In connection with Geva’s Recognition Radio festival celebrating Black stories, we are producing a series of community conversations, called The Amplify Series, which connects themes of the plays to our lives here in the Rochester area. The first conversation, held last night, focused on the context of Feeding Beatrice. In the play, main characters June and Lurie have made a lot of sacrifices to buy a home in what was historically an all-white neighborhood. And while the focus of the play is on the mysterious guest who becomes more and more demanding, the racist practices that kept that neighborhood all-white for such a long time is certainly one of the monsters the characters have to wrestle with.

From Mapping Inequality — Rochester, NY HOLC Residential Security Map

And so our first conversation, moderated by Geva’s associate artistic director and director of engagement, Pirronne Yousefzadeh, examined the history of redlining and segregation right here in Rochester. Speakers Dana Miller (Deputy Commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development for the City of Rochester) and Shane Wiegand (redlining educator and researcher) spoke in-depth about what redlining is, how it impacted the lives and well-being of Black Rochesterians historically and the disastrous impacts that are still felt today. Do you know, for instance, that if you own a home, the deed to your house might still include a now-illegal racial covenant, which would have dictated who the occupants of your home can be? That’s one of the factors behind the very stark lack of diversity in Rochester’s suburbs, which are some of the most highly segregated communities in the country.

If you missed the conversation, you can catch the video here. It’s worth your time. And, whether or not you were able to join us last night, here are some of the very powerful resources suggested last night for further learning:

Shane Wiegand shared this thorough list of resources, including an excellent presentation he’s given on the topic. Also, don’t miss this report from the Yale School of Law, to which Shane and his fourth-grade students from Rush Henrietta contributed! (These are nine-year-olds, contributing to significant historical research!)

For an in-depth look at this history, read The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein (find it on Bookshop, an online book-seller supporting local independent bookstores, here). And Race for Profit by Keeanga Yamahatta-Taylor (on Bookshop here).

Finally, Shane also discussed the incredible work by Teen Empowerment, and the stories that are told in the documentary produced by the youth there, called Clarissa Uprooted, which was screened at The Little in August. Here’s a great conversation with some of the filmmakers on Connections with Evan Dawson. Maybe if we all ask, they’ll offer another screening?

Until next time…

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