democrats. In races for mayor and City Council and some County Legislature seats, the Democratic primary is the only election that matters. The winners either run in the general election unopposed or face token opposition. Too often, though, primary races are settled by motivated voters who represent a small fraction of those eligible to cast a ballot. Turnout is notoriously low, in part because too few people take the time to get to know the candidates. The field is crowded this year, but this edition of CITY looks to help Democrats cut through the clutter with a comprehensive voter guide and coverage of the races that matter most. We hope everyone finds some value in it and, as always, we thank you for reading.

David Andreatta, Editor

Thoughts? Tell us at feedback@rochester-citynews.com


EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK

I shook someone’s hand. And you can, too! BY DAVID ANDREATTA

I

@DAVID_ANDREATTA

shook a man’s hand the other day. He was a former colleague I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. When we spotted each other we smiled and I instinctively raised my hand waist high, thumb up at a right angle. He returned the gesture and we clasped, web to web. There was something so familiar about the custom, and yet, with the idea that our hands carry a potentially lethal cocktail of germs having been firmly implanted in our heads over the last year, so illicit. “Are we shaking hands again?” I asked. “I think we are,” he replied. We both agreed it felt good. Obituaries have been written for the handshake ever since the universal, go-to greeting was abruptly exiled in March 2020 after some very smart and influential people suggested that it be consigned to history. In the early days of the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose role as the country’s infectious disease expert had turned him into an American hero overnight, questioned whether shaking hands was ever a good idea and said, “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.” The handshake, the obituaries reported, was survived by the elbow bump, the foot shake, the peace sign, the wave, and the knowing nod of the head. But reports of the handshake’s death, like that of Mark Twain and Bob Barker, have been greatly exaggerated. The pandemic has taught us many things about the way we live and approach public health hygiene. Many of them we would be wise to keep close. We learned, for example, that wearing a mask is incredibly helpful in stopping the spread of respiratory illnesses — as people in many Asian countries have known for decades. We learned, too, that consistent and thorough handwashing is a good thing, as is staying home from work or school if you’re sick.

DANDREATTA@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

is needed, he said, is more diligent But the pandemic also taught us that When I extended my hand to my handwashing on the part of everyone, elbow bumps, foot shakes, peace signs, former colleague, I did so reflexively. But but especially doctors. waves, and the knowing nods of the it was more than just an old habit. head are no replacement for the human “I see the ban as a cop-out, a move Throughout the pandemic, I’ve connection made with the handshake. that misses the point,” Fred wrote in consciously resisted shaking hands. They just aren’t the real thing. the publication. “The problem isn’t the This time, though, there was something handshake; it’s the hand-shaker.” primal in the move. I didn’t realize I had Handshakes have solidified reached out to him until our hands met peace treaties, sealed business deals, “No other gesture of greeting and the sensation reminded me of how exemplified grace in victory and can duplicate the benefits of a firm much I had craved that interaction. I defeat, and taught each of us a thing handshake,” Fred wrote. “The think subconsciously I wanted to touch or two about the person on the other handshake has long been, and still is, an him. end of our grip. They are windows invaluable bonding tool.” into the soul. The earliest recorded handshake The handshake has its perils, the The dead-fisher? He can’t be is said to have been carved into a transmission of disease being chief limestone dais in the mid-ninth century among them. But they also come with trusted. The bone-crusher? He’s B.C.E., depicting the Assyrian King expectations — grip firmly, make eye pompous. The fingertip-gripper? Shalmaneser III hand in hand with contact — and can lead to mistaken She has arthritis. The fist bump, a Babylonian ally. Homer described first-impressions of a person. characterized by a wispy meeting of handshakes in “The Iliad” and “The the knuckles, reveals nothing. That dead-fisher? He might be Odyssey” as displays of trust. Clasped We’ve long known that hands are father-of-the-year. That bone-crusher. hands were stamped on ancient Roman Perhaps he’s just really strong. That petri dishes of germs and grime. But coins. fingertip gripper? Maybe she’s royalty. to clasp hands is to overlook the grime factor as a matter of trust and to feel The gesture, argues Ella Al-Shamahi, If the pandemic taught us anything, each other out. a paleontologist and comedian and though, it is that touch matters and that author of “The Handshake: A Gripping our impulse to reach out to each other is Is that stupid? The good doctors History, is more biological than cultural. natural. Do it again, and you’ll see. who recommend doing away with “It’s programmed into our DNA,” she the handshake might think so. But, I wash my hands of the matter. wrote recently in The Guardian. I don’t think they understand what they’re asking. I think she might be right. Dr. Herbert L. Fred, a Houston physician, is an exception. He has opposed the proposals of some hospitals to ban handshakes. It isn’t that Fred doesn’t buy into the science that handshakes can transmit pathogens. The science is unequivocal. Some research suggests that replacing the handshake with a fist-bump reduces the transmission of bacteria by 90 percent. But in writing in the Texas Heart Institute Journal in 2015, Fred called banning handshakes in healthcare settings “a cop-out” that conveys the impression that patients and doctors are harmful Shalmaneser III greets Marduk-zakir-shumi. to one another. What PHOTO BY OSAMA SHUKIR MUHAMMED AMIN VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

roccitynews.org

CITY 7


GINO FANELLI @GINOFANELLI GINO@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

NEWS

JEREMY MOULE @JFMOULE JMOULE@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

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THE BRAWL FOR CITY HALL Mayor Lovely Warren is seeking a third term in office. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE 8 CITY

JUNE 2021

ayor Lovely Warren stood at the podium outside her office at City Hall facing what would have been a circular firing squad of reporters had she given them a chance to pull the trigger. There were plenty of questions. Her husband, Timothy Granison, had been arraigned on drug and weapons charges earlier in the day. Prosecutors alleged he was a player in a cocaine ring and police claimed to have found drugs on him and an unregistered handgun and a semi-automatic rifle in the Woodman Park house he shares with Warren and their 10-year-old daughter. But Warren did what she has done so adeptly before: defiantly played the victim and turned the tables on the media by urging them to take their questions elsewhere. She framed her husband’s arrest as politically and racially-motivated, and urged reporters to ask why law enforcement would move in on her husband just a month before the June primary.  “We need to ask ourselves, if this is not about politics, why is Tim’s next court date June 21, the day before Primary Day?” she said. “Now that’s quite the coincidence. Now when you figure out those answers to those questions, come find because I’ll be working.” Then she turned around and walked through the wooden door to her office, refusing to take questions. The reporters there had the answer to her question. Her husband’s lawyer had asked for a 30-day adjournment between Granison’s arraignment and his next court date and the judge granted his request, scheduling the next appearance for June 21. Now, among the questions that reporters and political observers and countless other Rochester area residents with a stake in who helms City Hall had, was how much longer Warren may be working behind that wooden door.  Just a day before police had raided her home, there was no such question. Despite her last year in office being whipsawed by crises, that she would waltz to a third term by winning the Democratic primary was a foregone conclusion to virtually everyone who follows local politics. 


Even allies of Warren’s primary opponent, City Councilmember Malik Evans, acknowledged that his bid to unseat her was an uphill battle. His campaign, defined by the motto “we can do better,” had registered barely a blip on the political Richter scale. It had been four months since Evans announced his candidacy, and the only proposal he had released was a youth jobs initiative to curb violence. “She has served two terms as mayor, the city knows her well, she is loved and deeply respected by large numbers of voters in the city, and she has proven resilient and popular across two campaigns so far,” Gerald Gamm, a professor of political science at the University of Rochester and longtime friend and supporter of Evans, said of Warren before her husband’s arrest. “Lovely Warren is not one to underestimate,” Gamm said. “She is a talented and skilled political leader.” But her husband’s arrest has changed his perception. “I think there will be a critical mass of voters, who have voted for her in the past that will say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Gamm said later.  Political observers are viewing the arrest of Warren’s husband as a potentially game-changing event.  Timothy Kneeland, a political science professor at Nazareth College, said a few days prior to the arrest that the race was heavily leaning in Warren’s favor. After the arrest, he thought the scandal could doom her, even if she manages to win the Democratic primary. Evans has committed to see the race through November as a candidate on the Working Families Party line regardless of the outcome of the Democratic primary.  “Over time, details are going to come out, and those details may ultimately exonerate her,” Kneeland said. “But when you put all of these pieces together, and all of the things voters have seen in the past year, this makes it a far more difficult race for her.”

Party and among constituents of faith, and an organization that has proven its ability to get them to get to the polls. Her machine rose to prominence in 2013 when she stunned Democrats by ousting Mayor Tom Richards in the primary. The Saturday following her husband’s arraignment, Warren took to the microphone on the steps of City Hall for a Pentacost Sunday celebration and belted out a soulful rendition of the Miami Mass Choir’s “It’s For Me” before breaking into tears and being embraced by a small crowd of onlookers. “What God has for me, it is for me,” she sang.

WARREN IS DOWN. BUT IS SHE OUT? Throughout her two terms as mayor, Warren has been a polarizing figure. She has high-profile detractors, but also fiercely-dedicated allies in the Democratic

City Councilmember Malik Evans is challenging Warren in the Democratic primary. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

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The past year has been particularly turbulent for the mayor, personally and professionally. The late Assemblymember David Gantt, her political mentor and a man she has said was like a father to her, died in July. A few months later, she lost her mother to complications from COVID-19. In between, word of Daniel Prude’s fatal arrest was released, sparking weeks of civil unrest, a dismantling of the Rochester Police Department’s entire command staff, and widespread calls for Warren to step down. A City Councilcommissioned investigation of a cover up at City Hall faulted Warren for keeping critical details of his death secret for months and for lying to the public about when she knew — a finding that Evans said “did little to restore confidence” in city government. In the meantime, Warren was indicted on felony campaign finance charges. Through it all, Warren has remained defiant and deflective. Perhaps no greater example exists than the five-minute speech Warren gave to reporters the day of her husband’s arraignment, in which she suggested her indictment and her husband’s arrest were evidence of District Attorney Sandra Doorley’s attempting to “break” her as retribution for Warren’s support of Doorley’s opponent in the 2019 District Attorney race. Doorley has denied the criminal cases against Warren and her husband are political and has taken pains to outline to the public why. In the matter of the campaign finance allegations, Doorley has said, those charges stemmed from an investigation by the state Board of Elections. As for Warren’s husband, Doorley has said that he wasn’t an initial target of the sting that resulted in his arrest. It was four months into a broad investigation, she said, when conversations captured on police wiretaps revealed that he played a role. Warren’s finger-pointing even had her long-time ally, former Mayor Bill Johnson, shaking his head and worrying for her political future. “This just was a body blow,” Johnson told a television news station after the arrest. “Somebody put those guns in that house, knowing that there was a 10-year-old child who lives in that house. You can’t be pointing fingers and say, you 10 CITY JUNE 2021

know, ‘Who committed a conspiracy against me?’ You’ve got to own up to the fact that you need to know what’s going on in your own house.” Warren doubled-down on her conspiracy theories, saying in her speech that her troubles have taught her that not much has changed since the 1860s and 1950s, implying that race has been a motivating factor in her problems. Indeed, her campaign invoked race in response to Evans launching his mayoral run in January, releasing a statement that suggested Evans, a Black man, was following in a long line of Black men who look to oust Black women from power. “We’ve prepared for this moment,” the statement read. “All over the country unfortunately it’s been our brothers that have been first in line to take on sisters. The powers-that-be playbook hasn’t changed since the days of slavery.” The deflections are not lost on her opponent. “As a leader, you can’t claim all of the

good stuff that’s happening and then blame and deflect all the bad stuff that’s happening on other people,” Evans said of Warren the day after her husband was arraigned.

RUNNING ON HER RECORD Despite her tumultuous last year in office, Warren has said she intends to run on her record and can point to tangible accomplishments during her tenure. Although the filling in of the Inner Loop East was initiated before her time in office, the work happened on her watch and the result has been an impressive array of private-sector residential and retail development unlike anything the city has seen in recent memory. Her administration has also invested heavily in infrastructure, specifically projects

that have beautified longneglected parcels along the Genesee River, with the popular Roc City Skatepark being the most prominent example. “In every corner of the city we have new buildings going up, we haven’t had this much investment in our city in over a decade,” Warren said during an interview. “When you put it all together, it is extraordinary the work me and my administration have been able to accomplish by working together, despite all of the stuff people want to focus on.” Warren spoke with CITY by phone a day after her defiant speech following her husband’s arraignment. She tried to keep the focus on her accomplishments as mayor — enacting financial-empowerment initiatives for residents, keeping the city afloat through the pandemic, restructuring the Police Department, and initiating the city’s Person-in-Crisis Team that assists police in responding to mental distress calls, an issue that took on more prominence in the wake of Prude’s death. She recently outlined her vision for an “equity and recovery agenda,” which stresses directing tax dollars from the legalization of marijuana into home ownership programs, and proposed a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that was responsive in many respects to demands of the social and racial justice movement that is gaining traction in the mainstream.   Warren proposed directing $1 million toward implementing recommendations of the city-county Commission on Racial and Structural Equity, trimming funding to the Rochester Police Department by about 5 percent, and meeting the request of the Police Accountability Board for $5 million in funding to hire teams of investigators. “The major hallmark of our time here has been really doing the work for the


citizens of Rochester,” Warren said. “. . . Hopefully, the work we’ve done over the last seven years, they can see it.” Warren said she doesn’t believe her husband’s arrest will have an impact on the upcoming primary, in part because of her administration’s accomplishments and in part because she’s not been implicated in his arrest. She has distanced herself from her husband by saying that they have been legally separated for years but live together to co-parent their daughter. There are no public records of legal separations, unlike divorces, which are filed in courts of law.   “It’s about pointing to the work,” Warren said. “I think that there’s a lot of people that have faith in the work that we’ve done. “Do you believe that the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development getting out hundreds of loans to businesses was the right thing to do? We did that. Do you believe that the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development helping hundreds of people stay in their home was the right thing to do? We did that.”

EVANS MAKES HIS MOVE While Warren is simultaneously campaigning and doing damage control, Evans has largely refrained from seizing on the mayor’s latest crisis, preferring instead to run on his ideas. Asked by a reporter during a news conference he staged a day after Warren’s husband was arraigned whether he thought she could still govern, Evans quipped, “You have to ask her that. That’s like asking a person with one hand whether they can clap.” He was there to present his plan to address the surge of gun violence in the city, which would include the creation of a gun czar, a civilian position that would report to the mayor. The closest he came to invoking Warren’s turmoil was to say that her succession of scandals were distracting from important challenges. “The focus needs to be put back on the citizens of Rochester,” Evans said.

“Enough of the drama.” A week earlier, Evans sat down in a conference room at his campaign headquarters overlooking the newlysodded Parcel 5 for a wide-ranging interview with CITY. There, he laid out his ideas to unite Rochester. “We got to do the hard work of getting people in a room together to say, ‘Okay, how can we move forward in order to get things done, so that we can have the trust of the citizens?’” Evans said. “That’s what I’m committed to, and that’s what my record has been.” Evans is running on a platform of being a “bridge builder” and has emphasized bringing more transparency to City Hall. In most political races, such a statement would seem like a platitude. But the Warren administration has been dinged repeatedly for filtering the information that flows from City Hall. Prude’s death and the failure of police and city officials to inform the public about it is one example, but another is the sometimes slow turnaround time for

records requests made under the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Evans has dubbed his policy package a “compact with the community,” a series of commitments in five areas — youth development, public safety, economic empowerment, neighborhood development, and trust and transparency. “You got to look at this from a holistic standpoint,” Evans said.  “Holistic” is a word that Evans uses often. To him, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to Rochester’s problems. The answer, he said, lies in community-level initiatives that touch on the nuances of neighborhoods and issues.  In regard to public safety, for example, Evans wants to rethink the role of police, and is supportive of adding more resources for dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues beyond police officers.  “What do we want policing to be? We don’t want police officers to be mental health counselors,” Evans said. “So how do we ensure that we build a system where we have large-scale mental health

services at both the city and county level. So if a 9-year-old girl is having problems with her family, it’s not the police that are responding.” A persistent problem for Evans, however, has been differentiating himself from the mayor. The pillars of his platform are areas that Warren has at least attempted to address. When Evans makes a case for building the city’s economy by supporting small businesses rather than through large-scale development, the mayor can point to her crowdfunding microloan program, for which the U.S. Conference of Mayors recognized her with a Small Business Advocate Award in 2017.  The political careers of Evans, 41, and Warren, 43, have in many ways paralleled each other.  Evans joined the Rochester Board of Education in 2003, when he became the youngest person ever elected to the board. He would eventually become its president. In 2017, he was elected as an at-large member of City Council, where he now chairs the Finance Committee.  He was in his second term on the school board when Warren was elected to City Council in 2007. Three years later, she was named the youngest Council president in history.  What Evans has to his advantage, though, political observers say, is the seemingly ceaseless drama of the Warren administration and the toll it has taken on the psyche of residents. Whether his message of “building bridges” is enough to harness it is a matter for voters, specifically enrolled Democrats, whose votes in the primary could solidify the outcome of the race. Evans, whose backing by the Working Families Party has ensured him a place on the November ballot, has said he will campaign through the general election regardless of the primary outcome.  “That’s a lot for a city to recover from...I hope that people will say, ‘You know what, we got Malik’s back, he can’t do this by himself,’” Evans said. “And I won’t try. That’s why this building bridges thing is not just a crazy campaign slogan, that’s the truth. “If you’re going to dig yourself out of this hole, you better be able to build some bridges.”

roccitynews.org CITY 11


NEWS

IN THE LOOP

Can Biden’s infrastructure vision bury the Inner Loop for good? City Hall hopes so.

The Inner Loop was completed in 1965 and was intended to move motorists in and out of the city quickly, but it has since been compared to a “concrete moat.” PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

City officials have three words for the Inner Loop: Fill. It. In. But some neighbors are wary they’ll be left out of the process. BY JAMES BROWN

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@JAMESBROWNTV

orman Jones is old enough to remember the Inner Loop being built more than half a century ago. “I have a clear memory of that machinery,” Jones said. “When you’re 4, 5, 6 years old, and you see big trucks and the excavators, you go, ‘Wow.’ When you see it all moved around, you just thought it was the coolest thing, and probably everyone else thought it was the coolest thing.”  12 CITY JUNE 2021

JBROWN@WXXI.ORG

The 63-year-old commissioner of the city Department of Environmental Services keeps two outsized frames hanging on the wall of the agency’s conference room at City Hall that act as his guides when he considers the future of the sunken expressway. One frame holds a collage of photos detailing the housing and retail developments that have shot up on the eastern edge of downtown on the filled-in portion of the Inner Loop. In the other

is an annexation map of Rochester from 1950, before the expressway cut a circular path around downtown that separated neighborhoods from the city core like a concrete moat. The latter reflects the Rochester that Jones knew only briefly as a young boy — and the one he wants back. Now, he and other city officials hope they can get it back, with President Biden looking to spend an unprecedented $2.3 trillion on infrastructure that emphasizes

not only moving people and goods around more quickly, but correcting what have come to be seen as transportation mistakes of yesteryear. “Too often, past transportation investments divided communities . . . or it left out the people most in need of affordable transportation options,” read a White House fact sheet outlining the Biden administration’s intentions, dubbed the American Jobs Plan. “The president’s plan,” the fact


Norman Jones, commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Services, was a boy when the Inner Loop was built, and is now a key figure in talks to fill it in. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

The Inner Loop under construction, circa 1960. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LOCAL HISTORY & GENEALOGY DIVISION, ROCHESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY

sheet went on, “includes $20 billion for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice and promote affordable access.” For Jones, and countless residents of Rochester and its suburbs, doing away with what’s left of the Inner Loop dovetails perfectly with the president’s vision.   The 2.68-mile Inner Loop was completed in 1965 and was intended to move motorists quickly in and out of what was then a burgeoning Rochester. But many longtime residents say the urban-renewal-era roadway irrevocably altered the character of the city and their neighborhoods. Within 25 years, officials were talking seriously about getting rid of at least part of the roadway. It would take nearly 25 more years for action.  Over the last eight years, the eastern portion of the Inner Loop was filled in, and development is well underway. Jones, who was integral to bringing the idea of filling in the so-called Inner Loop East to the fore, is again a key official in an effort at City Hall to get rid of the rest of the loop.  He figures burying it would reintegrate about 22 acres — roughly 16 football fields — into the cityscape. Jones estimates the job could cost anywhere between $70 million and $250 million — a range he attributed to having not settled on what would eventually be built on top of the highway. The price tag would make filling in and developing the rest of the Inner Loop one of the costliest city public works projects in decades. But Jones urges skeptics to consider the potential benefits.  City officials often boast that more than $300 million of private investment followed the roughly $25 million it cost to fill in the smaller, eastern portion of the highway. That project relinked the East Avenue and Park Avenue neighborhoods with downtown. Doing away with the remaining northern section would do the same to some of Rochester’s poorest neighborhoods.  For Jones, the matter is personal. He recalls growing up off Joseph Avenue and walking downtown with his brothers to catch a movie or buy candy at a Woolworth’s department store and

walking home again. “It was that kind of walkability that the Inner Loop put a damper on,” he said. Tall and broad-shouldered, Jones still carries himself like the East High School basketball player he once was. His age is only betrayed by his salt-and-pepper hair, eyeglasses, and a raspy voice through which he doesn’t mince words about the damage he believes the highway wrought on the city. “As we armchair quarterback this, as we look to our future right now, we’ve found that these types of transportation programs aren’t or weren’t vital to the growth of our city,” he said at a public meeting on the matter in March. “It limited the growth of our city, and basically segmented the communities from each other. And put a huge moat, or a castle, or a bridge, around the development and continuous nature of our city.” 

