Just this past Monday, June 27th, the City of Rochester hosted a “Day of Learning and Service” as part of commemoration of the recently recognized federal holiday, “Juneteenth.”

For those of you who are not yet familiar with the history behind “Juneteenth” we encourage you to read up a bit on the history. In brief, Juneteenth recalls the day on which Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas and the last vestiges of the Confederacy were defeated. Upon arrival, a Union general read and proclaimed the words of the “Emancipation Proclamation” which (some two years after it’s publication) informed over 250,000 slaves in Texas of their liberated status and the end of slavery.

On Monday from 8am – Noon, the City of Rochester hosted a number of keynote speakers and workshops, which provided space for BIPOC voices to share their perspective on issues of historical injustice, racism and the movement towards greater inclusion and diversity in the workplace and in community organizations.

The day began with a testimony from Joanne Bland, who from a young age was witness to some of the most monumental moments in the Civil Rights Era, such as “Bloody Sunday.”

The remainder of the day was occupied by workshop sessions, where individuals of color with a significant involvement and commitment to the Rochester community, had opportunities to share their unique stories, backgrounds and perspectives on pertinent issues. Several Damascus Way staff were able to attend these workshops with our Executive Director, Tierre Webster and we had the opportunity to listen to two friends of Damascus Way, Andre Crockett and Charlie Perkins, who spoke as well.

During one of the final workshops of the day, our Exe. Director Tierre, had a chance to speak on the subject of mass incarceration. Tierre’s dynamic workshop was entitled, “Mass Incarceration: Debunking the Myths & Building off of the Resilience.”

Tierre provided a helpful discussion, that was both personal and substantive, about the history and the tragedy of mass incarceration in the United States. His presentation wove together the divergent contributions to mass incarceration in America and gave voice to a perspective that is often overlooked in considering cause and effect and the prison-to-pipeline phenomena. Finally, Tierre took the time to share about the three-fold service model of Damascus Way and our convictions regarding the necessity of career pathways, housing opportunities and community connections for men exiting the correctional system.

Tierre’s session was a fitting conclusion to a day filled with important dialogue, questions and community engagement with the City of Rochester!