THE LOST NEIGHBORHOOD In a classroom, near the basketball court inside the YMCA Center for Equity at Lewis Street, a small group of neighbors is tackling a huge issue: the future of their slice of the Inner Loop. There’s no question they want it filled in — but they want it done the right way. The neighbors, collectively known as the Lewis Street Committee, are wary of talking to politicians. But with some help from center leaders and independent organizers, they’ve distilled a vision to reclaim their neighborhood of South Marketview Heights.   Lewis Street spans only a couple of blocks and is easy to miss. But for the better part of 100 years, it’s been a gathering place for residents. Community centers on that street have fed, clothed, employed, and watched over the neighborhood children. The Center for Equity was established there last September and seeks to do much of the same. Nancy Hernandez Maciuska, 60, is a stalwart member of the committee, rarely missing a meeting. The short-statured Maciuska, easily recognizable by her graying curls and powerful voice, grew up around the corner from the center in a much different era. She had moved away for a few decades but, after a health crisis, returned roccitynews.org CITY 13


home to what she remembers as the “lively and beautiful” 16th Ward, where she attended the former School 14 as a girl. Hers was a neighborhood, she said, where everyone knew each other and there were plenty of families to support multiple bakeries, grocery stories, and a meat market. Until the Inner Loop came along, that is. “These businesses moved on, because they lost business,” Maciuska said. “And then the neighborhood changed.” A city-commissioned study last year of a potential Inner Loop North project found there were 7,400 residents and 24,000 jobs inside the corridor, which was defined as stretching from West Broad Street in the west to North Union Street in the east, and from East Main Street in the south to as far north as Upper Falls Boulevard.   Most of the residents were young and poor people of color, according to the study.  Nearly 40 percent of the population inside the corridor was under the age of 24. The median income there was $15,000, less than half of that of the rest of the city and about a quarter of that of Monroe County. Researchers found the unemployment rate was 10.3 percent, compared with the overall rate for Rochester at 7.5 percent and a rate of 4 percent in the county.   

‘ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME’ OPPORTUNITY Much of the information in the study was presented to groups in neighborhoods in the Inner Loop North corridor in March. A slide in that presentation suggested the city’s visions for replacing the highway would be made public by the fall, and plans to implement the concept would follow shortly thereafter. A month later, Warren told Lewis Street Committee members that they might see changes in the study area soon in terms of development. “I can assure you that development is not five years down the line, development is coming in the next couple of months to a year,” Warren told the group.  Warren in an interview pointed to the potential windfall from the American Jobs Plan, which the Biden administration has described as a 14 CITY JUNE 2021

Nancy Hernandez Maciuska, of the Lewis Street Committee, says of city talks to fill in the Inner Loop, “We want to be heard.” PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

means to “redress historic inequities and build the future of transportation infrastructure.” In addition to the $20 billion to “reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments,” the plan, if passed, would include another $25 billion “to support ambitious projects that have tangible benefits to the regional or national economy but are too large or complex for existing funding programs.” Warren said competition for those dollars would be fierce. Comparing the times to the era of the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago, she stressed seizing the opportunity to build for the future. “Every city is positioning themselves to be able to take advantage of the resources and put their city in the best position to be able to access these funds, that are once-in-a-lifetime funds to be able to build up communities that have been left behind and give them the support and the resources that they need to grow,” Warren said. The filling in of the Inner Loop East was heavily financed by the federal government. Of the roughly $25 million

spent on the project, about $19 million was in the form of federal funding. Most of the rest came from the state. This time around, there may be other federal monies available in addition to the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer specifically mentioned the Inner Loop in May when he proposed spending $15 billion through the Reconnecting Communities Act, legislation he introduced with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in part to repair or replace highways that have been deemed obsolete.  “In upstate New York and across the country, highways like Syracuse’s I-81, Buffalo’s I-33, Rochester’s Inner Loop, and Albany’s I-787 have too often been built through low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, displacing residents, dividing cities, increasing pollution, and limiting economic opportunities,” Schumer said.  “Infrastructure should build up communities, not divide them,” he added. “This legislation will ensure local communities have the federal resources

needed to revitalize and reconnect communities that have been neglected for far too long.”

FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE Back on Lewis Street, though, residents are concerned that moving too fast may shut them out of the process and thwart their vision for their neighborhood. In their April meeting with Warren, city officials and consultants, residents cited structural issues, like the lack of a pharmacy, laundromat and grocery store within walking distance. Masciuska said those shortages lead to people relying on corner stores for basic household needs.  But even more concerning to the committee is the dearth of single-family homes in the neighborhood. The Inner Loop was built to serve a growing city of more than 300,000 people. Today there are barely 200,000 people living in the city limits, and scores of vacant lots where the city razed neglected houses dot the neighborhoods around the highway. Much of the housing stock that is left has been transitioned into apartments. “I mean, there’s a lot of empty lots,” Masciuska said during the meeting. “And


now that you’re refilling in the Inner Loop, that’s part of the 16th Ward. We want to be able to claim it and have homes built there so we can purchase them.” Warren told the group that tearing down the houses was a “strategic investment.” She pointed to new housing projects in the North Clinton Avenue area as examples of what could come. But those large-scale developments aren’t what many residents want.  “We want the neighborhood to come back with integrity,” said David Everett, one of the group’s leaders. “And we don’t want them bringing those big new housing, building those townhouses into the neighborhood where the residents can’t afford them.” The group said they want singlefamily housing on small lots for the sake

of privacy and potential for an easier path to homeownership. They want to see more people invested in the area’s future. “You know, a yard means a lot to a homeowner,” Everett said. “Where they can invite their family, their brothers, their neighbors over. We used to go from house to house to have fun in the neighborhood.” Street design is also key. Their wish list includes streets with center medians with trees, water fountains, grills and places to sit — gathering places for the neighborhood that also force cars and bikes to slow down. The group is asking for all this without gentrification or being shoved out of place. “We want to protect our assets and protect us from displacement while increasing the values of our homes,” said committee member and City Council

candidate Miquel Powell. “On one side of the Inner Loop is an affluent neighborhood. And on the other side is the neighborhood that we live in, where a lot of the households are living in poverty. So we want to be able to bridge the wealth gap, and we look at this as an opportunity to do so.” He also said the neighborhood deserves reparations. Among the committee’s suggestions are tax abatements and a museum to honor the neighborhoods as they were.  Warren, Jones and others in the meeting were generally supportive of the committee’s ideas after the presentation, and Warren repeated those sentiments in a later interview. Jones also stressed the importance of incorporating the feedback of stakeholders. He said a project as big as filling the Inner Loop means it will be

years before a shovel breaks ground. Despite those assurances, the overall feeling among residents is that the process is moving too fast. And while they hope they had some influence on the city officials, many are skeptical their input mattered at all. “They’ve already decided, that’s the way we feel,” Masciuska said. Masciuska said residents had no say when the Inner Loop was built, and she fears history may be repeating itself as plans for filling in the highway move forward.  “I think it will be like ripping the heart, again, from our community,” Maciuska said. “We want to be heard. We want to be seen. We’re not invisible.”

The north section of the Inner Loop. Cumberland Street is at the top, with North Clinton Avenue on the left, and Joseph Avenue on the right. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

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ELECTIONS 2021

YOUR PRIMARY PRIMER At-large City Council seats loom large BY GINO FANELLI

@GINOFANELLI

GFANELLI@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

All five at-large seats on the nine-member City Council are on the ballot this year, and with President Loretta Scott deciding not to run for re-election and Councilmember Malik Evans running for mayor, the body is guaranteed some new blood. The remaining at-large incumbents — Willie Lightfoot, Mitch Gruber, and Miguel Melendez — are looking to be re-elected. Following a tumultuous year of racial, political, and social tension, not to mention a pandemic that disrupted every aspect of life, a whopping 19 candidates are looking to find their way into the Council chambers. Of them, 16 are Democrats who will face off in the June 22 primaries. The candidates are protest leaders, community advocates, and plenty of familiar faces.

THE INCUMBENTS

MITCH GRUBER Mitch Gruber was elected to Council in 2017, but his work in the community spans about a decade. Gruber has worked at Foodlink for about 10 years, currently holding the position of chief strategy and partnerships officer. Access to healthy foods has been a major focus of Gruber’s career, and he has woven that interest into his role on Council as a driving force behind the city’s new Food Policy Council. His other interests include affordable housing and equitable development in the burgeoning cannabis industry. He currently serves as the chair of Council’s Parks and Public Works Committee. “The second half of my term has been consumed by a global pandemic, repeated cases of police misconduct, and, frankly, a crisis of distrust in government of all levels,” Gruber said. “We have a lot of work to do to regain trust, and I believe I can help lead that process in a second term.” 16 CITY JUNE 2021

WILLIE LIGHTFOOT Willie Lightfoot is closing out his first term on City Council, but has the longest political tenure of any candidate on the ballot. Lightfoot was elected in 2006 to serve as the representative for the 27th District in the Monroe County Legislature, which covers southwest Rochester. He served three terms in the Legislature before taking up his post on the City Council, where he is the vice president. He is a retired Rochester firefighter, and a veteran of the United States Air Force who served in Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. Lightfoot’s priorities include public safety and economic and youth development, and he has been steadfast in his support for Rochester police officers.

MIGUEL MELÉNDEZ: Miguel Meléndez was appointed in August to fill the vacant seat left by Jackie Ortiz, who became the county’s Democratic elections commissioner. Meléndez’s past work focuses largely on neighborhood revitalization initiatives, playing roles in creating La Marketa on North Clinton Avenue and the El Camino Revitalization Area Charrette and Vision Plan. For the past year and a half, Meléndez has served as the Ibero-American Action League’s chief community engagement officer. He refers to himself as a “bridge builder.” “I have a collaborative approach to the work I do,” Meléndez said. “I believe in listening first and then taking action. I have a registered track record of commitment to city residents, I’ve elevated quality of life issues, increased investment in neighborhoods, developed community level plans and implemented them, and been a bridge builder between communitylevel plans and government resources.”


THE ACTIVISTS

ANTHONY HALL

BRITTAN HARDGERS

STANLEY MARTIN

KIM SMITH

Much of the city was introduced to Anthony Hall through his involvement and speeches at the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. But his roots in community advocacy run much deeper. Hall spent seven years as a youth gang intervention specialist with Pathways to Peace before leaving the group in 2018 to become the dean of Vertus Charter School for Young Men. He is also the founder and current executive director of the non-profit organization Bookbags Express, which collects school supplies for city children. Reinvesting in neighborhoods and schools, increasing transparency at City Hall, and reimagining policing in Rochester are central tenets of his platform. “I’m running for City Council to restore accountability, transparency, and hope back to our community,” Hall said. “And to allow those that have been locked out, the voiceless, to have a voice at the table.”

Brittan Hardgers is new to Rochester politics, but has a long history in local social advocacy. A transgender man, Hardgers founded Next Generation Men of Transition in 2018, with a goal of creating a “brotherhood” of support for transitioning men. Hardgers decided to run for office after his involvement in Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. Ensuring all members of the community have a seat at the table and that City Hall responds directly to the demands of the community are key components of his platform. “There are too many people that are patting themselves on the back with a job well done, that literally are not responding to the voices of the community, the needs of the community,” Hardgers said. If elected, Hardgers would be the first transgender person to serve on City Council.

As a lead organizer with Free the People Roc, Stanley Martin has become one of the most recognizable faces in Rochester’s Black Lives Matter movement. She is looking to parlay her name recognition into a seat on the City Council, but this isn’t the first time she’s been on the ballot. In 2019, Martin ran as a Democrat for City Council’s East District in a crowded primary field. Mary Lupien won that race, but Martin pulled in about 11 percent of the vote. Martin was also a member of the Police Accountability Board Alliance and formerly interned at the Monroe Correctional Facility as a mental health counselor for inmates. Falling solidly to the left of the other Council candidates, Martin is focused on abolishing police and prisons as they are today and has a staunch anticapitalist viewset. She ultimately believes city government is not working for the people. “We do see change in the most important piece, which is more people getting involved and focusing on the issues,” Martin said. “Within the establishments, it is a wall that feels like it cannot be broken through.” Martin is part of The People’s Slate of candidates running for City Council, which include candidates Kim Smith and Brittan Hardgers.

Kim Smith’s background is firmly rooted in public health. A former employee of the Monroe County Health Department, Smith is best known for her work on matters related to HIV, although she got her start in the agency in the early 1990s working on lead control. In 2017, Smith left her role as a supervising public health representative to work for the activist organization VOCAL-NY. Last year, she made a run for the 61st State Senate District seat and, later, vied to fill the City Council seat vacated by Jackie Ortiz, who left to become the county’s Democratic elections commissioner. She lost both campaigns. Although she is a member of The People’s Slate, Smith’s beliefs are less radical than her running-mates. She does not favor abolishing the police, but does believe reforms are needed, including redirecting money from the Police Department to affordable housing, educational opportunities, and financial empowerment. “What you are seeing in the streets are a result of numerous meetings where there has been no follow through, numerous requests for meetings that have not been followed through,” Smith said. “When we say our voices are not being heard, that is not a figurative statement.”

roccitynews.org CITY 17


FAMILIAR FACES

LETICIA ASTACIO

MIQUEL POWELL

JASMIN REGGLER

Of all the City Council candidates, none has a more complicated history than Leticia Astacio. Astacio had a meteoric rise, from teenage mother with a troubled childhood to becoming the first Latina to serve on the Rochester City Court. But her success was short-lived when, during her first term in 2016, she was convicted of misdemeanor drunken driving and subsequently did time in jail for shirking the court’s orders. The result was a spectacular fall from grace. Her story became a media frenzy and tabloid fodder that even spawned a Beyonce parody video, in which she participated, about how the media and Rochester as a whole had become obsessed with her. Since being stripped of her judgeship in 2018, Astacio has worked to remake her reputation and rebrand herself as a serious practitioner of the law and a social justice advocate. Much of her legal practice in recent years has been devoted to defense law, including representing Black Lives Matter demonstrators accused of crimes. She has also been a regular at protests. “I’m running because I think there are things that need to change here, and we need people to do the work, and not necessarily be popular or be friendly with politicians,” Astacio said. “We need to do the work.”

Miquel Powell’s story is one of redemption. In 2003 at the age of 21, Powell, then a drug dealer living what he has called a “street life,” was arrested on assault charges after firing a sawed-off shotgun into a daycare on Scio Street, hitting a woman in the arm. Powell spent five years behind bars. After getting out, he set out to turn his life around, eventually receiving a bachelor’s degree in social work from the State University of New York at Brockport. Today, Powell works as an addiction counselor at the Catholic Family Center. He entered the public eye in earnest after he was tapped to serve on the inaugural Police Accountability Board and his past became the subject of scrutiny. Powell later resigned from the board due to a conflicting grad school schedule. Powell supports reducing the size of the Rochester Police Department, paying reparations to Black residents using tax revenue from the newly-legal sale of marijuana, and increasing access to home ownership. “We’ve got to really focus on the undervalued neighborhoods in Rochester,” Powell said. “I believe Rochester is only as strong as our worst neighborhoods.”

Jasmin Reggler had a moment in the spotlight in 2020 when she was rejected for a city job working for newly-elected East District Councilmember Mary Lupien after she failed a drug screening by testing positive for THC, the key psychoactive substance in marijuana. Following a CITY story on Reggler, the city of Rochester changed its policy to no longer test most prospective employees for marijuana use. Reggler believes that when it comes to trust and accountability, there’s a gulf between City Hall and everyday citizens of Rochester. She said it was exemplified by Daniel Prude’s death and what she called a subsequent cover-up by city government. Transparency, she said, is much needed. “We almost have to force (transparency), we have to stay on top of the issues going on in our city,” Reggler said. “We also have to continually do follow up, not just address one thing in one moment and then let it go.” Reggler works as house coordinator for St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality.  

VICTOR SANCHEZ An immigrant from Mexico, Victor Sanchez became an American citizen in 2018 and was eager to take part in the American democratic process. Just seven months later, he ran for Monroe County Legislature’s 21st District seat, ultimately losing a neckand-neck race with Rachel Barnhart. In running for City Council, Sanchez hopes to make progress on issues including housing justice, sustainable development, climate advocacy, and, as a gay man, LGBTQ+ rights. Sanchez serves on the boards of Trillium Health, the City Roots Community Land Trust, and the Climate Solutions Accelerator of the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region. He works as a virtual design and construction systems administrator for Wegmans. “I believe that representation and visibility are important in all levels of government,” Sanchez said.

ALEX WHITE Alex White is something of a fixture on Rochester’s political scene as well as being a key member and leader of the Monroe County Green Party. His last foray into politics was his mayoral run against Lovely Warren in 2017, when he received 5 percent of the vote. He previously ran for mayor in the 2011 special election and in 2013, both times on the Green Party line. This time, however, he is running for City Council as a Democrat. Housing, zoning, and tax incentives are the major pillars of his campaign. White believes Rochester underuses tools like the Rochester Housing Authority. Instead of building affordable housing in the city, he has argued, outside development companies are brought in to build large apartment complexes whose rents are out of reach for most residents. He also believes in ending tax breaks for housing, expanding tenant rights, and creating a standard living wage. White owns Boldo’s Armory, a game shop on Monroe Avenue specializing in collectible card games and board games, and is a liaison for United Christian Leadership Ministries Office of Adult and Career Educational Services. “I have been involved in lots of actions in lots of the efforts to reform in Rochester,” White said. “This time, I’m setting my sights on City Council and I hope the voters agree this is a good fit.” 18 CITY JUNE 2021


THE NEWCOMERS

LUIS APONTE

JONATHAN HARDIN

JAZZMYN IVERY-ROBINSON

Luis Aponte is a lifelong Rochesterian running on a platform of what he calls “community-driven government.” Aponte believes all moves made by the city government should be prefaced by input from residents. As part of that, he’s a proponent of “decision-making tables,” by which residents can offer guidance to government officials and staff on how to deal with city issues. A career paramedic, Aponte is the community liaison for Monroe Ambulance, the chair for the JOSANA neighborhood’s Charles House Neighbors in Action, and was involved in introducing the community school model to School 17, which has been held up as the standard for community schooling in Rochester. “I’m a homeowner, property owner, activist, friend of the neighbors, friend of the schools . . .” Aponte said. “That’s just a huge effort in bringing everyone together.”

Originally from Mississippi, Jonathan Hardin relocated to Rochester in 2011 with his husband, Stan, in search of a more inclusive and accepting city. In the ensuing years, Hardin discovered the influence that neighborhood groups could have on the city and took part. He joined the Charlotte Community Association in 2014, later becoming its president, and founded Many Neighbors Building Neighborhoods, a collaborative of about 30 Rochester neighborhood groups, and served as its first chair. “If elected and when elected, I will ensure (neighborhood associations) have access to resources they can not reach,” Hardin said. “Neighborhood associations know what resources they need, and we need to listen to them.” Hardin most recently served as a legislative aide for Northwest District Councilmember Jose Peo. 

Jazzmyn Ivery-Robinson is a Rochester-native raised in the North Marketview Heights and Group 14621 neighborhoods, but who was educated in Pittsford schools as a participant in the Urban-Suburban Program. She currently serves as a career coach at Nazareth College, where she is also the coordinator of the voter participation program NazVotes and has been recognized for enhancing racial diversity on campus while cultivating relationships with the greater Rocheter community. Ivery-Robinson emphasizes community collaboration to solve complex issues. She believes that the city needs to reevaluate police training, foster education on tenants’ rights, and expand Rochester’s affordable housing stock. “I’m running to represent the voices of our community that are often left unheard,” Ivery-Robinson said. “We are one city, we are community, and we have to work together to address the issues within our city.”

PATRICIA WILLIAMSMCGAHEE Patricia Williams-McGahee is a criminal justice and health specialist running on a platform of economic justice, affordable healthcare for all, and police reform. She believes in focusing efforts on reducing carbon emissions, providing clean air and water to communities under the banner of “environmental justice,” and taking a holistic approach to policing, meaning placing the health of the broader community at the forefront of public safety. Williams-McGahee serves on the board of the Safer Monroe-area Reentry Team (SMART), a group that works in assisting the formerly incarcerated with reentering society. She was also part of the business development working group of the city-county Commission on Racial and Structural Equity.

roccitynews.org CITY 19


ELECTIONS 2021

Primaries shape the future of Democrats in the County Legislature BY JEREMY MOULE

@JFMOULE

JMOULE@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

Politics is all about power. Yeah, that’s a little cliche, but it’s also the easiest way to explain what’s happened in the Monroe County Legislature over the past year or so. Since Democratic County Executive Adam Bello took office in January 2020, two different power struggles have been playing out in the Legislature, where Republicans hold a one-seat majority over Democrats. Rifts in the local Democratic Party over the selection of an elections commissioner and other matters led four Democratic legislators to break away from their colleagues and form the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus. Republicans, seeking to bolster their razor-thin majority, pounced on the split to form a mutually beneficial bloc with the breakaway caucus, one that both sides periodically use to undermine or push back against Bello and Democratic legislators. These divisions have carried over into the forthcoming June 22 primaries. Three candidates, all Democrats cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party, are trying to take out three members of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus. In the other races, candidates endorsed by the Democratic Party are squaring off against grassroots, progressive challengers. In some cases, party members from different factions are going head to head. The primaries won’t determine which party holds the majority in the Legislature, but they will help decide which Democrats serve in the Legislature, regardless of whether they control the chamber or remain in the minority. As is typically the case, there are no Republican primaries. Only Democrats, it seems, challenge each other this way. Here they are:

14th District (Brighton): NELSON LOPATIN Votelopatin.com This isn’t Nelson Lopatin’s first shot at public office. He ran for a state Assembly seat in 2020. He’s also got experience in the trenches of campaigns, having worked as technology coordinator for the Congressional runs of the late Louise Slaughter and former Brighton Supervisor Sandra Frankel’s 2015 bid for county executive. Lopatin wants the county to provide new loans and grant programs to help stabilize businesses that have taken financial hits during the pandemic. He also wants to ensure that the county takes meaningful action on climate change, and citing the digital divide, stresses creating a low-cost public option for high-speed internet. Lopatin spent 20 years working in hotel management and development and 25 years as an internet consultant. He is now in his eighth year as president of the Brighton Chamber of Commerce.

SUSAN HUGHES-SMITH Susanhughessmith.com Susan Hughes-Smith is the Democrats’ designated candidate in the 14th District. She’s taught environmental health at SUNY Brockport since 2007 and environmental studies at Rochester Institute of Technology since 2012. Hughes-Smith is also an environmental activist who in 2014 co-founded the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, now known as Climate Solution Accelerator of the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region. In 2018, she co-founded Roctricity, a small business that works with local governments to procure competitively-priced renewable energy for residents and some businesses. Hughes-Smith is a member of the county’s Climate Action Plan advisory committee and believes that the county needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and design infrastructure that’s resilient to future climate and weather threats. She also emphasizes a need to expand high-speed internet access and affordable housing. 20 CITY JUNE 2021


21st District (parts of the city’s east side) RACHEL BARNHART

WANDA RIDGEWAY

Rachbarnhart.com

Wandaridgeway21.com

A familiar face to many after spending 18 years as a television news reporter, Legislator Rachel Barnhart was appointed to her seat in September 2019 and filled out the remainder of her predecessor’s term after winning the seat in that year’s general election. Barnhart, who is the party’s designated candidate for the seat, has a longstanding interest in bridging Monroe County’s digital divide — she earned a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University and wrote her thesis on broadband internet disparities in Rochester and how to address them. She sits on the Monroe County Advisory Task Force on Broadband, which County Executive Adam Bello launched in late March. She also successfully urged Sheriff Todd Baxter to provide inmates in the county jail with free calls, though the number of free calls inmates are allowed is limited. She introduced legislation that provided grants to small businesses, and another bill that would have capped the fees food delivery services such as Grubhub or Uber Eats can charge to restaurants. The Republican majority shot down the latter, but Bello issued an emergency order to limit the charges.

Wanda Ridgeway has lived in the area covered by the 21st District for 47 years and is the executive director of Rise Up Rochester, an anti-violence program that helps crime victims and families of homicide victims. She has said that she is running for the Legislature because she wants to create safe neighborhoods and dismantle systemic barriers that keep people in poverty. She also wants to make sure that county services reflect the community’s diversity and that they are responsive to the residents in the district. Her background is in the human services field. Over the course of 20 years she’s worked as a daycare provider, a secured-treatment aide for the state, and a rehabilitation-certified nursing assistant at St. Ann’s Nursing Home. She is also an intervention teacher’s assistant in the Rochester City School District.

22nd District (Upper Falls, Marketview Heights, half of downtown) VINCE FELDER

MERCEDES VAZQUEZ SIMMONS

vincefelder.com

Mercedesforld22.com

Legislator Vincent Felder is the Demoratic Party’s designated candidate in this race. He was first elected to the Legislature in 2015 and became minority leader at the beginning of 2020. Felder still claims the title, but a majority of Democratic legislators voted to hand the post over to Legislator Yversha Roman following internal divisions over, among other things, who should serve as the Democratic Board of Elections commissioner. Formerly an aide to the late Assemblymember David Gantt, Felder started his term as minority leader off by negotiating the repeal of a Republican measure that made annoying a police officer or first responder a misdemeanor crime. His district includes some of the county’s largest arts and cultural institutions, such as Eastman Theatre, and he recently introduced legislation to provide grants to some of the area’s small and midsize arts organizations to help them offset their financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. Felder has noted that the 19-percent unemployment rate in his district is triple the county-wide figure. For that reason, he’s said he is focused on economic development and on providing affordable and accessible child care in Monroe County.

Mercedes Vazquez Simmons is one the Working Families Party-backed Democrats who are challenging members of the Legislature’s Black and Asian Democratic Caucus as well as 22nd District Legislator Vince Felder, who is not a member of the caucus but works closely with it. Vazquez Simmons is a boxing and mixed martial arts promoter. Through the company she founded in 2010, Pretty Girl Productions, she handles logistics, marketing, promotion, budget management, and regulatory compliance for fight events. She also volunteers her time with several local organizations and founded a non-profit boxing program for children aged 5 to 18. Center City Boxing Club’s programs aim to promote health, fitness, self-discipline, and self-respect. It offers after-school recreation, tutoring, vocational training, and volunteer opportunities.

roccitynews.org CITY 21


24th District (South Wedge to Brighton) ALBERT BLANKLEY

RAJESH BARNABAS

voteblankley.com

electrajesh.com

Albert Blankley, the Democratic party’s designated candidate in this race, works as the chief operating officer of Common Ground Health and also serves as leader of the 24th Legislative District Democratic Committee. As part of his platform, Blankley has emphasized the importance of transparency and accountability from government and elected leaders. Blankley has also said that he wants the county to make it easier for residents to access the services it offers, something he views as a matter of equity and justice. As the county emerges and recovers from the pandemic, Blankley has said he wants to help connect people with new opportunities that arise in the process.

Like Vazquez Simmons, Rajesh Barnabas is part of The People’s Slate, a group of candidates running together for City Council and County Legislature seats. And like other members of the slate, defunding police and directing that money toward community programs, as well as ending mass incarceration, are his top priorities. Barnabas, an artist, activist, teacher, and former Green Party candidate for county executive, has also called for the county to pass a plan to get to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and to implement a local Green New Deal jobs program. Though he’s running for County Legislature and not a city board, he has called for the Rochester City School District to implement a residency requirement for teachers and administrators and supports a countywide public school system. He also wants the county to overhaul the way it funds the arts to make the process more transparent and provide money for organizations that currently aren’t getting county assistance.

25th District (southwest Rochester) DORIAN HALL facebook.com/DorianLeAnderHall

Dorian Hall has said he was first moved to run for office after a 2012 meeting on the Vacuum Oil brownfield project in the PLEX neighborhood, where he lives and where his mother, Dorothy Hall, is a longtime neighborhood leader and activist. This isn’t the first time Hall has run for office. In 2017 he ran for City Council, also citing frustration with the pace and direction of the Vacuum Oil site. Hall, who owns an entertainment business and works as a technology support technician for UPS, is using the slogan “Community First” for his campaign and is focused largely on the city’s approach to development. Too often, he has said, the city advances and approves projects that neighbors don’t want.

CAROLYN HOFFMAN Carolynforthecounty.com Carolyn Hoffman is the CEO of a consulting firm that strategizes for social movement campaigns. She has worked with several groups in or near the district, including the Police Accountability Board Alliance, Flower City Noire Collective, and the Monroe County Democratic Committee. In her campaign platform she’s called for everything from a universal basic income and expanded and simplified social services, to replacing police with other public safety alternatives and better funding the Public Defender’s Office. Hoffman has said she supports rent stabilization and eviction protection programs to stop gentrification; wants the county to expand its mental, emotional, and spiritual health care services and substance use services. She also wants the county to expand public transportation and make better efforts to create walkable and bikeable streets, and fund artists.

KENNETH MUHAMMAD votekennethmuhammad.com Kenneth Muhammad has worked in the Rochester City School District for 25 years, currently in a support staff capacity. He’s the county Democrats’ designated candidate and has received endorsements from Calvin Lee, the current 25th District legislator, as well as the Rev. Lewis Stewart of United Christian Leadership Ministry of Western New York. Muhammad is a member of UCLM as well as several other local organizations — he sits on the planning committee of Ujima Rochester, for example. As far as Muhammad’s platform, it is three basic ideas wound around the theme of unity: passing responsible legislation, addressing gun violence, and passing laws that enhance community-based education and economies. Muhammad joined the Nation of Islam in 1987 and for several years has served as Minister Louis Farrakhan’s representative in Rochester, according to the website of the local study group. Just as Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam have been accused of anti-Semitism, so has Muhammad. One of his challengers, Carolyn Hoffman, has decried memes he has shared on social media for their anti-Semitic content. One of them associated different businesses in Black neighborhoods with specific racial and ethnic groups, listing “slum lord & real estate” as the domain of Jews. The caption, written by the original poster, read, “This is one of main (sic) reasons we can’t unite and change. We to (sic) busy supporting people that don’t support us.” The same meme linked churches “on every other block” to Black men. 22 CITY JUNE 2021


28th District (parts of northwest Rochester)

29th District (parts of northeast and northwest Rochester)

RICKEY FRAZIER

WILLIAM BURGESS

Voterickyfrazier.com

Votewilliamburgess.com

Ricky Frazier’s campaign website makes no bones about why he’s running for the 28th District: the County Legislature has failed its constituents. His campaign, he has said, is rooted in justice and equity. He wants to work with County Executive Adam Bello and the mayor to implement the recommendations in the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity’s report released earlier this year. Frazier has also said that he will fight for funding to support mental health services and address health care disparities affecting Black and brown people, and that he will advocate for funding for programs to train people for living-wage jobs. Frazier is the volunteer coordinator for the Rochester City School District and minister at Aenon Missionary Baptist Church. He is among the Working Families Partyendorsed Democrats who are taking on members of the breakaway Black and Asian Democratic Caucus.

William Burgess is the last of the three Working Families Party-endorsed Democrats waging primary challenges against the members of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus. For 25 years, Burgess has been a social worker for at-risk youth. His campaign website is short on policy matters and focuses mainly on his background — that he’s lived in Rochester since the 1970s, and that his parents held jobs with RTS, Kodak, Xerox, and the Rochester City School District that allowed their family to have a comfortable life in an inviting, diverse neighborhood. He recalled on a post on Facebook, however, that poverty and crime plague the city and, when he asked what he could do, he arrived at running for office.

FRANK KEOPHETLASY frankkeophetlasy.com Legislator Frank Keophetlasy, an incumbent who has the county Democratic Party’s designation in this race, is also a member of the Legislature’s Black and Asian Democratic Caucus. The son of Laotian refugees and leader of the 28th Legislative District Democratic Committee, Keophetlasy was elected to the Legislature in November 2019. On his campaign website, he explained that his top priorities include making sure programs that help the vulnerable and address critical needs in the district are included in county budgets, educating constituents about how county government can help them, and ensuring that the county has a diverse workforce.

ERNEST FLAGLER-MITCHELL Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell carries a few titles. He is a retired firefighter and instructor, an elder at Word of the Cross Church, and leader of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus. First elected to his seat in November 2014, FlaglerMitchell has championed legislation that would require the safe storage of firearms when they are not in use. He was also a vocal opponent of a now-repealed county law that made it illegal to annoy a police officer or first responder. He also sponsored and passed a measure aimed at diversifying the county’s workforce. But the last year has been one of scandal for Flagler-Mitchell. He resigned as president of the newly-formed Rochester NAACP after he was accused of sexual harassment for sending a sexually-explicit photo of himself, and other suggestive text messages, to a 19-year-old woman. The woman, now 20, filed a complaint with the District Attorney’s Office and the county’s ethics board. The District Attorney’s Office concluded that no crime was committed, but a county ethics probe was launched and is ongoing.

roccitynews.org CITY 23


ELECTIONS 2021

Rochester School Board: Tough, thankless, but not hopeless BY JEREMY MOULE

@JFMOULE

JMOULE@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

The nine candidates seeking the Democratic line for three open Rochester city school board seats are applying for one of the most thankless jobs in local politics and government. The Rochester City School District has been trying to claw its way out of several serious problems for about as long as most people can remember. The latest was a self-inflicted budget deficit uncovered in late 2019 of such epic proportions that it led the school board to lay off 175 district workers, including 109 teachers. City officials, business leaders, students, and just about everyone in greater Rochester is fed up with the district’s performance on state tests, low graduation rates, and any of several other key academic indicators. In some respects, there has been modest improvement, though. In 2019, the graduation rate climbed to 63 percent, a figure heralded as the highest in 20 years. That was due in part, however, to the district shepherding students toward the least academically-rigorous diploma, one that prepares students for entrylevel employment instead of college or a skilled trade. The candidates in this race each have their own thoughts about how to improve the district. Whoever wins the primary will likely go on to win the general election, as is the case with most Democratic primaries in the city. They’ll serve four-year terms and the only certainty of their tenure will be that they’ll have lots of hard work ahead of them and little thanks.

JOSHUA BAUROTH facebook.com/FOJBauroth After serving 10 years as a county legislator, Josh Bauroth is up against term limits and is running for a seat on the city school board. Bauroth has two children in Rochester public schools and is a founding member of the Montessori Academy School No. 53 Parent Teacher Association. One of his core issues is ensuring the district meets the needs of special education students. Last year, the district settled a federal lawsuit brought by Empire Justice Center over its special education services. The district, city, and county should collaborate to help parents and caregivers access services that will help students be prepared to learn, Bauroth has said. He also wants the organizations to work together to lower energy costs for the cash-strapped district.

CYNTHIA ELLIOTT facebook.com/cynthia.elliott.982 Currently the Board of Education’s vice president, Cynthia Elliott is the only incumbent in this year’s crowded field of candidates. Elliott, the associate executive director of Baden Street Settlement, was first elected to the board in 2005. She developed a reputation for being blunt, if not combative, but those qualities have seemed to benefit her, as she’s been reelected ever since. Her approach has softened in recent years and she’s become a key voice on the board. Over the years, Elliott’s focus has remained on certain key issues. She’s said consistently that she wants to make sure that the district has effective leadership, pushed for greater parent involvement, and called for better lunches for students. Elliot holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from St. John Fisher College, a masters in public administration from SUNY Brockport, and a masters in human and organizational systems from Fielding Graduate University.

CLIFFORD FLORENCE AND CLIANDA FLORENCE-YARDE facebook.com/clianda.florence Clifford Florence and his daughter, Clianda Florence-Yarde, each has their own line on the ballot, but are running on the same issues and developed a joint platform on which they are campaigning. Florence, an associate minister at Central Church of Christ on South Plymouth Avenue, has been a fixture in the district for years and has frequently spoken out against persistent student underachievement and a lack of Black teachers in the district, while FlorenceYarde is a Rochester City School District teacher who came to prominence this year as she fought eviction from her apartment in the Corn Hill neighborhood. Florence and Florence-Yarde emphasize the idea of community organizing for school reform. Their platform also stresses ending the district’s special education crisis, implementing anti-racist professional development and learning, as well as district accountability. 24 CITY JUNE 2021


roccitynews.org CITY 25


ELECTIONS 2021

JOSEPH KLEIN joekleinforschoolboard.com The chair of Klein Steel Service, a metals supplier and processing center, Joseph Klein has a longstanding interest in the Rochester City School District and education in the city. He served on former Mayor Bob Duffy’s literacy commission and on the boards of a pair of Rochester charter schools, and was a co-founder of E3 Rochester, an organization that helps parents learn about education options for their children, including charter schools. Klein, who has a masters degree in education from Harvard, wants the district to establish more neighborhood schools; recruit teachers of color and raise starting salaries; develop training programs for principals; dismantle the district’s beleaguered special education program and rebuild it to serve students and families better; and to create a budget that is responsible and easy to understand.

JAMES PATTERSON jameslpatterson.com One of James Patterson’s major concerns is that, as he sees it, too often the district’s decision-makers don’t listen to the teachers, principals, students, or people with expertise. Patterson is a retired New York State Trooper who began his 27-year career in law enforcement as the first Black officer in Niagara County. After he retired he earned a criminal justice degree from Rochester Institute of Technology and a graduate degree in education from SUNY Buffalo State College. He has taught or provided academic support at several schools and currently instructs security guards and teachers’ assistants at SUNY Brockport’s Rochester Educational Opportunity Center. Patterson’s priorities, as laid out in his platform, include district governance — he does not favor mayoral control — and finances; fixing “charter schools’ financial drain;” the incorporation of restorative practices into the district; parent engagement; and improved on-time graduation rates. He also believes that the district should implement the recommendations contained in former Distinguished Educator Jaime Acquino’s scathing report on the various problems plaguing the district.

DESJAMEBRA “D.J” ROBINSON thepreachersplatform.wordpress.com Desjamebra “D.J.” Robinson is a licensed cosmetologist of 15 years who recently became a certified professional development coach. She has also worked for the Rochester City School District for 15 years, first as a school bus monitor then in office administration, adult education, and presently as a substitute teacher. Robinson has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Roberts Wesleyan College, a master’s degree in theology from Northeastern Seminary, and a doctorate in leadership from Colgate Crozer Divinity School. But before Robinson mentions any of that in her campaign bio, she makes a simple, relatable introduction: she’s a single parent who understands balancing work, home life, and academic study. Robinson’s platform centers on three areas: behavioral health and education, culturally relevant curriculum, and introducing students to skilled trades as career options. She has said the district should be teaching students to express themselves in healthy ways, and teachers should be able to engage in discussions with students that are relevant to their everyday lives.

26 CITY JUNE 2021


CAMILLE SIMMONS simmonsforboe.org Camille Simmons began working with Rochester City School District students in 2009 as a youth advocate, a job where she provided support to students encountering barriers to success such as social or emotional strains, homelessness, or violence. She is now the continuous improvement manager for ROC the Future, an initiative focused on enhancing academic outcomes for city students. That experience, as well as that of having a son who graduated from the district, informed her platform. She believes the district should assess policies, practices, and funding with an eye on racial equity; focus on improving school climate, high school graduation rates, and high-quality instruction; and pay more attention to the voices of students and parents.

TATIANA WELCH facebook.com/tatianawelch4 Tatiana Welch’s campaign revolves around a clearly stated philosophy: building up a community requires educating children and people to rise to the occasion. A former teacher in the YMCA’s enrichment program, Welch now works from her home doing learning “pods,” in which she helps students with Zoom and their coursework on several teaching platforms. Welch has promised to listen to residents’ voices and hold district leadership accountable; to tackle what she has said is the indiscriminate funnelling of students — especially boys — into the special education system with no thought of placing them in gifted or advanced classes; to push for enriching after-school programs that foster communication between students, parents, teachers, and staff; and to address racial inequity and disenfranchisement within the district.

Primary Day is June 22. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The voter registration deadline has passed. The last day for eligible voters to apply for an absentee ballot in Monroe County is June 15 if the application is submitted by mail and June 21 if submitted in person. You can apply at monroecounty.gov/elections-absentee. Early voting begins June 12 and ends June 20. Sites and hours are available at monroecounty.gov/elections-earlyvoting. Monroe County residents can check their registration status and polling location at monroecounty.gov/elections

roccitynews.org CITY 27


NEWS

RIGHT ON TARGET

Rochester Historical Society hits a bullseye

Rare Kentucky rifle fetches record $306,000 at auction, and just in the nick of time BY DAVID ANDREATTA

T

@DAVID_ANDREATTA

o the untrained eye, the Kentucky rifle the Rochester Historical Society put up for auction appeared to be nothing special. Just a scuffed up, old muzzleloader with a scraped barrel and a crack in the maple wood frame. But an inscription inside the patch box, a small compartment in the stock, suggesting it had been tested in battle during the Revolutionary War lent to its intrigue: “Taken from the British at the Battle of Monmouth — June 28, 1778.” Some gun collectors saw still more in it, though, and were willing to pay a lot more than the $3,000 to $5,000 estimate that Cottone Auctions in Livingston County had placed on it. When the hammer fell after a brisk round of bidding on May 8, an unidentified buyer had bought the firearm for $306,000 — a value that the auction house and serious collectors of such guns said obliterated the record amount paid for a Kentucky rifle at auction. They put that number in the low six figures. 28 CITY JUNE 2021

DANDREATTA@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

“It’s very exciting,” said Alinda Drury, the chair of the Rochester Historical Society’s collections committee. “We’re thrilled to know that something we had hiding somewhere is of value to someone else in the historical community and that the proceeds will benefit us in helping to maintain our collections for the future.” The price of $306,000 includes a “premium” taken by the auction house. The Rochester Historical Society’s cut of the sale is $255,000. The sale amounts to a windfall for the Rochester Historical Society at a time when it is struggling financially. Recent tax filings for the organization show it has been running deficits for several years and its assets are dwindling. The last filing showed the group had about $21,000 in the bank. Housed for decades in an East Avenue mansion that had been bequeathed to the organization, the society sold the home in 2008 and has since hopscotched around the city. It recently began renting space on

A view inside the Rochester Historical Society. The organization is in the process of deaccessioning items in its collection that representatives say have no direct link to Rochester. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

University Avenue, where it is open to the public by appointment only. The society has sold off hundreds of items from its collection in the past dozen or so years — a practice known as deaccessioning. The exercise is common and typically reserved for purging items that do not advance a museum’s mission in order to raise money to acquire more relevant pieces.

Society officials maintain that the items they have put up for auction have either no connection to local history or do not help tell the story of Rochester. The society’s deaccessioning practices have come under scrutiny by some people in local and state museum circles, though, in part because society officials have acknowledged that some deaccessioning revenues are used to


This Kentucky rifle belonging to the Rochester Historical Society fetched $306,000 at auction on May 8, 2021. The price is thought to be an auction record for Kentucky rifles. PHOTO COURTESY COTTONE AUCTIONS

finance the maintenance and storage of their collection, including paying the rent. Matt Cottone, of Cottone Auctions, said the auction price of the Kentucky rifle was driven up by two dueling bidders who speculated that the gun was the handiwork of an 18th-century master gunsmith from Pennsylvania named Andreas Albrecht. “This was an extremely rare, most likely pre-Revolutionary War, tiger maple Kentucky rifle, which there are very few known to exist and probably only a handful known by the maker that this is most likely by,” Cottone said. He described the bidders as being associated with “very important gun collections,” and said the winner was from Virginia. The Kentucky rifle, sometimes called the Pennsylvania rifle or the American long rifle, was commonly used for hunting and warfare in Colonial America and is an early example of a firearm with a rifled barrel — spiraled grooves in the bore — that ensures greater accuracy. As the Kentucky Rifle Foundation describes them, the guns were “a tool of the ordinary freeman, a tool needed to provide food for the table, defend the family as well as defend the community and country.” Made popular by German immigrant gunsmiths who settled in Pennsylvania, the rifle today is considered a uniquely American work of art, and there were few gunsmiths who were said to have made them better than Albrecht, the gun master of a settlement called Christian’s Spring. Surviving examples of Albrecht’s work are scarce, however, in part because he is said to have rarely signed his guns.

Most guns that have been attributed to Albrecht were identified by carvings in the stock. One his guns fetched $78,000 at another auction in 2019. Timothy Hodges, of the Kentucky Rifle Foundation in Winchester, Virginia, said the Rochester Historical Society’s gun was the talk of Kentucky rifle enthusiasts following the auction. “My feelers are out there so that I generally know when something is coming up even if it’s a little obscure,” Hodges said. “This one really fell under the radar. But obviously it didn’t go completely under the radar because it brought that kind of money.” To put the sale price of the gun in perspective, consider that two weeks later a Pennsylvania auction house put out to bid another Kentucky rifle, this one having been gifted to Tuscarora Iroquois Chief Tunis by the Marquis de Lafayette in gratitude for the chief’s guidance to Lafayette during the Revolutionary War and two dozen expeditions across early America. That gun sold for $215,250.

Hodges surmised that the value of the Rochester Historical Society rifle was in the inscription indicating that it had been used in the Battle of Monmouth. That battle, which took place in New Jersey, ended in a draw and is perhaps best known for the excessive heat accounting for most of the casualties. But General George Washington was on the battlefield and considered the outcome significant if for nothing more than his Continental Army finally held its own against the British after a series of decisive losses. A curiosity of the inscription in the rifle for Hodges, though, was its suggestion that the gun was “taken from the British.” “The only way that that inscription would be viable is if some British soldier stole the gun himself or picked it up on the battlefield or took it from someone they imprisoned,” Hodges said. “There would be no way that a Christian’s Spring gunsmith would have made a gun for any British officer or soldier.” How the gun may have fallen into

the hands of the British is as much a mystery as how it came into the possession of the Rochester Historical Society. The society has acknowledged that many pieces in its collection were poorly documented in the past, and that the organization for a long time was something of a dumping ground for prominent Rochester families looking to unload unwanted heirlooms and other belongings. Many items that are deemed irrelevant or duplicative or for which no obvious tie to Rochester is known have been deaccessioned. Tax filings show the organization auctioned off artifacts worth an estimated $382,500 over a recent five-year span. The Kentucky rifle was one of 27 items belonging to the society to be auctioned off in May. They included military hats, canteens, swords, flags, and flasks, most of which sold for a few hundred dollars apiece. Altogether, the auction netted the organization $281,375. Drury said the society’s board will decide how to use the proceeds, but pointed out that the organization has many needs, including updating its database software and hiring experts to help curate the collection. “We just don’t have that kind of expertise to do that kind of evaluation,” Drury said. “We’re hoping that these funds will assist us in preserving our collection and knowing exactly what we have.” Cottone said as exciting as the record-breaking bid on the Kentucky rifle was, “The great part of the story is what this does hopefully to help the Rochester Historical Society.”

PHOTO COURTESY COTTONE AUCTIONS

roccitynews.org CITY 29


ARTS

REVEL IN THE DETAILS

For much of his career, photographer Carl Chiarenza made collages from ripped paper and other bits of detritus and photographed them, resulting in quietly powerful abstract images such as the 1990 gelatin silver print, "Untitled 280," seen here. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GEORGE EASTMAN MUSEUM

LANDSCAPES OF THE MIND Reflecting on nearly seven decades of work, Carl Chiarenza hasn’t stopped evolving BY REBECCA RAFFERTY

@RSRAFFERTY

BECCA@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM 30 CITY JUNE 2021

A

lot has changed for photographer Carl Chiarenza since the 1950s, when as a teenager he was a valet parker at a new museum then called the George Eastman House. In those days, he spent time photographing places in and around Rochester, honing his talent and sharpening his eye for things that most people miss. All these years later, his life’s work in pictures is on display at the same institution where he once parked cars. The retrospective exhibition, “Carl Chiarenza: Journey into the Unknown” (on view through June 20), explores almost 70 years of his work as an art photographer, professor, art critic, and award-winning biographer.

“I’m content with what I have,” Chiarenza says. “I’ve certainly had a very good life and no regrets. I have a wonderful family, wonderful friends. And I’ve done everything I can do. I certainly don’t need to do more for anybody else, just do it for me now.” Chiarenza was born in Rochester in 1935 to Italian immigrant parents and grew up on Central Avenue. He studied with photography greats Minor White and Ralph Hattersley at Rochester Institute of Technology, got his doctorate at Harvard, and was an active photographer in Boston for almost 30 years. He was a professor at Boston University until 1986, when he returned to his hometown to teach at the University of Rochester. He


would become chair of the Art and Art History departments there, and later professor emeritus and artist-in-residence. Chiarenza’s work has been widely shown, published, and collected, including by the Museum of Modern Art. The Eastman exhibit features work from every step of his career, from his early photographs as a high school student to his most recent and ongoing forays into making collages from parts of his older photos. Chiarenza is best known for the black and white, ethereal images he created by carefully piecing scraps of paper, foil, and other discarded bits of material into collages, lighting those amalgams just so, and then photographing them.  The resulting gelatin silver prints may be small-scale images or gigantic triptychs that span an entire wall. But regardless of the print size, each little world he creates is mesmerizing and immersive in its use of textures and layered depth, and beckons the viewer to spend some time pursuing its secrets.  “I’m just so so impressed by how inventive and indefatigable he is,” says William Green, the guest curator of Chiarenza’s show at the George Eastman Museum. He adds that the “magical and mysterious” nature of Chiarenza’s work made penning the accompanying curatorial text a challenge, because “you don’t want to drain it of this kind of mystery that makes it so wonderful.” Bearing this in mind, the show includes what Green calls “slow looking prompts” for viewers. Chiarenza’s subject matter is indeed slippery. With the exception of some overt landscapes and abstract figures — including his 2003 “Peace Warrior” series, photographed collages of defiant guardian figures he made as an artistic response to the American invasion of Iraq and in honor of his literary hero, Don Quixote — his work evokes certain hard-to-articulate qualities of human experience. It depicts would-be transient moods, visualizations of the effects specific music has on the soul, and reverence for the thriving life cultivated within his wife Heidi Katz’s gardens. But as is the nature of abstract art, while the work is imbued with the artist’s inspirations, each viewer’s personal associations create an inner private dialogue. At times that can feel like magic, as if the artist is speaking directly to you.

In his work and writing, Chiarenza has pushed back against the idea that photography is merely a documentary device. Photographers don’t take but “make” photos, he says, and transform their subjects whether they intend to or not. A talent of the human brain is that it makes us seekers — we reflexively look for patterns and try to make sense of seeming chaos. Chiarenza has played this game of hide and seek with materials since long before he was making and photographing collages in his studio. He stopped photographing outdoors in 1979, but even before this change in process, his work insisted upon bringing forth secret and striking nuances in otherwise unexamined bits of the world — whether in landscapes like the dark, gravelly hill and slate sky dominated by a colossal white water tower in the 1976 image, “Providence 1,” or petals of peeling paint on a wall, or an apparition of a sea vessel spied in the muck on a dirty window (see the 1962 photograph, “Gloucester Window, Sailing Ship”). While living in Boston in 1960, he photographed a chunk of stone with concentric, undulating lines, which became the image, “Marble Madonna, Ipswich, MA.” In the darkroom, he cropped in on a form he spied in the stone, selectively lightening and darkening areas of the image to emphasize a seemingly haloed figure with another form glowing within it, visually alluding to a mother and child. In looking back at his decades of work and progression as an artist, Chiarenza is all humility and gratitude. “I feel that I’ve been very lucky to be able to do what I have done for so long,” he says. “And I’m grateful to all of those people who made it possible for me to do this over the last half century.” Chiarenza is still making collages, but he no longer photographs them. Now, they are the finished work. This shift emerged when his favored photographic materials, in particular Polaroid films, became hard to find and his own supplies were diminishing. He wasn’t interested in switching to digital photography, he says. But he has enjoyed the new challenge.  “It’s giving me a whole new life,” Chiarenza says. “The only thing I really miss is that I can’t control the lighting. When I was making collages to be

Top: “Peacewarrior 7,” 2004. Below: "Gloucester Window, Sailing Ship," 1962. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GEORGE EASTMAN MUSEUM

photographed, a good portion of what I did, an important piece, was light. And making these collages, I have no control over the light when I’m making or when people are seeing it.” Some of the new work involves color. In his 2018 work, “Sailing,” scraps of bright red and shimmering silver papers sharply accent slices of his texture-heavy black and white photographs. The highly irregular mats, with inner edges that follow the forms of the assemblages, were custom-cut by Katz.

Chiarenza says maintaining his artistic practice has been a boon through the pandemic, and through the past few years, during which he has undergone treatments for cancer. “I have not stopped working,” he says. “It keeps me relatively relaxed and relatively able to take care of myself and my family. It’s really keeping me busy, active, interested in still making art, looking at art, thinking about art, writing about art. I don’t think I could stop doing any of that. I’ll make art until I can’t.”

roccitynews.org CITY 31


ARTS

FRESH LOOK health, hope, and wellness. For a growing number of Black women, it is a ritual deeply tied to reclaiming their cultural identity and rejecting white, Eurocentric standards of beauty. The work of several Rochester artists actively reflect this shift toward starting fresh and embracing natural Black hair.

Zahyia Rolle. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

GETTING BACK TO THEIR ROOTS Local Black artists tackle biased beauty standards and embrace natural hair styles BY IRENE KANNYO

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ithin weeks of Rochester musician Zahyia releasing the music video for her new single “Foul SoulChild” this spring, it had hit almost 50,000 views. The slow-burning, catchy R&B song features strippeddown production — a haunting keyboard riff, an addictive drum beat, and Zahyia’s voice echoing overtop, as if traveling from another world. Wearing shimmering, bandage laceup, knee-high boots and a matching corset, Zahyia moves alone in a stark room, dimly lit by dark blue and red 32 CITY JUNE 2021

light. Then, suddenly, she stands before a mirror, electric hair clippers in hand, and shaves her head in real time. The singer, whose full name is Zahyia Rolle, says the act was one of the most significant parts of the video.   “I love my hair,” Rolle says. “But sometimes when I feel my body and my energy and my spirit going into a different place, and transitioning someplace new, I feel like I have to remove myself of the old energy.”   In the song Rolle sings honestly about her struggle with depression, while

also addressing the struggle she witnessed other women in her community face in the past year. The battle includes dealing with burnout and mistreatment, and the desire to escape from a negative emotional space. It’s about overcoming what she refers to as a “toxic entity,” the “Foul SoulChild.” “We don’t want that child to grow into an adult,” Rolle explains. “We need it to stay small, handle it, transform it into something positive.”  For Zahyia, the act of going bald symbolized moving into a period of

THE BIG CHOP Over the last dozen years or so, a growing number of Black women have removed their chemically-treated hair and started their hair growth anew, affirming their identity in the process.  The “Good Hair” Study, a research project of the Perception Institute, which aims to reduce bias and discrimination, found the market value of hair relaxers declined 34 percent between 2009 and 2016. The trend is still going strong. Last year, Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian Tiffany Haddish shaved her head on Instagram Live to the surprise and delight of fans and fellow celebrities.  For these women, “the big chop” is a rite of passage. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a big haircut. The bigness is both physical and metaphorical. How much hair goes depends on its length and how recently it had been permed or relaxed. But the decision is also big, and often rife with emotions.   “A lot of women have anxiety around the big chop,” says Rochester master loctician and natural hair stylist Niema Neteri, who, as the owner of Neteri Naturals, has helped guide many women through the process.  “A lot of our identity is tied to our crown, our confidence, and what we feel that we can do,” Neteri says. “A lot of women value length as being feminine.” There’s a story behind every hair transition.   “I actually shaved my head every time I’ve had a child,” Neteri says. “When you’re growing a child, the hair is lush, it’s full — you’re taking your prenatal vitamins — and it’s thick, and it’s just shiny. And then once you give birth, and then I’m nursing too, so I’m depleting my body of all types of nutrients, right? And the hair tends to thin along the hairline. And I said, ‘Why try to save this? Let me just shave it off.’”   For Rolle, cutting off her hair has also been a recurring part of her journey.  “This is actually the third time that I’ve shaved my head in my life,” she says. “I love my hair, but I love my head — India Arie, like, we are not our hair, even though it’s such a huge part of our culture.”  


Niema Neteri. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

RECLAIMING BLACK BEAUTY The first wave of the natural hair movement emerged in the 1960s as a counter to standards of beauty that dominated Western culture — features that occur naturally in white people. Long, straight hair was rewarded, while Black natural hair was deemed undesirable. As an outgrowth of the “Black Is Beautiful” movement, Black women and men styled their hair in Afros to signal their support of the civil rights movement, and affirm and celebrate their Black identity. It was a selfdetermination of beauty ideals.  “We were just embracing the African aesthetic, and wearing our hair because it defies gravity,” Neteri says.  Backlash soon followed, however. Police targeted and harassed Black people who wore Afros. Black political activists like Angela Davis were depicted

on posters as enemies of the state. By the late ’70s and early ’80s, the style had become downright dangerous for Black people to wear, and its popularity dwindled. Later, the look was adopted by non-Black people, which led to further indifference. Meanwhile, other Black natural hairstyles, like braids, were condemned as unprofessional in workplaces, and chemically-treated styles like the Jheri curl and Wave Nouveau began to replace them.   THE NEW NATURAL HAIR MOVEMENT   In the late ’90s and throughout the aughts, a new wave of the natural hair movement emerged, this time inspired by a healthy and holistic approach to selfcare rather than politics.  A whole genre of media — from forums and YouTube to blogs and

books — sprang up to connect a new community of Black women learning how to style their natural hair. The affectionately dubbed “naturalista” community became a beacon of solidarity and sisterhood for many Black women. “There’s these beautiful elements of our ability to bond with our sisters,” Rolle says. “Sometimes I feel like that’s the first thing I know I can connect with another woman who I don’t know. I’m like, ‘Hey girl! Ooh, your twist out is that—’ you know, like, ‘Oh, I know, that took a lot of time, you look amazing!’ It’s an instant connection with other Black women. It’s a bonding experience with mothers and sisters.”  Local athlete-turned-artist Brittany Williams celebrates natural hair in much of her work. “Sometimes I use certain hairstyles as a push-back, because certain individuals expect something that’s more digestible when viewing art,” Williams says. “Eliminating the standard of being ‘presentable’ is always the goal.”  Williams’s work also brings Black men into the fold. She created the “Hair Don’t Lie’’ series in 2014 to champion Black athletes for their physical appearance and the personality conveyed by their unique hairstyles.  “I feel like Allen Iverson and Dennis Rodman paved the way for players to be themselves, regardless of what rules are put in place,” she says.  Despite the freedom of expression and bonding that have resulted from the newest iteration of the natural hair movement, old pressures still exist. They just appear in new forms.   Hair anxiety was a key concept of the “Good Hair” Study, which set out to determine whether and how bias affected perceptions of beauty and professionalism. The study found Black women experience more anxiety related to their hair, and greater social burdens of hair maintenance, than white women. For example, Black women were more likely to report spending more time and money on their hair, and one in five of them reported feeling social pressure to straighten their hair for work, twice as many as the white women in the study.  A criticism of the natural hair movement has been that light-skinned women tend to be the face of it. Another is the rise of what is known as “texturism,” in which looser curls and finer hair are favored over more tightly

Artist Brittany Williams celebrates natural hair in much of her work. PHOTOS PROVIDED

wound curls. Depending on the natural texture of one’s hair, which varies widely, some of these styles can be difficult and time-consuming to achieve. “It’s almost sometimes like a doubleedged sword,” Rolle says.  She says the number of hours she’s spent styling her daughters’ hair, as well as her own, is too high to quantify.  “Those days where you want to be outside, [instead] focusing on getting their hair ready for Monday,” Rolle says with a laugh.  With all of this weight, symbolism, and history it’s no wonder that hair is so often a feature of so many Black artists’ work.  “Behind every braid, curl, locs, Afro, wave, etc., there’s a story attached,” Williams says. “That’s what makes our hair special. No one in the world has our texture.”

roccitynews.org CITY 33


VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS Art Exhibits [ Opening ] Cobblestone Arts Center, 1622 NY 332. Seasons | Kim Bellavia. June 3-July 11. Jun 24, 5-7pm: Opening reception. By appointment. 398-0220. George Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave. eastman.org. To Survive on This Shore: Photographs & Interviews with Transgender & Gender Nonconforming Older Adults. Wednesdays-Sundays. Jun 23, 6pm: Trans Representation in Cinema Panel Discussion. Jess T. Dugan & Vanessa Fabbre. Through Jan 2. $7-$18. Rochester Contemporary Art Center, 137 East Ave. 6x6x2021. June 9-July 18. $5. roco6x6.org.

[ Continuing ] Art Exhibits Artworks Gallery, 109 Fall St. Seneca Falls. Where in the Finger Lakes is it?. Mondays-Saturdays. artsinseneca.org. Central Library, 115 South Ave. Thrift Style. Through June 21. Jun 10, 6pm online talk: Contemporary Makers & the Feed Sack Revival. 428-8150. Geisel Gallery, 2nd Floor Rotunda, Legacy Tower, One Bausch & Lomb Place. Bruno Chalifour & Howard Koft: Landscapes of the Mind. Through June 26. thegeiselgallery.com. George Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave. eastman.org. Stacey Steers: Night Reels (to Jun 6) | Carl Chiarenza: Journey into the Unknown (to Jun 20) | One Hundred Years Ago: George Eastman in 1921 (to Jan 2022). Wednesdays-Sundays. $7-$18. Image City Photography Gallery, 722 University Ave. Bringing It All Together. Tuesdays-Sundays. Through Jun 13. 271-2540. India Heritage Museum, 2171 County Line Rd. Macedon. Indian Cinema: A Rochester Connection. Saturdays, Sundays, 12-5 p.m. Through Jun 13. ihmrochester.org. International Art Acquisitions, 3300 Monroe Ave. Marcella Gillenwater: The American Landscape. Through June 30. 264-1440. Livestream, online. Genesee Valley Plein Air Painters Annual Show & Sale. Ongoing. gvpap.com.; Penfield Art Association Virtual Spring Show & Sale. Ongoing. penfieldartassociation.com. Main Street Arts, 20 W Main St. Clifton Springs. Adrift. Through June 11. Appointments encouraged. mainstreetartscs.org. Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave. 276-8900. The 613 by Archie Rand (to Jul 18) | “To Help People See”: The Art of G. Peter Jemison (to Nov 14). Ongoing. Reservations required. $6-$15. Mill Art Center & Gallery, 61 N Main St. Honeoye Falls. Annual Spring Member’s Exhibition. Thursdays, Fridays. Through Jun 11. 230-7232. Pat Rini Rohrer Gallery, 71 S Main St. Canandaigua. The Colors & Promise of Spring. TuesdaysSaturdays. Though Jul 10. prrgallery. com.

Perinton Historical Society & Fairport Museum, 18 Perrin St. Fairport. A Centennial of Perinton Town Historians | Perinton in the Pandemic.. Tuesdays, Saturdays, Sundays. 223-3989. Yates County History Center, 107 Chapel St. Penn Yan. A Dangerous Freedom: The Abolitionists, Freedom Seekers, & Underground Railroad Sites of Yates County. Tuesdays-Fridays. Through Jun 30. By appointment. yatespast.org.

Madelein Smith, Malcom Whitfield. Wed., June 16, 7:30 p.m. Comedy @ the Carlson, 50 Carlson Rd $10. 426-6339. Mike Dambra. Thu., June 3, 7:30 p.m., Fri., June 4, 7 & 9 p.m. and Sat., June 5, 7 & 9 p.m. Comedy @ the Carlson, 50 Carlson Rd $12-$17. 426-6339.

Film

Theater

Dryden Theatre, 900 East Ave. Live Screenings. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Advanced tickets required. $5-$10. eastman.org/dryden-theatre. Little Theatre, 240 East Ave. Live Screenings. Fridays-Sundays. Virtual screenings continue. thelittle.org. Visual Studies Workshop, 31 Prince St. vsw.org. The Inheritance (2020), La Chinoise (1967). June 11-13, 7 p.m. Jun 12, 6pm: Artist talk with Ephraim Asili. $10 suggested.; Holding the Line Against Police Violence: Community Perseverance & Police Accountability in Rochester (Online). Through June 30. Jun 23, 7pm: Community talk back with PABA. Community Curator: Police Accountability Board Alliance. vsw.org.

Art Events 2021 Plein Air Community Paint. Through June 18 and Sat., June 19, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Onanda Park, 4965 West Lake Rd Artists may register through Jun 18; limited space ocarts.org. Archie Rand’s The 613: From Conception to Creation. Thu., June 24, 6 p.m. Virtual Memorial Art Gallery, online. mag. rochester.edu. Cocktails with the Creators: Nolan Bushnell. Thu., June 3, 6 p.m. Virtual Strong National Museum of Play, online. Co-founder of Atari, Inc. & Chuck E. Cheese Pizza $25. museumofplay.org. Eastman Entertains: At the Movies. Wednesdays-Sundays George Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave. eastman.org $7$18. ExhiBits: Women Running Rochester. Tuesdays Livestream, online. Registration required JLF@rochester.edu. Jewish Heritage Celebration Day. Sun., June 13, 12-5 p.m. Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave. 276-8900 $5 suggested. Sun., June 13, 12-5 p.m. Virtual Memorial Art Gallery, online. mag. rochester.edu. Open Studios. First Friday of every month, 5-9 p.m. The Hungerford, 1115 E Main St. FB: thehungerford. Photo Garage Sale. June 4-6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Flower City Arts Center, 713 Monroe Ave. Registration required 271-5920. flowercityarts.org.

Dance Events Dances at MuCCC. June 30-July 2, 8 p.m. Livestream, online. $5 & up muccc.org.

Blackfriars Theatre 70th Anniversary Concert. Fri., June 11, 7 p.m. and Sat., June 12, 2 & 7 p.m. JCC Canalside Stage, 1200 Edgewood Ave. $20-$35. blackfriars.org. Emancipation Denied, a Live Radio Drama. Wed., June 2, 7:30 p.m. Livestream, online. David Shakes & the North Star Players muccc.org. Florida Girls. Thu., June 10, 8 p.m., Sat., June 12, 8 p.m., Sun., June 13, 2 p.m., Wed., June 16, 8 p.m., Thu., June 17, 2 p.m., Fri., June 18, 8 p.m., Sat., June 19, 2 p.m., Wed., June 23, 2 p.m., Thu., June 24, 8 p.m. and Sat., June 26, 2 p.m. Bristol Valley Theater, 151 South Main St $15-$36. bvtnaples.org. Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue. Wed., June 9, 7 p.m. Montage Music Hall, 50 Chestnut St. Reservations required $40 & up 232-1520.

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Jackie Fabulous. Thu., June 10, 7:30 p.m. and June 11-12, 7 & 9 p.m. Comedy @ the Carlson, 50 Carlson Rd $15/$20. 426-6339.

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Just the Ticket. Wed., June 9, 8 p.m., Fri., June 11, 8 p.m., Sat., June 12, 2 p.m., Wed., June 16, 2 p.m., Thu., June 17, 8 p.m., Sat., June 19, 8 p.m., Sun., June 20, 2 p.m., Wed., June 23, 8 p.m., Thu., June 24, 2 p.m. and Fri., June 25, 8 p.m. Bristol Valley Theater, 151 South Main St $15-$36. bvtnaples.org. Klonsky & Schwartz. Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Through June 12. Virtual MuCCC, online. Out of Pocket, Inc $18. muccc.org. Love Letters. Sun., June 27, 2 p.m. JCC Canalside Stage, 1200 Edgewood Ave. $18-$25. jccrochester.org/canalside. Nunsense A-Men. Thu., June 3, 8 p.m., Fri., June 4, 8 p.m., Sat., June 5, 8 p.m. and Sun., June 6, 2 p.m. Waterloo Library & Historical Society, 31 E Williams St . Waterloo $18. theatre444.com. Swimming to Cambodia. June 24-26, 7:30 p.m. and Sun., June 27, 2 p.m. MuCCC, 142 Atlantic Ave Aspie Works $5. muccc.org.

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Columbia Care

Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Rochester now offering ground flower NEW PATIENT SPECIAL:

Receive 20% off your first purchase

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www.col-care.com/location/rochester New York Medical Marijuana ID required to make a Medical Marijuana purchase. 36 CITY JUNE 2021


INSIDE WXXI PUBLIC MEDIA | WXXI-TV PBS AM 1370 NPR | CLASSICAL 91.5 FM WRUR 88.5 FM | THE LITTLE THEATRE

Out in Rural America

American Masters: Ballerina Boys

Thursday, June 3 at 8:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV Repeats 6/27 at Midnight Love, loss, self-discovery, and unity – these principles are woven through this one-hour documentary that follows five stories from the LGBTQ+ community.

Friday, June 4 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV Discover Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (The Trocks), an allmale company that for 45 years has offered audiences their passion for ballet classics mixed with exuberant comedy. Photo: Trocks performing “Swan Lake.” Courtesy Merrywidow Films LLC/Laura Nespola

Photo: Brett and Pam Credit: APT

The Lavender Scare

Prideland

Monday, June 14 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV This film tells the little-known story of an unrelenting campaign by the federal government to identify and fire all employees suspected of being homosexual.

Sunday, June 27 at 11 p.m. on WXXI-TV Follow queer actor Dyllón Burnside on a journey to discover how LGBTQ Americans are finding ways to live authentically and with pride in the modern South.

Photo: Forty activists picketing Credit: The Lavender Scare

Photo: host Dyllón Burnside Credit: Courtesy of Taylor Miller/Buzzfeed News roccitynews.org CITY 37


WXXI-TV • THIS MONTH

Journeys Through the Finger Lakes Monday, June 7 at 9:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV A co-production between WXXI and the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, this award-winning film celebrates a region deeply rooted in history, agriculture, social change, and sustainability.

Us on Masterpiece Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things Saturday, June 12 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV Follow the six-decade journey of the extraordinary performer as her sublime voice transforms the tragedies and troubles of her life into joy. Interviews include Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Smokey Robinson and Fitzgerald’s son, Ray Brown, Jr.

Sundays at 9 p.m., beginning June 20 on WXXI-TV A family holiday across Europe – what could go wrong? Tom Hollander and Saskia Reeves star in an adaptation of David Nicholls’ bestselling novel. Photo: Tom Hollander as Douglas, Saskia Reeves as Connie and Tom Taylor as Albie Credit: Courtesy of Drama Republic and MASTERPIECE

Credit: Courtesy of Getty Images

River City Drumbeat Thursday, June 17 at 8:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV A powerful story of music, love, and legacies, told by the members of a Black youth drum corps in Louisville, Kentucky. When the founder steps down, a young alum whose life was saved by the drumline rises to mentor the next generation in the face of systemic injustices. Credit: Juan Castañeda/Owsley Brown Presents

Great Performances Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2020 Friday, June 25 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV Enjoy the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of selections by Strauss, Wagner, Offenbach, Puccini and more. Recorded from the Schönbrunn Palace Gardens under the baton of conductor Valery Gergiev, the concert features Metropolitan Opera tenor Jonas Kaufmann. Credit: Courtesy of Max Paraovsky. © Wiener Philharmonike

38 CITY JUNE 2021


WXXI is proud to host StoryCorps, June 30 through July 30, as they record the stories of Rochesterians and preserve them in the Library of Congress.

StoryCorps Comes to Rochester, Virtually! For 16 years, the StoryCorps Mobile Tour has brought loved ones together for thousands of meaningful conversations about the things that matter most. For the safety of participants during the pandemic, interviews will be conducted virtually. Through a new process that allows participants to record remotely from their homes using an internet-connected device, StoryCorps and WXXI hope to foster meaningful connections during a time of physical distance. Here’s how it works: In a StoryCorps interview, two people are able to record a conversation with one another about who they are, what they’ve learned in life, and how they want to be remembered. A trained StoryCorps facilitator guides them through the interview process. After each 40-minute recording session, participants receive a digital copy of their interview. With participant permission, a second copy is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear.

Special thanks to StoryCorps’ Rochester sponsors:

ROCHESTER

VICTOR

During StoryCorps’ remote visit, the interview process and experience will be maintained using StoryCorps Virtual, a new, browserbased video conference platform that allows both participants to see and hear one another during their conversation, and to be joined by a facilitator remotely.

When: June 30 through July 31. Appointments will become available at 10am on June 16. Reservations: Visit WXXI.org/storycorps or call StoryCorps’ 24-hour toll-free reservation line at 1-800-850-4406 STORYCORPS VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9 AT 6PM Want to learn more about StoryCorps, the virtual recording booth format, how/when to make reservations, as well as answer questions from attendees? Attend our open house. Register at WXXI.org/storycorps StoryCorps is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. roccitynews.org CITY 39


TURN TO WXXI CLASSICAL FOR MUSIC PERFECTLY TUNED TO YOUR DAY

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Mondays at 8 p.m. on WXXI Classical, beginning June 14

Photo by Alex Cassetti

Fields of Wonder Saturday, June 19 at 12 p.m. on WXXI Classical In recognition of Juneteenth or Freedom Day, the eight-member, male, a cappella vocal ensemble Cantus presents a one-hour special of music composed by Black artists, primarily the song cycle Songs of the Seasons by Margaret Bonds, based on a set of four poems by Langston Hughes. Andrea Blain hosts.

BRAVE Sunday, June 20 at 12 p.m. on WXXI Classical In celebration of Father’s Day, Cantus shares music recorded live in concert, focusing on the idea of masculinity in our society.

Support public media. Become a WXXI Member! Whether it’s television, radio, online, or on screen, WXXI is there with the programs, news, and information – where you want it and when you want it. If you value PBS, NPR, PBS Kids, WXXI News, WXXI Classical and so much more, consider becoming a member. Visit WXXI.org/support to choose the membership that works for you. There are many membership levels with their own special benefits, including becoming a sustaining member.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra broadcasts return with a series of encores from their 2010-2019 seasons. Incoming Music Director Andreas Delfs (pictured) has selected the encore performances and will introduce each one.

Five Things of Note about Ryan Yarmel Host of Radioland with Yarms, Thursdays from 6-8 p.m. on WRUR-FM 88.5 1. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

From a young age I was always fascinated with radio, particularly old time radio shows like Jack Benny, Lux Radio Theatre, Suspense, and X Minus One. Working in radio was always a dream of mine, in addition to playing music. 2. What is your day job?

During the day, I am the store manager at Bernunzio Uptown Music, a vintage stringed instrument store on East Avenue. I specialize in vintage banjos, guitars, and mandolins. I started working at Bernunzio’s when I was 16 years old and remain enchanted by the old instruments and their stories. 3. What are three things you can’t live without?

Music, Rock Climbing, Dogs. 4. What’s your favorite part of doing your show?

I feel honored to ride along with listeners and to be a part of the intimate serendipity of radio. The moment when one hears their new favorite song for the first time is so special, and it’s so fulfilling to be part of that process. 5. How did you come up with your show name?

I came up with the name Radioland as I wanted an open-ended umbrella type name that would both allow me to explore the boundaries of music/ radio, and occupy a nostalgic “golden age” space. Photo credit: Ryan Williamson


AM 1370, YOUR NPR NEWS STATION + WRUR-FM 88.5, DIFFERENT RADIO

Tiny Desk Contest Entries accepted until June 7th Calling all unsigned musical artists: NPR wants to hear from you! Over the past six years, nearly 30,000 musicians from across the country have submitted their videos to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in the hopes of being chosen to perform as part of NPR Music’s signature music discovery series. Now, NPR is once again calling for unsigned bands and musicians to submit their entries at NPR.org/tinydeskcontest.

Hip Hop and Healing: Commemorating Tulsa Sunday, June 6 at 9 p.m. on AM 1370 A century ago, one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history took place: The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. In this program, we look at how the local community is using art and music to commemorate the race riot.

Intelligence Squared Sundays, June 13-27 at 9 p.m. on AM 1370 This series is based on the traditional Oxford-style debate format, with one side proposing and the other side opposing a sharply-framed motion. This month experts debate on the need for vaccine passports (6/13), legalizing psychedelics (6/20), and patent protections on the COVID-19 vaccines (6/27).

Radioland with Yarms Thursdays, 6-8 p.m. on WRUR-FM Ryan Yarmel, better known as Yarms in the area music scene, hosts two hours of an eclectic music mix that ranges from Americana and Folk, to Indie Rock.

FIVE FACTS ABOUT WXXI NEWS’ RACQUEL STEPHEN 1. What’s your role in the newsroom? I am the Health Reporter and Producer. 2. Where did you go to college? I received my B.A. at the University of Rochester in English Literature, and 10 years later received my masters in Broadcasting & Digital Journalism from Newhouse at Syracuse University. 3. What are three things you can’t live without? I definitely can’t live without my family, my phone, and a nice pair of shoes. 4. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? As a kid I knew I wanted to be on camera. It’s the adrenaline rush of knowing that you have the attention of thousands that excited me. I never shied away from public speaking. At that time, I just didn’t know it would be journalism. 5. What’s the best part of your job? I love being able to share the stories of others. Establishing a rapport with a source is also very important. Photo credit: Richard Ashworth roccitynews.org CITY 41


240 East Avenue Rochester’s East End

“A Little Night Music” debuted in May and runs continuously with concerts on Sundays and Wednesdays through June 16. The live shows feature a variety of Rochester area musicians performing in the newly named Jack Garner Theatre (within The Little’s 8 Winthrop Street building next to the parking lot). Tickets are $5, and include a $5 voucher — valid only for the night of the show — for use at concessions and The Little Café. Additionally, Little Members receive a 10-percent discount on café items. Tickets are required for each show, and seats are assigned. Masks are also required. The Little Café will also be open for entrees, snacks, beer, and wine. Food can be taken into the theater for the concerts.

F Y I:

If you go...

The Lineup:

Dates: Sunday and Wednesday nights (through June 16)

Wednesday, June 2: Big Blue House Sunday, June 6: Classical Guitar Night

Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Cafe Doors at 5 p.m.; Theater Doors at 6 p.m. Location: The Jack Garner Theatre at The Little (8 Winthrop St.)

Experience The Little Experience! Movie theater magic is once again thriving. Join us in your favorite dark room to soak in new cinematic favorites. Upcoming releases (subject to change) include:

Wednesday, June 9: Kinloch Nelson Sunday, June 13: The Rita Collective Wednesday, June 16: The Spring Chickens

Gunda: Experiential cinema in its purest form, “Gunda” chronicles the unfiltered lives of a mother pig, a flock of chickens, and a herd of cows with masterful intimacy. French Exit: A widowed New York socialite and her aimless son move to Paris after she spends the last of her husband’s inheritance. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges. In The Heights: At the intersection of it all is the likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life. From the creator of “Hamilton,” and the director of “Crazy Rich Asians.” The Truffle Hunters: The mushroom documentary of the year! Deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, a handful of men, 70 or 80 years young, hunt for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle— which to date has resisted all of modern science’s efforts at cultivation. They’re guided by a secret culture and training passed down through generations, as well as by the noses of their cherished and expertly-trained dogs. Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It: A doc about the remarkable life and 70-year career of singer, actress and dancer Rita Moreno.

42 CITY JUNE 2021


roccitynews.org CITY 43


ARTS

SURROUND SOUNDS

From left to right, Lynne Boucher, Laura Lentz, and Mona Seghatoleslami. Each will play a role in the June 6th interactive online performance “Tuning Meditation.” PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

BREATHING IN — AND SINGING OUT Fivebyfive blends music and meditation in an interactive online performance BY DANIEL J. KUSHNER

T

uning Meditation” is not your typical musical piece. Created by the late experimental composer Pauline Oliveros in 1971, the composition has no set length, and the music isn’t written down. The audience members are the musicians. In other words,

44 CITY JUNE 2021

@DANIELJKUSHNER

DKUSHNER@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

participants in “Tuning Meditation” are simultaneously both the listeners and the performers. Bring these participants together online over Zoom to perform “Tuning Meditation” — from across Rochester and beyond — and you have the unlikely virtual concert presented

on June 6 by local chamber music ensemble fivebyfive. The piece, which will conclude the ensemble’s 2021 “Composer Chat” series, was initially conceived with instruments in mind, but has since been adapted for a cappella voices. In this version, no formal training is

needed, and anyone can join. “Tuning Meditation” is less a musical performance than a wash of sound, emitted by all involved. This is how it works: Participants are urged to sing a pitch they hear in their mind. Then, they are to listen to those around them — what the


composer refers to as “the whole field of sound” — and match another participant’s pitch, so that they’re singing in unison. Finally, they are told to listen again and sing a note that no one else is singing. The goal is to establish a stronger connection between the music one is creating and the music one is hearing to achieve what Oliveros called “deep listening.” “It’s like a recipe. There’s no music, just instructions,” says fivebyfive flutist Laura Lentz, who will lead the free, open-to-all group exercise and anticipates the entire performance lasting about 10 minutes. Fivebyfive first performed the composition at the 2015 Rochester Fringe Festival, soon after the contemporary classical quintet was formed. The group initially used the piece as a way to get better acquainted with one another as musicians, Lentz says. Eventually, “Tuning Meditation” also became about being more present and connected to the world. “I think it’s given me a deeper appreciation to really listen to people that I’m interacting with, and to listen to the sounds around me when I’m walking outside or whatever I’m doing,” says Lentz. “It is a meditation of sorts, obviously. But as a musician and as a human, it’s given me some

tools to open my ears more, I think, and to engage with others a little bit more through sound and silence.” Prior to the performance, Roc Yoga Revolution’s Lynne Boucher will lead the group in a breathing exercise. Although the link between yoga and music-making may seem tenuous, proper breathing is key to both. “The invisible spiritual becomes visible in yoga, and one way is through moving in time with our breath,” Boucher explains. “And when we’re moving in time with other people, the invisible connection between us is visible and tangible and palpable.” “‘Tuning Meditation’ makes the invisible audible,” she says. “Tuning Meditation” is one of a larger series of pieces by Oliveros called “Sonic Meditations.” Though the specifics of each composition vary, participants create sounds, imagine sounds, listen to the sounds being made around them, and remember the sounds being made. No performance of “Tuning Meditation” is ever the same. The notes that are sung are impossible to predict. But the essence of the sound is consistent: ambient and ethereal and slightly dissonant at times. The voices come off as ghostly or angelic.

A screenshot from “The World Wide Tuning Meditation.” PHOTO PROVIDED roccitynews.org CITY 45


WXXI radio host Mona Seghatoleslami, a member of fivebyfive’s advisory board and a copresenter of the June 6 event, says that “Tuning Meditation” online is “this thing that actually can give you chills, even though you’re standing there alone in your room with your computer.” As uncommon a work as “Tuning Meditation” is, there’s a precedent for performing it online during the pandemic. In April 2020, the Chicago-based International Contemporary Ensemble led about 600 people in “The World Wide Tuning Meditation.” Fivebyfive’s “Composer Chat” series began in February and was designed to highlight the voices of underrepresented composers — particularly women and people of color such as Pamela Z, Sungmin Shin, Sophie Stone, Anthony R. Green, and Miguel del Aguila. But a vital aspect of the series has been its use of technology to bring people together at a time when live concerts had until very recently been impossible to stage. Lentz figures previous “Composer Chat” events

46 CITY JUNE 2021

on Zoom drew between 30 and 40 people. “One thing we wanted to do was to invite people to actually really be a part of music-making with us,” Lentz says. “And Pauline Oliveros’s piece ‘Tuning Meditation’ is probably her most inclusive composition.” Performing “Tuning Meditation” over Zoom is not the same as in person. But Lentz says it allows for a shared experience with people outside of Rochester and around the world and hopes the performance can be a poignant reminder of the need to connect with each other.

‘TUNE’ IN: “Tuning Meditation” is scheduled for June 6 at 1:30 p.m. via Zoom. Anyone wanting to participate can register at fivebyfivemusic.com. The event will also be available via livestream on fivebyfive’s Facebook page and its website, and available for later viewing on the ensemble’s YouTube page.


NEW MUSIC REVIEWS

lyricism to the whiplash-inducing guitar lines. Cusp’s crushing and direct style — combining unbridled post-hardore with clattering post-punk — is a reminder that it’s certainly a band to watch. — BY JOE MASSARO

“SPILL EP” BY CUSP Cusp is a Rochester-based quartet that’s made up of members of Full Body 2 (formerly known as Full Body) and Rut. The quartet’s debut EP, “Spill,” was released on Dadstache Records on May 7 and serves as a striking and fantastic first offering. Recorded in several cities across New York state, “Spill” is a five-song collection that combines bursts of fuzzed-out guitars with introspective angst. Cusp’s wandering, complex arrangements match perfectly with the intense guitars and vocalist Jen Bender’s shaky, monotone delivery. The debut EP is a rapid-fire display of off-kilter melodies and raw emotionality. The opening title track sets the tone for the rest of the EP, with its treble-heavy and unsteady backdrop; it’s a superb showcase of the band’s signature cyclonic style. “Not Certified” is a gut punch that’s insanely catchy, with its hyper-contagious hook and urgent melodicism. “Illusion Controlling” glides through a raucous start-stop rhythm, overflowing with the chaos of sprawling guitars. The closer, “Missing the Part,” is entrancing with its mellow dissonance, until it’s spiked with the band’s onslaught of guitar distortion at the song’s climax. There’s an abundance of honest emotion to be found throughout Cusp’s debut EP, from Bender’s brooding

guitar-bass-drums accompaniment reinforce that comparisons to artists such as Jason Mraz and Vance Joy are understandable — particularly when listening to the album’s single “Feel It All” — but limited and facile. Siciliano possesses an understated soulfulness that’s ever-present but never exploited to the point of excess. It powers “Fire in the Free,” with its flashes of blues rock panache, but it’s even subtler when it’s embedded in the undulating R&B groove of the love ballad “Late in the Night.” “Seeker” is Head to the Roots’s first long-form effort, a fully formed statement that shows Siciliano entering into a new era of musical maturity. It’ll be fascinating to see what direction he heads in next. — BY DANIEL J. KUSHNER

“SEEKER” BY HEAD TO THE ROOTS Rochester musician Anthony Siciliano has been releasing music under the moniker Head to the Roots since 2018, distilling heartfelt hippie vibes into catchy folk-pop packages. On Head to the Roots’s first full-length album “Seeker,” which came out in late April, Siciliano continues to pump out life-affirming songs aching to be Top 40 radio hits. The major development here is that the talented singer-songwriter’s stylistic depth and breadth have grown beyond the straightforward and accessible indie folk to create a diversity of moods over the course of seven meticulously crafted songs. There’s a free-flowing ease to Siciliano’s vocal delivery, and a warmth of tone that reflects his earnest, openhearted lyrics. But it’s his uncanny ability to sniff out melodic hooks, familiar but never stale, that makes each track resonate. Fully formed arrangements that transcend simple

guitar hooks and itchy dance beats. “Master Cat” feels like a timeless confirmation of pop’s all-encompassing power. Hard Nips’s latest release ventures through hooky yet hard-edged power pop that’s infectious and at times frantic — think Blondie, Shonen Knife, and the B-52’s, but through a garage pop lens. The album starts with “Blender X,” an unapologetic and tender-hearted opener that carries a tone heading into the territory of ’60s girl groups and Blondie’s “X Offender” with its kiss-off quality. The off-kilter pop style of the title track is spacey and funky, while “Workaholic” is a raw and hypnotic shuffle. “Alternative Dreamland” begins with a jagged guitar hook that’s eventually smeared over the haunting, bass-driven pulse, with the lyrics echoing a sense of empowerment. The standout track, “Analog Guys,” is all about wired intensity and pop concision, with a tongue-in-cheek spirit that’s powered by a “motorik” rhythmic drive. The mid-tempo closer “Cupid Devil” is darkly-styled, but sloshes together all the pure-pop melodies Hard Nips have drifted into throughout their musical career. Hard Nips’s comeback effort cruises through power pop’s elements of sweetness and simplicity, complete with the band’s sloppy and raw aesthetic, sharp hooks and swooning gang vocals. — BY JOE MASSARO

“MASTER CAT” BY HARD NIPS It’s been four years since the Brooklyn-based garage rock quartet Hard Nips released its brilliant EP “Bunny.” The wait is over with the June 4 release of its third full-length album, “Master Cat,” via the Rochester indie record label Dadstache Records. With three of the four members having moved to New York from Japan, Hard Nips came together in the late-aughts, and has since refined its sound to include an increasing number of sugary

Volunteers needed: E-cigarette users

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Two visits ($50 per visit). The second visit will be 6 months after the first. There will be lung function test and blood draw (two tablespoons), saliva, breath condensate and urine collection at each visit.

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roccitynews.org CITY 47


ARTS

FASCINATIN’ RHYTHM

Michael Lasser, the longtime host of the nationally-syndicated radio program “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” will end the show on June 26. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

WHO COULD ASK FOR ANYTHING MORE? Signing off, Michael Lasser still hears that “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” BY JEFF SPEVAK

S

@JEFFSPEVAK1

umming up 85 years of a man’s life — especially if he’s a bit of a Renaissance man — into a pithy phrase to be printed on the front of a T-shirt isn’t easy. But the one on the shirt Michael Lasser got from Ruth Phinney, his co-worker at Rochester’s WXXI classical radio station, nicely hits on a career milestone: “Ask me about my Peabody.” 48 CITY JUNE 2021

JSPEVAK@WXXI.ORG

“What I’ve always loved about it,” Lasser says, “is it sounds vaguely dirty.” Read into it what you want. Just as you may read what you want into so much of the music of the Great American Songbook, celebrated by Lasser for four decades on his nationally-syndicated weekly radio show, “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” for which he won a coveted George

Foster Peabody Award in 1994 and which he’s bringing to an end with a final broadcast on June 26. The award, which honors storytelling in broadcasting that reflects the social issues and emerging voices of our times, was a nod to something much deeper than the bouncy melody of “Surrey With the Fringe on Top.” In presenting Lasser with the recognition, jurors said his

program was a vivid example of what a listener described as “radio essays with songs used as illustrations.” “That’s how I’ve always thought of it,” Lasser says of that description of his show. The award “was about the way in which the commentary brought the songs alive. There’s an element of social history in those programs.” Broadcaster, teacher, theater critic, lecturer. Lasser is a writer as well. He has freelanced for CITY, written three books, has a fourth at the publisher, and is working on the fifth, “Lovely Day Tomorrow: The Lasting Appeal of the Great American Songbook.” All words about music that seems frozen in time. Yet change is a constant. Grief is a part of it. Lasser lost his wife, Elaine, 21 months ago. There is a sense of urgency now. Time must be used wisely. “One of the reasons I stopped doing the show was I didn’t want to work with a deadline anymore,” he says. “At 85, I think I’m entitled. But I also love these big projects, a book. I just have to learn to write faster. At my age.” The show — originally called “Anything Goes” — was first broadcast on WXXI in November 1980. At its peak, it was being carried by 35 to 40 stations nationwide. “At first it was much more focused on the Broadway musical,” Lasser says. “But over time, I broadened it to include the full range of the Great American Songbook, meaning commercial mainstream popular music, 1920 to 1950. Between the wars, essentially. And then I cheat, I go back to the first years when ragtime and jazz and the blues were shaping the music, and after 1950, when someone like Stephen Sondheim, who is certainly part of the songbook, is still working.” The songs are a soundtrack to the times. “Not only in the feel of the song, but in the content of the song,” Lasser says. “I distrust parceling out understanding of history, decade by decade. But it works here. The ’20s was the party after the war that will end all wars, and the party was going to last forever.” America partied on to “Ain’t She Sweet” and “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue.” But then came the ’30s, marked by the Great Depression and a march toward a second World War, and the songs got “smokier and darker,” Lasser says. By the ’40s, Lasser says, “the sense of loneliness and the longing in them is palpable.”


At the risk of sounding like an old man yelling at those kids to get off his lawn, they don’t write songs like they used to, Lasser says. He despairs over the lyric writing of today. “I like The Beatles a lot, I think highly of them,” he says. “But I don’t own a record.” Perhaps “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “A Hard Day’s Night” aren’t a part of the Great American Songbook because they were written by English songwriters. Lasser, though, says something was lost in the British Invasion and the music that followed. “They don’t know how to rhyme,” he says. “They don’t know how to set words to melodies, syllables to notes. Springsteen is an icon, and deservedly so. But he doesn’t know how to make the words fit within the line. A lot of the time, there’s not the craft, and it’s that craft that creates the feeling, in the best songs, of inevitability. And I don’t find that very much.” Lasser concedes that the songs

of Sondheim and Irving Berlin are “obviously not the center of musical attention anymore.” But that does not mean they cease to exist. “Take your grandkid, who is up on whatever is ‘in,’ knows hip-hop, knows whatever the rage is at the moment — and he should! It’s where his focus should be,” Lasser says. “Take him to a revival of a Broadway musical, take him to see ‘Annie Get Your Gun,’ take him to see ‘Cabaret’ or whatever it is. Doesn’t matter what it is, assuming it’s age appropriate, and watch the delight spread over the kid’s face. “I understand when he and his friend go to a dance, they’re not going to listen to ‘Surrey With the Fringe on Top,’” he goes on. “But the pleasure is there, the richness of the music and the lyrics is such that, if you listen, how do you resist it?” For the songwriters of today, Lasser says, “authenticity has defeated craft.” The lyrics, he says, must merge

with the music to create that third entity: the song. While popular music since the 1960s increasingly focused on social issues, the Great American Songbook has few entries such as Berlin’s “Supper Time,” a song about a lynching. “That was not what they did,” Lasser says. “These songwriters were not only craftsmen, but businessmen. They formed their own publishing companies, because that’s where the money was. A lot of them were Jewish, they were immigrants, they were mostly the children of immigrants, they were connected to that world. But it’s rarely in their songs. Because they wanted to sell a recording to every American who had enough money in his pocket to buy a record.” A major theme of their work became the universal language of love.

“I think it’s the subject of every song and every short poem going back to Sappho,” Lasser says. “Love and sex and romance are things we’re interested in because… they’re interesting.” Such songs are what he calls “a frozen moment — one-act plays or paintings” that had implied narratives and could be “gloriously inauthentic.” Berlin and George Gershwin weren’t writing about themselves. Nor was Cole Porter, who was gay. Weaving his experience into his lyrics would be acceptable today, but not in his time. “Simplicity is a virtue. Accessibility is a virtue,” Lasser says, speaking particularly of the work of Berlin. “It’s easy to write simply. It’s hard to write simply in a way that calls forth emotions, and he was the master of that.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 50

roccitynews.org CITY 49


“It’s time,” Michael Lasser says of ending his show. “I’m content, in the best sense.” PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

What Lasser brought to his show was, in some part, simplicity as a deception. These days, though, with the pandemic loosening its grip on the nation, Lasser goes out to eat at restaurants with friends and even visits his daughter in Connecticut on occasion. When he can’t see her in person, he Zooms with her. He is a voracious reader, often reading in bed for two hours. “There are days when I’m sad,” Lasser says. “Because I lost my wife 21 months ago. Plus COVID, there are days when I’m still very sad. I miss her. Sixty-two years. So that’s something I got right.” He recalls someone who had been a widow for a long time offering him some advice shortly after his wife died that has stuck with him. “You know how people say you’ll heal in time?” he recalls her saying. “She said, ‘They’re wrong. This is the one you don’t get over. But you learn to live with it.’” 50 CITY JUNE 2021

Lasser has spent the better part of two years learning to live with it. “I’m still learning,” he says. “I’ll go along two weeks and be fine, and then for 10 days I’m a wreck. It has a life of its own.” Yet life offers Lasser no choice other than to move on with his own life, and set aside “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” — a show that sometimes suggested it’s easy to write simply, yet hard to write simply in a way that calls forth emotions. Berlin mastered it. After 85 years, Lasser has lived it. “It’s time,” Lasser says. “I’m content, in the best sense.”


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MUSIC //

With evolving NYS guidelines for live music, events are highly subject to change or cancellation. It’s wise to check with individual venues to confirm performances and protocols.

ACOUSTIC/FOLK

Friday Acoustic Sessions. Iron Smoke

Distillery, 111 Parce Ave Suite 5b. Fairport. 388-7584. Fri., June 4, 7:30 & 10:30 p.m. and Fri., June 11, 7:30 & 10:30 p.m. Jun 4: Mr. Mustard; Jun 11: Eric Carlin. Jackson Cavalier. Lovin’ Cup, 300 Park Point Dr. lovincup.com. Fri., June 18, 6 p.m. Music on the Porch: BCW Trio. Tennie Burton Museum, 1850 Rochester St. Lima. limahistorical.org. Sun., June 27, 2 p.m. Sally Louise. Livestream, online. bopshop.com. Thu., June 3, 8 p.m. Sam Nitsch. Lovin’ Cup, 300 Park Point Dr. lovincup.com. Fri., June 4, 6 p.m. Virtual Sing Around. Golden Link Folk Singing Society, online. goldenlink.org. Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m.

You’ve Got a Friend: The Music of Carole King & James Taylor. JCC

Canalside Stage, 1200 Edgewood Ave. jccrochester.org/canalside. Sat., June 5, 7 p.m. and Sun., June 6, 2 p.m. $20-$35.

AMERICANA

Dirty Blanket. Lincoln Hill Farms, 3792

Rte 247. Canandaigua. Fri., June 18, 6 p.m. Advance tickets required. $20.

RECORD STORE DAY

RSD 2021. Sat., June 12. Various, Rochester Hi Fi Lounge, House of Guitars, NeedleDrop, Record Archive recordstoreday.com.

BLUES

Carolyn Wonderland. Abilene, 153 Liberty Pole Way. 232-3230. Sun., June 27, 4 p.m. $40/$45. Johnny Nicholas Trio. Abilene, 153 Liberty Pole Way. 232-3230. Sat., June 26, 8 p.m. $25/$30. Miller & the Other Sinners. 75 Stutson, 75 Stutson St. 75stutsonstreet.com. Sat., June 12, 3 & 7:30 p.m. $20-$50. Rad. Lovin’ Cup, 300 Park Point Dr. lovincup.com. Sat., June 5, 6 p.m.

RPO Outdoors. Perinton Center Stage

Amphitheater, 1350 Turk Hill Rd. Perinton. rpo.org. Thursdays, Fridays, 7:30 p.m. Pods of 2 & 4: $48-$160. Jun 3, 4: Summer Serenade; Jun 10, 11: Summer Suites; Jun 17, 18: Celebración Sinfónica; Jun 24, 25: Cinematic Strings. Stravinsky, Janáček + Bruch. Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, online. rpo.org. Through July 11. $25.

CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL

fivebyfive: Composer Chats. Livestream, online. fivebyfivemusic.com. Sun., June 6, 1:30 p.m. Pauline Oliveros “Tuning Meditation.”

COUNTRY

Drive-In Live: Zac Brown Tribute Band. Roseland Waterpark, 250 Eastern Blvd. Canandaigua. rochesterevents.com. Fri., June 11, 7:30 p.m. $35 & up. Jeff Riales & the Silvertone Express, Our Own Worst Enemy. Photo City Music Hall, 543 Atlantic Ave. 451-0047. Fri., June 11, 8 p.m. $12.

DJ/ELECTRONIC

Jeanie. Photo City Music Hall, 543

Amor Alive, Diluted, Early Retirement, 20 Something. Photo City Music Hall,

543 Atlantic Ave. 451-0047. Sat., June 12, 6 p.m. $8. Amy Montrois. Lovin’ Cup, 300 Park Point Dr. lovincup.com. Fri., June 11, 6 p.m. Cold Sweat. 75 Stutson, 75 Stutson St. 75stutsonstreet.com. Sat., June 19, 6:30 p.m. $20. Drive-In Live: Get the Led Out. Roseland Waterpark, 250 Eastern Blvd. Canandaigua. rochesterevents.com. June 25-26, 7:45 p.m. Maddy Walsh & The Blind Spots. Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St. Geneva. thesmith.org. Sat., June 26, 8 p.m. Advanced tickets only. $20.

Noah Fense, Smigonaut, Negus IRap, Mike Vadala, BooZ. Photo City Music

Hall, 543 Atlantic Ave. 451-0047. Fri., June 25, 9 p.m. $18. Pete Griffith Group, Judah. Lincoln Hill Farms, 3792 Rte 247. Canandaigua. Sat., June 26, 6 p.m. Advance tickets required. $5/$15.

Atlantic Ave. 451-0047. Fri., June 4, 8 p.m. $18.

POPS/STANDARDS

JAZZ

Orchestra, online. rpo.org. Through June 13. $25.

Herb Smith & Freedom Trio. Abilene,

153 Liberty Pole Way. 232-3230. Sat., June 5, 7 p.m. $15/$20. Illegal Crowns. Livestream, online. bopshop.com. Thu., June 24, 8 p.m. La Voz de Tres. Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St. Geneva. thesmith.org. Sun., June 6, 2 p.m. Geneva Music Festival. $25. Laura Dubin & Antonio Guerrero. Livestream, online. Ongoing, 8:30 p.m. Live on FB. Michael Sarian. Livestream, online. bopshop.com. Thu., June 17, 8 p.m.

Zach Brock & Bob Lanzetti (of Snarky Puppy). Lovin’ Cup, 300 Park Point Dr. lovincup.com. Sun., June 13, 7 p.m.

CLASSICAL

JAM BAND

Orchestra, online. rpo.org. Through July 16. $25. Eastman Opera: Mozart Mayhem. Eastman School of Music, esm.rochester. edu/live. Through June 28. ECMS Springfest 2021. Eastman School of Music, esm.rochester.edu/live. Through June 6. The Grand Finale. Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St. Geneva. thesmith.org. Sat., June 12, 7:30 p.m. Geneva Music Festival. $25. Mahler 4. Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, online. rpo.org. Through June 20. $25. Poets, Peace & Power. Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St. Geneva. thesmith. org. Fri., June 4, 7:30 p.m. Geneva Music Festival. Dashon Burton, baritone; Michelle Cann, piano. $25.

Atlantic Ave. 451-0047. Fri., June 18, 8 p.m. $10. Midnight North. Lincoln Hill Farms, 3792 Rte 247. Canandaigua. Fri., June 11, 6 p.m. Advance tickets required. $25. Mud Creek, The Old Souls Band. Lincoln Hill Farms, 3792 Rte 247. Canandaigua. Fri., June 25, 6 p.m. Advance tickets required. $5/$15.

Beethoven 1. Rochester Philharmonic

Amanda Ashley: Afternoon Cocktail. Livestream, online. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 1 p.m. Live on FB.

Delilah Jones. Photo City Music Hall, 543

METAL

GET IN OUR CORNER

Latin Heat. Rochester Philharmonic

VARIOUS

A Little Night Music. Wednesdays,

Sundays, 6:30 p.m Little Theatre, 240 East Ave. The Jack Garner Theatre (Theater 5). Jun 2: Big Blue House; Jun 6: Classical Guitar Night; Jun 9: Kinloch Nelson; Jun 13: The Rita Collective; Jun 16: The Spring Chickens $5. thelittle.org/ music. Live Happy Hour. Wednesdays, 6 p.m Record Archive, 33 1/3 Rockwood St. Reservations required. Jun 2: Bradley Bros.; Jun 9: Chris Cady; Jun 16: Katy & Brian; Jun 23: Brian Ayers; Jun 30: The Misfit Toys 244-1210. Music To Your Ears. Thu., June 24, 7 p.m. Livestream, online. Benefits Rochester Hearing & Speech Center $10 & up. rhsc.org/music-to-your-ears.

VOCALS

Rochester Rhapsody Chorus. Temple

Beth El, 139 S Winton Rd. 721-8369. Mon., June 14, 7 p.m.

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WORLD

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Barbara B Smith World Music Series.

Eastman School of Music, esm. rochester.edu/live. Sun., June 27, 3 p.m. Mudavanhu Magaya, Mbira.

Anthropic, Waldhexen, Sulaco. Photo City Music Hall, 543 Atlantic Ave. 4510047. Sat., June 19, 7 p.m. $8.

POP/ROCK

1916, Rockhouse Riot. Photo City Music Hall, 543 Atlantic Ave. 451-0047. Sat., June 5, 7 p.m. $10.

roccitynews.org CITY 53


ARTS

HIDDEN FIGURES

Genesee Country Village & Museum is a “living museum” that depicts the lives of western New York's early settlers. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

RECKONING WITH REPRESENTATION

Historical interpreters Noah and Naomi with Not Your Momma's History at GCV&M in 2019. PHOTO BY JOANN LONG

Genesee Country Village & Museum’s inaugural commemoration of Juneteenth is part of its ongoing effort to more accurately portray the people of 19th-century New York. BY REBECCA RAFFERTY

I

@RSRAFFERTY

t is a breezy, sunny spring day in the hamlet of Mumford on the western edge of Monroe County, and two women in well-worn dresses, dirty aprons, and white bonnets are at work in a farmhouse kitchen. An open door helps cool air circulate around a wood fire oven that’s belching heat into the tiny room. One woman periodically checks the temperature

54 CITY JUNE 2021

BECCA@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

of a massive vat of milk that’s slowly heating, while the other looks on, learning the skill of making cheese. Nearby, shelves hold older partial wheels of cheese, herb-infused vinegar, and various jars of fruit jams. Outside, seedlings have begun to sprout from the sun-warmed soil in the garden. Down the lane, a farming couple pick flowers on their way to tend to their

cows and pigs. They pass a general store, a dressmaker’s shop, a brewery, churches, and a schoolhouse. If their world sounds like something out of the past, that’s because it is. They’re in a recreation of an historic village at the Genesee Country Village & Museum, with its 68 authentic buildings on more than 600 acres of land, where visitors learn what everyday

life was like for average people living in 19th-century rural New York. What life was like for average white people, that is. Black or Indigenous historic interpreters, as the denizens of this village are known, are scarce at the museum, which like many other institutions of its kind is grappling with how to better represent the experiences


David Shakes interprets many famous and lesser-known historical African-American figures. Here he portrays William Wells Brown, who was born into slavery and became a prolific writer. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

A replica printing of an Anti-Slavery Fair poster from 1849 from the town of Victor. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

of native peoples and people of color who once lived here. After decades of limited representation of people of color, and amid a nationwide reckoning on racial injustice, the museum has been engaging in some institutional soulsearching. Change, its officials pledge, is in the works. “We recognize as a museum, particularly one that’s focused on 19thcentury history, that it’s important for us to expand some of the stories that we’re telling,” Kara Calder, the senior director of programs at the museum, said. To that end, the museum is staging its inaugural celebration of Juneteenth on June 19 with programming that focuses on what Calder described as “what the lives of Black individuals and families were like at that time,” with Black historic interpreters telling those stories. Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the summer day in 1865 when federal troops enforced the emancipation of a quarter of a million enslaved people in Galveston, Texas — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery. Word of emancipation hadn’t reached — or was ignored by — slaveholders in more geographically isolated areas of the country, until Union Major General Gordon Granger and his army stepped in.  Plans for a Juneteenth event at the museum were actually in motion for 2020, Calder said, but were placed on hold because of the pandemic.   The museum has tapped Black historic interpreters in the past as consultants and collaborators for specific projects. Some of the interpreters pose as prominent historical figures for special events. Last year, for instance, the museum incorporated into its Yuletide Celebration event a scene about Watch Night, a late-night Christian service held on New Year’s Eve that commemorates when African Americans gathered in churches on New Year’s Eve in 1862, to await the hour when the Emancipation Proclamation would take effect on January 1, 1863. But museum officials acknowledge that these instances aren’t consistent enough to accurately represent what life was like for average people of color in this region. 

A ‘LIVING MUSEUM’ Since its founding in 1966, Genesee Country Village & Museum has functioned as a “living history” museum, dedicated to preserving tangible history through the buildings and artifacts transported to the grounds from all over western New York, and to showcasing what life was like through the work of historic interpreters who interact with the visiting public. The site feels like an authentic village, and there are many bits of the collections that stand out. There is George Eastman’s childhood home, a stately little structure built in 1840 in the rural Oneida County village of Waterville. There are the wedding outfits of Frederick Douglass and his second wife, Helen Pitts, which are currently on display in the museum’s gallery with information on the variety of ways that enslaved and newly-free Black people’s marriages were or were not recognized. “The most important thing I always tell people when I’m doing presentations is it’s the nameless and faceless that we have to pay homage to,” said David Shakes, the director of the Rochester theater troupe The North Star Players, who is one of a few Black historic interpreters who has a longstanding relationship with the museum. He has consulted with regional and national historic organizations for decades, and portrayed Frederick Douglass and abolitionist and playwright William Wells Brown at Genesee Country Village many times over the years. “We know Frederick Douglass, we know Harriet Tubman,” Shakes said. “We know some of the icons, but I like to take a moment to say, ‘Hey, there are people who did things to help other people and help causes that we will never know and we need to recognize and take a moment for that.’” Representation of Black and Indigenous people isn’t a small issue at Genesee Country Village, particularly considering the breadth of the museum’s educational responsibilities. The museum annually hosts educational programs for between 18,000 and 20,000 schoolchildren; 4,000 to 5,000 of whom attend Rochester public schools, where 53 percent of students are Black and 33 percent are Hispanic. CONTINUED ON PAGE 56

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A historical interpreter works on a quilt. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

Becky Wehle is the CEO of the Genesee Country Village & Museum. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

“Certainly in our school programs we have diversity,” said the museum’s chief executive officer, Becky Wehle, who is the granddaughter of the village’s founder, John L. Wehle. “But then as we do better and engage more community partners, we will hopefully continue to attract a broader audience as well. ‘This was what western New York in the 19th-century was like, there were all different kinds of people here’ — our mission is to tell that story. And 56 CITY JUNE 2021

so that’s where this ties back to giving a fuller picture of what the community looked like and what the activities that were going on were.” There are some obstacles to inclusion, however. Funding is one of them, Wehle explained. A lot of government grants don’t cover seasonal or part-time employees that make up most of the historic interpreter staff. “Our interpretation staff, aside from a handful of supervisors, are not

Brian Nagel, the museum’s senior director of interpretation. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

year round, because we’re only open full time from Mother’s Day until October,” she said. “So that that’s a big part of the challenge as well. We have been trying to identify some of these barriers, and figure out: is there a way we could create a position that is potentially funded from the outside, that would allow someone to work year- round?” Another challenge is what the museum can afford to pay its

interpreters. Senior Director of Interpretation Brian Nagel said it is tough to attract people to drive to the edge of the county line to do seasonal work for minimum wage. “Before I arrived, the museum got an (Institute of Museum and Library Services) grant for doing an interpretive master plan,” said Nagel, who has been with the museum since 2005. “So we brought in experts from various areas to try to develop a plan for how we


ABOUT TOWN wanted to move forward over time. And so we’ve been working at that a little bit. But certainly getting into a more diverse interpretation has been a challenge. Fighting for STEM, other kinds of activities, has been easier than trying to break that diversity barrier.” A NOD TO REALITY Genesee Country Village’s buildings and interpreters represent a wide period of time in western New York. The museum has one foot in the era when slavery was active in New York state, and the other in the time after 1827, when it was abolished. On either side of that year, though, there were thousands of formerly enslaved fugitives living free-but-furtive in New York. Even after abolishment, slave catchers would descend on northern cities and villages in pursuit of fugitives, often in cahoots with police and judges. Mention of this reality is vague at Genesee Country Village. A visitor might learn about the Underground Railroad, or hear mention of the Abolition movement and the support it had in area towns. But on a typical day visitors will find no substantial focus on Black people’s reality during these times. The museum’s Juneteenth celebration is a nod to that reality. Such commemorations have been gaining support locally and nationally the past few years. In 2020, Juneteenth became a state holiday in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia, and there’s an ongoing push for Congress to recognize it as a federal holiday.  The Juneteenth event will include storytelling, poetry, activities, and education — from the mouths of Black historic interpreters — about what life was like for Black people in western New York when emancipation was complete.  Visitors will hear stories of prominent African American figures, including Shakes’s portrayal of William Wells Brown, but also see representation of average Black people living in western New York during the time when news of emancipation went national.  “A number of former enslaved individuals seeking family members would have posted notices, either broadsides on boards or notices in papers,” Calder said, adding that this aspect will be represented both in printed broadsides posted at the museum’s print shop, and through live interpretation of families seeking newly freed family members.

That’s where Cheyney McKnight comes in. McKnight is another historic interpreter tapped by Genesee Country Village to present at Juneteenth. She’ll work with a small group of other interpreters to tell a story of what it may have been like for a newly emancipated southern Black family to encounter a northern Black family, in a time period when folks were seeking sold-off family members long separated from them. “We have a tendency to really focus on extraordinary circumstances,” McKnight said of the typical focus on famous historic African Americans.  “The reality of the 19th-century in America is that the average Black person was enslaved,” McKnight said. “But we have other realities. Upstate New York had Black people who were free since the American Revolution. And so I wonder, when those Black people met Black people who were running away to the north . . . what were those interactions like, what were the cultural differences they encountered?” Based in New York City, McKnight is a living historian who operates under the company name Not Your Momma’s History, and, like Shakes, has been involved in historic interpretation for many institutions and groups both locally and on a national level.  In her travels and collaborations, McKnight says she’s taken note of some institutions that are doing inclusion and representation well.  “The Whitney Plantation in Louisiana is just doing it so well,” she said. “The way in which they approach interpreters who should be interpreting. I had never before been to a plantation where they were really straight-up. And I think it’s very important to have descendants of the enslaved community present in the conversation.” Representation is important not only to paint a more complete portrait of life in 19th-century western New York, but also as an opportunity for discovery, Shakes said. He said he’s witnessed audience members connect with material he presents on the Underground Railroad, sometimes sharing their small towns’ involvement in the clandestine network of safe houses and routes. “We’re still learning things,” Shakes said.

Festivals

16th Annual Cherry Festival. June 26-

27, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Varick Winery, 5102 State Rte 89, Romulus varickwinery.com. Celtic Faire. June 12-13, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Rd Mumford $17-$23. gcv.org. Fairport Canal Days. June 5-6, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Village of Fairport, Main St Masks required fairportcanaldays.com.

Juneteenth

BLACK AF Juneteenth Liberation Rally.

Sun., June 20, 4 p.m. School #9, 485 N Clinton Ave. Black-Owned Business Pop-Up. Sat., June 19, 2-4 p.m. Irondequoit Town Hall, 1280 Titus Ave Hosted by ERASE (Eliminating Racism & Seeking Equity) 509-7666. Honoring Juneteenth. Sat., June 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Rd Mumford $17-$23. gcv.org. Juneteenth Celebration. Sat., June 19, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Strong National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Sq. (museumofplay. org) $18/$23.

Juneteenth Celebration & Teen Poetry Slam. Sat., June 19, 6 p.m. Highland

Bowl, 1137 South Ave. Contestant registration (ages 12-18) due Jun 16 667-0660. Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom. Sun., June 20, 4 p.m. Legacy Drama House, 112 Webster Ave 471-5335.

Strike for Freedom: Frederick Douglass in Scotland (2019). Sat., June 19,

1 p.m. Virtual Central Library, online. Screening & discussion with director Parisa Urquhart 428-8370.

Lectures

16th Annual Virtual Reshaping Rochester Lecture Series. Wed., June

23, noon. June Grant: Justice, Equality, & A New Community. cdcrochester.org.

Ghosts & Hauntings in Western NY: Accounts from 19th-Century Newspapers. Mon., June 21, 6 p.m.

Virtual Central Library, online. 428-8370.

Home to the Prosperous & Penniless.

Sat., June 19, 11 a.m. Mount Hope Cemetery, 1133 Mt Hope Ave. Advance tickets required $12. fomh.org.

In This Moment: Revolution Reckoning Reparation. Thu., June 3, 7 p.m., Tue.,

June 15, 7 p.m. and Thu., June 24, 7:15 p.m. Livestream, online. Jun 3: Race & Placemaking in Rochester; Jun 15: Black Women’s Health; Jun 24: Born in Babylon calendar.libraryweb.org. Jewish Roots in Rochester. Sun., June 13, 11 a.m. Mount Hope Cemetery, 1133 Mt Hope Ave. Advance tickets required $12. fomh.org. Pop Up Historians. Sat., June 19, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mount Hope Cemetery, 791 Mt Hope Ave. fomh.org. Sunday Tours. Sundays, 2 p.m Mount Hope Cemetery, 791 Mt Hope Ave. North Gatehouse $12/$15. fomh.org. Temples on the Lawn. Sat., June 5, 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. Mount Hope Cemetery, 1133 Mt Hope Ave. Advance tickets required $12. fomh.org.

Twilight Tours. Thursdays, 7 p.m Mount Hope Cemetery, 791 Mt Hope Ave. North Gatehouse $12?$15. fomh.org. Underground Railroad Tracks. Sat., June 26, 11 a.m. Mount Hope Cemetery, 1133 Mt Hope Ave. Advance tickets required $12. fomh.org. Women First Tour. Sat., June 12, 11 a.m. Mount Hope Cemetery, 791 Mt Hope Ave. Advance tickets required $12. fomh.org.

Kids Events

David Kunz: Grandfather Stories. Sun., June 27, 2 p.m. Greece Historical Society & Museum, 595 Long Pond Rd. 2257221. Storybook Walk. Fri., June 18, 5:30 p.m. Helmer Nature Center, 154 Pinegrove Ave Kids grades K-2. Registration required $5. 336-3035. Wonderland Adventures. June 12-13, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Strong National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Sq. (museumofplay. org) $18/$23.

Recreation

Family Springtime Walk. Saturdays, 1 p.m. and Sat., June 19, 1 p.m Letchworth State Park, 1 Letchworth State Park . Castile Registration required 493-3682. Lunch in Old Growth Woods. Tue., June 8, 11 a.m., Thu., June 17, 11 a.m., Thu., June 24, 11 a.m. and Tue., June 29, 11 a.m. Letchworth State Park, 1 Letchworth State Park . Castile Registration required 493-3682. Spring Family Field Trip Days. Thursdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Rd Mumford $7/$11. gcv.org. Yoga in the Pines. Sun., June 13, 3 p.m. Cumming Nature Center, 6472 Gulick Rd. $18. rmsc.org.

Special Events

Community Garage Sales. Sun., June 13, 7 a.m.-1 p.m., Sun., June 20, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. and Sun., June 27, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Rochester Public Market, 280 N. Union St. 428-6907. Father’s Day. Sun., June 20, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Rd Mumford Free admission for dads $12-$18. gcv.org. Flower City Days. Sun., June 6, 8 a.m.2 p.m Rochester Public Market, 280 N. Union St. 428-6907. The Lucky Flea Market. Sundays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m Good Luck, 50 Anderson Ave. theluckyflea.com. Peony & Rose Weekend. June 1213, 12-3 p.m. Ellwanger Garden, 625 Mt. Hope Ave. $5 suggested. landmarksociety.org. Sunrise Solar Eclipse. Thu., June 10, 5:15 a.m. Hamlin Beach State Park, 1 W Hamlin Beach Blvd. Viewing with RMSC staff, parking Area 4 friendsofhamlinbeach.org Thu., June 10, 5:15 a.m. Martin Road Park, 1344 Martin Rd West Henrietta Viewing with RMSC staff. Virtual House & Garden Tour. June 18-27. Livestream, online. Waterfront properties $20/$25. landmarksociety.org/ housetour.

roccitynews.org CITY 57


LIFE

RANDOM ROCHESTER

BY DAVID ANDREATTA

@DAVID_ANDREATTA

DANDREATTA@ROCHESTER-CITYNEWS.COM

How the pool table that shaped Martin Luther King Jr. came to Rochester

M

any people might be surprised to learn that before he led the Montgomery bus boycott or March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. honed his passion for social justice and genius for connecting with the common man around a pool table as a student at Crozer Theological Seminary. Still more might be surprised to learn that that pool table spent the better part of the last 50 years in and around Rochester and is today on the second floor of a civil rights lawyer’s office in the Grove Place Historic District near the Eastman School of Music. “I do get goosebumps when I play on the table or touch the table,” said Van White, who recently acquired the table, had it restored, and placed it in a room dedicated to King’s memory in his law office. White is perhaps best known in Rochester as the longtime president of the city’s Board of Education. But he wears many hats, including that of a lawyer and, currently, candidate for Monroe County Court judge.  He is also, though, a collector of artifacts of the civil rights movement. Most of his law office, which not coincidentally is housed in a 19thcentury Italianate mansion with ties to Susan B. Anthony’s lawyer Henry Selden, has been turned into a museum called the Center for the Study of Civil and Human Rights Law.  The center is a labor of love, both intriguing for the pieces it holds — from leg irons used on enslaved Black people to a monogrammed shirt and hat owned by President Lyndon Johnson — and endearing for the aspirations it doesn’t quite reach. One room is filled with a hodgepodge

of Woolworth’s paraphernalia that White hopes one day to use to recreate the lunch counter where four Black students sat in defiance of segregation in 1960. He calls the center “the house bigots built,” a nod to the discrimination and neglect cases he has won that enabled him to amass his collection, which includes a 1950s-style bus that is the same model as the one in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. The bus, White said, was recently broken into by vandals. The latest item to be added to the collection, and perhaps the most historically significant for its contribution to shaping a man known the world over, is the pool table traced to King. At that table King is said to have played eight ball until the wee hours of the morning, philosophized with fellow seminarians, and emerged from the shadow of his disciplinarian father to become his own man. The table had sat for decades in the basement of the central dormitory of what was Crozer Theological Seminary in southeastern Pennsylvania. The three-story, stucco-coated stone building was known as Old Main and had been used as a hospital during the Civil War. When King took up residence there in 1948, he was assigned to a room on the second floor that had once been occupied by a Confederate soldier. By most historical accounts, there wasn’t much for entertainment on the campus, so after their evening meal, students often congregated around the one pool table in the basement. “We played pool until sometimes three o’clock in the morning,” King’s late close friend, Walter McCall, once

WANT TO SHARE AN IDEA FOR RANDOM ROCHESTER?

Make sure it’s weird and send it to dandreatta@rochester-citynews.org. 58 CITY JUNE 2021

recalled of his time with King at Crozer in an interview after his assassination. In his 2018 biography of King, “The Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr. Comes of Age,” author Patrick Parr described how King, who earned a bachelor of divinity degree from Crozer in 1951 at the age of 22, became proficient at eight ball despite an initial reluctance to partake in the game due in part to his strict upbringing. Sometime in 1950, Parr reported, King’s father and uncle, Joel King, visited the campus and King took them to the basement to show off his pool skills. His uncle was stunned when King lit up a cigarette and got to playing. “Daddy King had never had any patience for smoking, drinking, cursing, or even pool,” Parr wrote. “But as they watched King knock in a few pool balls, puffing away like a natural, Daddy King did nothing. “Later, Uncle Joel asked his brother why he didn’t try to discipline King there in the basement. Daddy King remained silent,” he wrote. “‘Never got an answer,’ said Joel King. Martin Sr. must have realized that his son had outgrown such heavy-handed parenting.” James Beshai, 94, who studied with King at Crozer and figures prominently in Parr’s book, was one of several people who authenticated the table for White. The table has diamond ivory inlays on the rails and decorative brass caps dot the sides. “Because I spent so much time in the basement of Old Main playing pool and talking, I could never forget that table,” Beshai wrote in an affidavit confirming the table’s provenance. Beshai, a retired psychology professor, recalled in a phone interview from his home in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, how King taught him

to play eight ball on the table and how they whiled away the hours around the table philosophizing, parsing international affairs, and discussing their favorite authors, particularly the work of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. “Although he studied philosophy and religion, he was able to communicate to the average person using the pool table as a medium to explain things to them,” Beshai said.   “How there is competition, but this competition should be based on objective facts . . . and who wins and who loses is a fact determined by the rules of the game,” Beshai went on. “Transmitting a message of civil rights and equality is a higher conceptual level, but he was able to bring the pool table as a practical example of competition, which should be based on equality rather than race, color, or religion.” That King used the game of pool to connect with people and advance the struggle for civil rights is well documented. In 1962, amid a desegregation campaign in Albany, Georgia, that turned violent, King pledged on television to “go to the pool rooms” to urge people to remain peaceful. The cameras followed him to Dick’s Cue Room, where he preached his message. Perhaps the best known image of King playing pool was taken in 1966 during a stop in Chicago for an “anti-slum” campaign, when he was photographed sitting on the rail of a table about to execute a behind-the-back shot. A few years later, in 1970, the table on which King mastered the clean break and his knack for talking to everyday people at their level was up for grabs.  Crozer was closing and merging with the Colgate Rochester Divinity School, forming what would become Colgate


Civil rights lawyer Van White has restored the pool table that Martin Luther King Jr. used in his youth. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

Rochester Crozer Divinity School. Everything, from furniture and books to personnel were either being discarded or transferred. Among the faculty who relocated to Rochester were two professors, Kenneth “Snuffy” Smith and Theodore Weeden. Smith was a seasoned applied Christianity professor at Crozer who began teaching there shortly after graduating from the school in 1948. He was so young at the time that he chose to live in Old Main with the seminarians and resided just a few doors down from King. He would eventually become an early mentor to King and, like everyone else who was close to King in his seminary days, he spent time with him around the pool table, according to Parr’s biography and Smith’s daughter, Meredith Ann Nichols. “At the time (of the merger), professors were asked if they would like the pool table,” Nichols wrote in an affidavit verifying the provenance

of the table. “One of the professors, the Reverend Theodore J. Weeden, took possession of the pool table and brought it with him to Rochester.” Weeden and Smith and their families settled near each other in Brighton, and for the next 20 or more years, the pool table, which Weeden had refurbished, would occupy a prominent place in the basement of Weeden’s home on Glen Hill Road. “It was a known thing as a little kid that this was King’s table,” said Weeden’s son, Brian Weeden. “That’s what it was. Any time we had friends over . . . that’s what I would tell people, like it was normal. ‘This is grandma’s tea kettle and this is King’s table.’ It was very inspiring.” One of those childhood friends was White, who recalled being touched by King as a boy but acknowledged not grasping the significance of the table on which he and his friend “Weeds” would play pool.

“Mr. Weeden would tell us the table came from Crozer and Martin Luther King played on it and it was, like, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’” White, 59, said. “But you know, you’re thinking about other things, playing football, or whatever kids do in high school . . . we really didn’t appreciate as I do now as an adult.” The elder Weeden understood the significance of the table and when he later sold his home on Glen Hill, and anywhere he relocated thereafter, the only condition of his new residence was that it be big enough to house the pool table, his son said. “My father was very proud of it,” Weeden said. When his father could no longer take the table with him, he gifted it to White and his Center for the Study of Civil and Human Rights Law. White took possession of the table about 18 months ago and, from there, set about refurbishing it, authenticating its provenance, and giving it a proper home.

The room in which it sits today is an homage to King and his work. The walls are bedecked with portraits of King and paraphernalia of the March on Washington, which White’s father attended. A King James Bible sits atop a pulpit. A short film about King’s passion for pool, titled “Pool Shark for the People,” plays on a television in the corner. White hosts tours of his collection for schoolchildren with some regularity and intends to add the King room to the circuit.  “You hear about the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,’ but rarely do you hear of the hustle that he engaged in to get people involved in the movement when he wasn’t sitting in a church,” White said. “This allows people to understand how he made a connection with people through the use of a very common game.”

roccitynews.org CITY 59


LIFE

SIDE SALAD SHUFFLE

A trio of summer sides: potato salad, pasta salad, and macaroni salad. PHOTOS BY JACOB WALSH

SUMMER ON THE SIDE Three no-fail side salads to bring to any backyard BBQ BY J. NEVADOMSKI

H

ave you ever been invited to a backyard BBQ or block party, asked the host if you can bring anything, and been given the anxiety-inducing task of preparing a side dish for everyone to share? Of course you have, and you will again. But don’t fret next time. We’ve got you covered with three easyto-prepare, crowd-pleasing side salads. 60 CITY JUNE 2021

These no-fail salads are familiar cookout staples — potato, pasta, and macaroni salads — but with unique twists on ingredients so that you won’t have to worry about someone else bringing an identical dish to the party. For example, I prefer to use avocado oil mayo as a substitute for regular mayonnaise. It’s healthier and has a richer, creamier flavor, and better texture.

The best part is these recipes are simple enough to be whipped up on short notice with little effort. Each can easily be expanded by doubling the ingredients or modified to your own liking by adding in more vegetables or protein of your choice. Have fun!


MOM’S HEIRLOOM POTATO SALAD SERVES 6-8 My mother’s potato salad is the stuff of local legend. Her version is a riff on her grandmother’s equally-famous potato salad. The following recipe is my attempt to capture the generational magic of these concoctions — although they are utterly impossible to accurately reproduce because there is no written recipe — for a crowd-pleasing addition to any summer gathering. YOU WILL NEED:  8-10 medium to large red potatoes (boiled, peeled and chopped into cubes) 1 medium red onion (small diced)  6-8 hard boiled eggs (peeled and cut into quarters)  2 ribs of celery (chopped into small wedges) 1 tablespoon fresh chives (finely chopped) 1 tablespoon fresh parsley (chopped)  1 cup avocado oil mayo (more to taste)  2 tablespoons white vinegar (or Dijon mustard)  Salt and pepper to taste  In a large mixing bowl starting at room temperature (or chilled) combine all the ingredients and mix well, taste-testing and fine-tuning the salt, pepper, and vinegar (or mustard) as needed. Served chilled.

THE BEST PASTA SALAD SERVES 6-8 This pasta salad is my go-to for every summer gathering. It is quick and easy to make ahead of time, and always shocks in its simplicity, minimal ingredients, and fresh, bright flavors. You can jazz it up by adding green olives, capers, marinated baby octopus, or artichokes, if you want to experiment; but I think less is more with this dish. YOU WILL NEED:  1 pound of pasta (radiatore or farfalle are best) cooked al dente 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley (finely chopped) 3-4 tablespoons fresh basil (roughly chopped) 1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes (or 1 cup fresh chopped tomatoes)  1 large ball of fresh mozzarella (cut into small cubes + 1 tablespoon of the brine) 3 cloves of fresh garlic (finely chopped) 1/4 cup of olive oil  1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar Salt and pepper (to taste) Prepare the fresh ingredients while the pasta is cooking. As soon as the pasta is finished and drained, immediately combine all the ingredients and cover. Let rest at least one hour so the flavors can marry before serving. Serve at room temperature.  CONTINUED ON PAGE 62

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MACARONI SALAD THAT DOESN’T SUCK (MORE THAN JUST MAYO) SERVES 6-8

Macaroni salad is a ubiquitous side dish of summer. But it is unfortunately more often than not a flat, mayo- and ketchup-based concoction sprinkled with celery and shredded carrots in a pathetic attempt to jazz it up. My version ratchets up the flavor with a Tex-Mex flair that is sure to delight. You can experiment with additional ingredients such as black beans, shredded roasted chicken, and slices of fresh jalapeños.

YOU WILL NEED 1 pound of al dente cooked pasta (small elbow is best) 1 cup of avocado oil mayo 1/4 cup of sour cream 1/2 red onion (finely chopped) 1 10-oz can of diced tomatoes with green chilies (drained)  1 3.8-oz can of sliced black olives (drained) 1 tablespoon of Goya adobo seasoning (or to taste) 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro (finely chopped) 3-4 strips of well-cooked bacon (crumbled)  Salt & pepper (to taste) In a large mixing bowl starting at room temperature (or chilled) combine all the ingredients and mix well, taste testing and fine tuning the salt, pepper, and mayo. Let sit at least one hour so the flavors can marry before serving. Serve chilled.   J. Nevadomski is the author of the longrunning “Highlife for Lowlifes” series and is a food and culture contributor to CITY.

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roccitynews.org CITY 63


LIFE

WHAT ALES ME

Eric Salazar, the director of wood-aged beers at Strangebird Brewing, pours a a glass of Salus. PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

ROCHESTER BREWERIES WALK ON THE WILD SIDE WITH WILD ALES BY GINO FANELLI

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@GINOFANELLI

n a sunny morning recently, Eric Salazar, the director of wood-aged beers at Strangebird Brewing on Marshall Street in Rochester, poured a glass of Salus, the brewery’s wild dark saison. Upon a first sip, the off-brown brew is tart, then shifts to darker notes of woodiness and funk before ending with an herbal, tonic water-esque finish. “The challenge of my career has always been balance,” Salazar said. “It’s to let all parts of the beer live and breathe and have a place in the profile, and not be overtaken by whatever fruit you’ve added, whatever bacteria you’ve added.” 64 CITY JUNE 2021

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Salus is the first wild ale offering from Strangebird, but far from the first for Salazar. In fact, Salazar is credited with bringing wild beers to the United States. In 1996 while working at New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado, Salazar, alongside his former wife Lauren Limbach and brewmaster Peter Bouckaert, produced La Folie, a sour ale that is widely considered the first commercial wild ale made in America. Aged in French oak foeder vessels and brimming with nuanced notes of tart cherry, dark chocolate, and nondescript funk, the beer would be

standard fare in a place like the Flanders region of Belgium, where wild ales have their origins in beers like lambics, framboises, saisons, and Flanders red ales. Coincidentally, Bouckaert had trained at the heralded Flemish brewery Rodenbach. But La Folie was unlike anything American beer drinkers had ever tasted. “For me, it was the challenge,” Salazar said of brewing wood-aged wild ales. “You’re producing a beer that you don’t know right away whether it’s good or not. You’ve spent all of the time, heart, and soul in making the beer, and you have no idea what the end result will be.”

For the uninitiated, a wild ale is a beer brewed using wild yeast, as opposed to commercial brewer’s yeast, and assorted bacterias, and is typically aged in wood barrels for a long period of time. While most beer is aged over a matter of weeks, wild ales spend months, sometimes more than a year, in the barrel. The “bugs,” as Salazar calls the bacteria, mix and mingle, adding nuanced layers of flavor and personality. Bacterias like Lactobacillus add sourness, while the yeast Brettanomyces evokes spiciness reminiscent of a farmhouse. If done right, the latter can bring out an


earthiness in a wild ale. If done wrong, the beer can literally taste like shit. Wild ales are challenging to make because they take months to produce and the result is never guaranteed. Thus, despite the beer world’s fervor for Belgian wild ales like Cantillion, a quarter-century on from La Folie’s introduction, you’re unlikely to find many small breweries investing time in wild ales. But some do. Located on the Erie Canal in Pittsford, Copper Leaf Brewing opened in April with a surprising three wild ales on tap, one with peach, another with blackberries, and a third with strawberries. The cozy taproom is adorned with barrels set up between tables, each with a water-filled stopper sticking out from the barrel, bubbling away as the bugs do their work. Co-owner Clay Killian said he developed a passion for wild ales through cooking. “All of this came from my love for creating flavors and cooking,” Killian said. “Brewing is really sort of like cooking with science. I look at it as a lot of chemistry and science and equations and different factors involved, but at the end of the day, you’re cooking beer.” In recent years, an explosion in sour ales, typically those laced with heavy doses of fruit, has swept the craft beer market. These beers, dubbed kettle sours, or informally “quick sours,” are beers inoculated with Lactobacillus. While wild ales are a variety of sour ales, not all sour ales are wild ales. The distinction is important because you’ll find sour beers at most any brewery nowadays, including Strangebird and Copper Leaf. They’re cheaper and easier to produce than wild ales, but are not as layered or nuanced. In the current beer landscape, a quick sour typically works as a vehicle for whatever fruit flavors are added. Out on Seneca Lake, Jesse Perlmutter of Pantomime Mixtures has carved out a niche for himself by focusing exclusively on wild beers. He is planning on expanding that idea by branching off into wild fermented wines, dubbed “natural wine,” and ciders in coming months. Perlmutter said kettle sours are the fast food of sour ales. They’re quick, easy, and can be satisfying, but are an

DRINK THIS NOW: Salus by Strangebird Brewing Company 62 Marshall St., Rochester

A gateway of deceptively bright, acidic notes gives way to a torrent of dark, earthy flavors laced with subtle notes of roast and woodiness, before finishing with a crisp, herbal bite. Barrel-Aged American Wild Ale with Peaches by Copper Leaf Brewing  50 State St., Building G, Pittsford

Eric Salazar takes a sample of a wild Belgian golden ale from a barrel. PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

unsophisticated version of the sour style. Wild ales, on the other hand, are perhaps the most complex. If a kettle sour were a McRib, a wild ale is a slow-smoked rack from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. “I feel like it’s really the way Americans take technology and take a beverage idea and make it (faster and easier),” Perlmutter said of kettle sours. Salazar, Perlmutter, and Killian all agree that wild ales won’t be the next big thing in craft beer. They won’t replace IPAs or kettle sours. They’re too complex

to brew, and their nuance and foreign flavors can turn off casual American drinkers. Yet across the country, and right here in Rochester, more breweries are dabbling in these long-fermented, hardto-brew beers steeped in centuries of traditions. If you see a beer on a tap list with a description filled with more bacteria than hops, consider taking a walk on the wild side.

Tart peach notes play off a backbone of a sour base, melding perfectly at the finish with just a kiss of vinegar and a subdued sweetness. A little extra vinegar and some oil and you’ll have yourself a real nice salad dressing as well. Anejo by Pantomime Mixtures 3839 Ball Diamond Road, Hector

Okay, I haven’t tried this beer yet, but as of this writing, it is being shipped out to my house. What has me eager to sip this brew is Pantomime’s beers often carry a remarkably bright complexity that is a perfect match for an addition of agave and some time in a Tequila barrel. Baard Tovenaar by Three Heads Brewing 186 Atlantic Ave., Rochester

While not a best seller for Three Heads, this Flanders red ale stands out to me as among the most impressive beers the NOTA staple has ever produced. Expect rich red wine notes laced with touches of honey, tart cherry, and dried fruit.

The taproom floor of Copper Leaf is filled with barrels full of fermenting beer. PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

roccitynews.org CITY 65


LIFE

WAFFLEPALOOZA

House of Whacks says of its Cracked Cake, “Imagine that pudding and cheesecake had a baby.” PHOTO BY REBECCA RAFFERTY

SNACK ATTACKS AT HOUSE OF WHACKS BY CHRIS THOMPSON

@CHRONSOFNON & REBECCA RAFFERTY

HOUSE OF WHACKS

250 ANDREWS STREET MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY, 8 A.M. TO 4 P.M. 360-4800; HOUSEOFWHACKS.SQUARE.SITE

T

he Cracked Cake looked like an ordinary lemon square covered in powdered sugar, but the chef promised it was more. “Imagine that pudding and cheesecake had a baby,” was how Es Davy described her signature dessert at House 66 CITY JUNE 2021

of Whacks, a new restaurant in the St. Paul Quarter that specializes in comfort foods both savory and sweet. “That baby ascended to heaven for three days and was touched by God,” Es D, as she prefers to be called, went on. “It came back to Earth to become Cracked Cake, to bless everyone with its presence.”  Without having witnessed the ascension, I can’t vouch for her claims of otherworldliness. But it tasted divine.  House of Whacks, which opened in the flatiron building at the corner of

@RSRAFFERTY

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Andrews and Bittner streets in April, will be known for its waffle dishes, but its menu is a study in contrasts. Waffle creations are prominent, but there are also Caribbean-inspired oxtail or pot roast lunch plates, fruit smoothies brimming with color and flavor, and rich and gooey, hit-the-spot mac ‘n’ cheese. All of it is prepared and presented for diners on the go, but the cheerful decor beckons one to sit and stay a while. Flooded with natural light from windows on both sides of the building’s

wedged storefront, House of Whacks has abundant seating in bold primary colors reminiscent of a playground or an ice cream parlor. The logo on the door — a red, green, blue, and yellow abstract grid of a waffle — complements the lighthearted atmosphere. When it opened, the place seemed an instant hit, enjoying a flurry of foot traffic for days. On its first Friday in business, the restaurant had sold out of everything on the menu but waffles and milkshakes. Two months in, the lunch rush remains


Gummy worms are a garnish on the Dirt Waffle. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

Wafflewich with bacon, cheese, lettuce, and tomato. PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

quite brisk, particularly on Fridays. The restaurant is the creation of Es and Dae Davy, who honed their culinary skills by preparing food for family and friends. They catered special events, such as baby showers and christenings and birthday parties. As word spread about their fare, the customer base grew from family and friends, to friends of family and friends.  Eventually, the Davys expanded their catering service under the zany name “Whacky Waffles House of Whacks.” They had planned on popping-up at the festival circuit last year, but the pandemic derailed that idea.  “We weren’t planning on opening a restaurant at first,” Dae said. “We had just applied to all the festivals for the spring and summer, but then COVID hit.”   When the storefront at Andrews and Bittner went on the market, the Davys saw an opportunity. The place had recently housed a café and didn’t need much renovation. A few splashes of color later, and a slight modification to the name of their business, and the Davys had “House of Whacks.”  On the day I visited, the corner was bathed in a blend of aromas of waffle batter and cinnamon, courtesy of the homemade honey-cinnamon butter that tops the waffles. The scent intensified inside and had an unexpected relaxing effect on me.  I ordered the Chicken and Waffles ($12) — two crispy and juicy chicken breasts that span the diameter of the waffle, served with syrup and that honeycinnamon butter. Melting the butter between the chicken and the waffles is the best way to take in the combination of the savory breasts and the sweet squares of syrup-soaked waffles.  

Another staple of the menu is the breakfast-friendly Wafflewich ($10). It is a waffle split in half and stuffed with two eggs, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a choice of bacon, sausage, or turkey sausage. The sandwich is a small mountain that requires a large container, even for the leftovers. Big eaters might be tempted by the House of Whacks meal that comes with a main dish, a drink, and a dessert for $15. I tried the steamed fish with rice, a dish inspired by Dae’s Jamaican upbringing. It was a snapper filet saturated in the semisweet flavors of peppers, okra, and a house spice blend. A piece of sweet corn bread and a side garden salad rounded out the meal.  For dessert, I sampled three options: the Banana Nut Pudding, the Strawberry Milkshake Cake, and, of course, the heavenly Cracked Cake. All three are Es D’s own creations.  The pudding is chock full of fresh-cut bananas and vanilla wafers drizzled with caramel. The Strawberry Milkshake Cake is a lot like a strawberry shortcake; a light vanilla cake base is topped with fresh strawberries and a whipped topping that Es D makes each morning. Then there was the pudding and cheesecake’s celestial baby.  Eighteen-months ago, Es D and Dae had their own baby — a little girl. So, for now, they’re running the business with the help of family members when possible and currently closing on weekends to be with their daughter.  That still leaves you a window of eight hours a day, five days a week to satisfy your sweet or savory craving. 

roccitynews.org CITY 67


LIFE

GETTING ORGANIZED

Meghesh Pansasri, center, with his employees at Nani's Kitchen. From left, Andrea DePasquale, Cole Roemer, Johanna Teissonniere, and Bri Hargrove. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

LOVE THY LABOR Nani’s Kitchen workers unionized with the blessing of their boss. Why aren’t more restaurants union shops? It’s complicated. BY REBECCA RAFFERTY

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@RSRAFFERTY

bout a month ago, workers at Nani’s Kitchen, an Indian restaurant at the Mercantile on Main food court collection of eateries in the Sibley’s building, did something remarkable: they voted to unionize. Even more extraordinary, perhaps, was that their boss, the owner Meghesh Pansasri, encouraged them to do it. Upon conceiving of Nani’s, Pansasri says, his first call was to the A.F.L.C.I.O. 68 CITY JUNE 2021

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“I was like, ‘Hey I’m opening a restaurant, what do you guys want me to do?’” says Pansasri, who is also a labor scholar. “Ultimately, all I did was stay out of the way.” Nani’s five workers are now represented by Workers United, a national union with roots in Rochester’s garment industry. They’re currently in the process of drawing up a contract for negotiation and for Pansasri to sign.

The situation at Nani’s is an anomaly. In Rochester, only one other food and drink establishment, SPoT Coffee on East Avenue, is a union shop. But Pansasri and Workers United hope Nani’s will inspire an expansion of organized labor in food services in the region. The movement can almost only go up. Across the country, just 1.2 percent of the estimated 11.9 million people working in restaurants and food

services belong to a union, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, making the industry one of the least unionized of any employment sector. It might seem counterintuitive that so few workers in an industry notorious for its instability, poor scheduling, low benefits and pay, and abuse from superiors and customers, turn to unions for help. But Gary Bonadonna explains that organizing restaurant employees is


Pansasri urged his employees to unionize when he opened his restaurant. They took him up on it. PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

tricky. The industry’s high turnover rate and part-time employees make getting enough workers on board with the idea of a union long enough to form one difficult. When there is sustained interest, he says, it often gets tamped down with threats and misinformation from owners. Some owners follow through and fire organizing workers, as happened in Buffalo when SPoT Coffee workers there sought to follow the lead of their Rochester counterparts. “The things I heard are genuinely ridiculous,” Bonadonna says, citing bosses who believe they’ll lose control of their company or their ability to direct employees. Then there are the whisper campaigns among bosses and workers alike, who paint unions as protectors of “lazy” workers and as third-party sharks who collect dues but don’t do much. In many cases, though, bosses don’t have to react; the organizing efforts of workers often peter out on their own. “It’s a human thing to not want to rock the boat,” Bonadonna says. At Nani’s, workers say forming a union was less about rocking the foundation than it was about stabilizing it.

Workers there share tips and make the coveted $15 an hour that has been a rallying cry in the industry for several years. They get a week of paid sick leave annually, and the company covers half of the monthly payment for the health care package it offers full-time workers through the Healthy New York EPO plan. “We had to unionize at Nani’s because we already had very good conditions, and we think that it’s important to kind of try to start pushing this and encouraging other restaurants to unionize,” says Andrea DePasquale, 24, the shift leader at Nani’s. DePasquale has been working in the food service industry since she was 15. She has seen restaurants and bars that don’t offer sick leave or health insurance or shield employees against occupational hazards and harassment. Many, she says, are inflexible with their scheduling and won’t guarantee the weekly hours that employees need to pay their bills. Workers could complain, she says, but those who do run the risk of “being taken off the schedule,” a tactic restaurants use to get rid of workers who cause problems. Conditions like those are part of the reason that restaurants nationwide,

once battered by the pandemic, are now experiencing severe staffing shortages, unable to find workers as warmer weather and reduced restrictions on dining have combined for an upswing in business. “The industry is in pretty bad shape right now,” DePasquale says. “Something like 30 percent of the 9 million jobs that are missing from America right now are service- or customer service-based jobs, and people aren’t going back to them for a reason.” Some restaurants around the country have gotten creative in an effort to lure new employees, including offering signing bonuses and higher wages, and introducing pro-worker changes like distributing compensation more evenly. Bonadonna says unionizing can help solidify incentives that attract workers and keep them on the job. Turnover in the hospitality and restaurant industry has consistently hovered above 70 percent for several years, about 30 points higher than the rest of the American private sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unionizing can give people more control over their work lives, and access to resources and advocates who can

help them navigate any problems that arise. Collective bargaining agreements typically include guarantees on wages and hours, standards for handling workplace disputes, and protocols for firing or laying off employees. Such guarantees were what SPoT Coffee workers were after when they unionized in 2019. Their effort spawned what reportedly became the largest union of a café or restaurant chain in the United States. SPoT has 22 locations, mostly in western New York. In the past, other restaurants in Rochester have unionized, but they’ve been few and far between. Workers at the former Roncone’s on Lyell Avenue formed a union in 2006. For a time, workers at the former Pier 45 tapas restaurant at the Port of Rochester, had a union. Both establishments have since closed. As far as Pansasri is concerned, unionized workers make for a more successful business. “There’s a level of productivity that you get out of your workers when they feel safe and secure,” he says. “When I’m working on new stuff at the restaurant, every employee feels invested in it because they feel invested in the shop.” Pansasri, a 26-year-old graduate student originally from Kolkata, is all-in on labor rights. He’s earning a degree in American Studies at Nazareth College, and currently writing his thesis on the labor movement in Rochester. He’s particularly fond of the work of writer and anarchist political activist Emma Goldman, a 19th-century Russian immigrant whose involvement in the labor movement was inspired by her experience working in one of Rochester’s garment factories as well as the notorious 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago, which began as a peaceful rally for an eight-hour workday and devolved into violent chaos. “There’s this really intense culture of misinformation about what unions are, how they function in the labor economy, and what their cultural significance is,” Pansasri says. “I mean, just what they’ve done for American workers alone, from the eight-hour workday and child labor laws to workers’ comp,” he adds, “everything we have comes from labor union struggles.”

roccitynews.org CITY 69


LIFE

DRAFT PICKS

Across

Answers to this puzzle can be found on page 34

Dai

PUZZLE BY S.J. AUSTIN & J. REYNOLDS

Puzz

1. Adjectival trademark of Miller brewing 5. Ire 9. Observes an aspect of Ramadan

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

20

19

10

11

12

13

21

14. Endures 19. Fünf + drei 20. Architectural wings 21. First mass market laptop to offer Wi-Fi 22. Feed store chain that filed for bankruptcy in 2002

24

23 27

40

29

28 34

25 30

35

31

36

37

42

41

43

23. Pierre’s papa 24. Wall St. launches 25. Physicist Enrico known as the architect of the atomic bomb 26. Horse-drawn carts 27. Tractor manufacturer with its own shade of green paint 29. Concerning

44

45 51

50 56

57

34. Lure 36. Pratt or Farley 38. “Same!” 40. Gahndhi’s honorific 42. Player played by Michael Caine and Jude Law 43. Order another 52-weeks of People, say 44. 50m in an Olympic pool 45. Gaze fixedly

76

71

77 85

91

109

50. “Kiss Cam” activity, for short 51. William Wallace, e.g.

101

107

108

111

113

114 122

89

95

100

110

121

88

94

106

46. Lawn replacement 47. What bears hope to do before hibernating

80

87

99 105

74

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98

67 73

86

92

61

72

78

84

54

60 66

70 75

53

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31. Air time for “Falcon Crest” & “20/20” 33. Do Not Call Registry org.

52 59

58

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46

112

115

116

123

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117 125

Across 1.14 Word that 15 follows 16 the start of each starred answer 5.22 On the ocean 10. "...hear ___ drop" 26 14. Pound of poetry 15. Tips 32 16. Russo of 33 "Outbreak" 17. Chop ___ 38 18. *** Edward 39 Teach, familiarly 20. Asia's ___ Sea 21. Dark time for poets 47 22. Lets up 23. Many four-doors 25. 55Billionaire Bill 28. The Braves, on scoreboards 62 30. Middle of many 63 German names 31. "Go on ..." 68 34. March69 17 honoree, for short 38. Close to closed 40. Mine, in Marseiille 81 41. *** Cold comfort 90Ones born before 44. Virgos 45. Jessica of "Dark 96 97 Angel" 46. "___ Johnny!" Hosp.104 areas 102 47. 103 48. ___ Jeanne d'Arc 49. Stimpy's cartoon pal 51. Some college students 53. Greets nonverbally 58. Popular typeface 118 61. Gallery display

126

1

2

17 14

3

129

130

131

132

133

134

135

18

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21

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24 28

34

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42 45

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48 51

48

58

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60 49

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63. Rough breathing 64. *** Place for miscellaneous stuff 67. Baja's opposite 68. "If all ___ fails 82..." 83 69. Vow taker 70. Farm sounds 71. Beliefs 72. Common thing? 73. "Green Gables" girl Down 1. Tablelands 2. Blue shade 3. "___ you loud and clear" 4. Eric Clapton love song 5. Optimally 6. Mah-jongg piece

119

120

84. Sash for a kimono

knife

59. Per ___

85. Sources of protein for vegans

108. Amazon e-readers

61. Keep your ___ the ground

109. Annie, famously

63. Squeeze (out)

87. Like stone washed denim or bellbottoms

64. Own

90. Silas of the Continental Congress

66. Kingdom

91. Kringle

112. Book and movie source material for Season 2 of “Castle Rock”

68. Athletes Agassi and Iguodala

93. Flip out

113. Arabian or Mediterranean

133. “Chasing Pavements” singer

70. **”That’s ___ of guy I am!”, or a beer poured by 3-Down

95. Refine

114. Aver

134. Locale of Dostoyevsky’s exile

97. Protein synthesis messenger strand

116. Princes, often

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73. **”Mr. ___”, ELO hit, or a beer poured by 9-Down

98. Philosopher Immanuel

118. Transaction usually requiring a PIN

75. Controversial way to mark your spot in a book

100. Yiddish exclamation of frustration

78. Neighbor of Oahu

102. Backhoe

80. “We’ve ___!”

105. Prepares to paint 107. Silverware set to the right of a

70 CITY JUNE 2021

123. Beetle Bailey tormenter 125. Playground retort 127. Intersection

38

44

56. Where you might be put by the dentist

121. “Shut up already!”

29

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41

55. Back, as a racehorse

99. Stitch

6

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17

53. Leader of the pack

111. Strong dark beer, 81-down e.g.

5

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127

128

4

128. Venomous snake of the family Viperidae 129. Word with monologue or tube 130. Suffix for theater or church 131. Affirmatives 132. Prepared

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Down

76. Di or da preceder in a Beatles song

1. Sgt. Friday’s org.

77. **Large folivore native to South Central China, or a beer poured by 3-Down

2. Treat for after a Little League game, perhaps 3. **Features of Hagrid’s dog Fluffy 4. Everlasting

79. **Question you might text your Postmates driver, or a beer poured by 9-Down

5. L.L. Bean competitor since 1938

81. **Men?, or a beer poured by 16Down

6. **South American camelid, or with 108-Down a beer poured by 16-Down

82. Years in Paris?

7. Newspaper often sold next to the Herald 8. Place to fill up in Canada

83. Sweeties 86. Time that seems like it will never end

9. **Midway point of a bowling match

88. Next

10. Grandpa Simpson

89. Mnemonic for the first three colors of the visible spectrum

11. Attack from a defensive position

92. The Beehive State

12. “War and Peace” and “The Brothers Karamazov”, e.g.

94. The Fuzz

13. Largest organ in the human body

96. Manning and Whitney, for two

14. Wyatt Earp or Seth Bullock

99. Emitted

15. ___ Khan

101. Formally opine

16. **River condition ideal for rafting

103. Linear, for short

17. Non ___ (not so much, in music)

104. Gland whose name literally means “to the kidney”

18. Brand on a truck outside a restaurant

106. Danish or Berliner

28. Singer James

107. Laurence who wrote “Tristram Shandy”

30. Alma mater for Leonard Nimoy and Jackie Robinson

108. **Little Hershey treats, or with 6-Down a beer poured by 16-Down

32. “___ Beauty” (Gerald Manley Hopkins poem)

109. Grouchy-sounding award?

35. Little devils

110. “Cloister and the Hearth” author

37. Cambodian currency

111. Rise

39. Grumpy Cat, e.g.

112. 1983 title role for Michael Keaton

40. What a relief pitcher might be brought in to do, slangily

115. Home of 4.6 billion people

41. All bark ___ bite

119. Light bulb, in comics

42. Memo abbr.

120. Trial

43. Leonine cry

122. Roadside bomb, for short

45. Junior

124. Hair spray alternative

46. Famous orca

126. Fictional planet of ‘80’s TV

117. “Othello” antagonist

48. Take a drag of a joint 49. Hydrocarbon suffixes 52. Container for cider 54. Student grant named after a senator 55. Knocked on the noggin 57. Direction in Spain 58. Goes to P.T. 60. Language of Pakistan 62. Stun with a gun 65. Severely dry 67. Man’s nickname that sounds like the start of a kindergarten song 69. Unit of force equal to 10 micronewtons 71. “You’re telling me!” 72. Shuttle launching group 74. Black, in poetry 75. Loading point roccitynews.org CITY 71


72 CITY JUNE 2021

Profile for Rochester CITY News. Arts. Life.

CITY June 2021  

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