Anti-violence groups scrutinize Rochester Peace Collective funding allocations

[anvplayer video=”5153177″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The City of Rochester is funneling $5 million in COVID recovery funds to community groups that work to fight gun violence but $5 million doesn’t go very far when there are dozens of groups vying for the dollars. 

On Thursday, some of the groups that were not selected to be founding members of the Rochester Peace Collective met at City Hall to question some of those who were.

A handful of people who run small grassroots community groups stood on the steps of Rochester City Hall to question why they were not selected for funding.

“If these organizations (that were funded) were doing their job we would not have 81 homicides, we would not be approaching and surpassing that number again this year. [The City is] cushioning nonprofits who have million-dollar budgets. It makes absolutely no sense,” said Mike Johnson, the executive director of Save Rochester: Black Lives Matter.

In a statement, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said 68 organizations applied for $34 million and with only $5 million available, the selection committee had to make some tough choices. 

Septimus Scott is a Gun Violence Prevention Navigator.

“Individuals like ourselves that are out here are not even noticed for the work that we’re doing,” he said. “So, I think the bigger point here is making sure that where the money is going, especially because these are taxpayer dollars, that it’s going into hands that are effective and hands that understand the issues that are out here in the community and who understand the work that it’s going to take to make an impact with the gun violence that we’re seeing in Rochester.”

Antonia Wynter, who runs the F.A.C.T.S Youth Program, echoed Scott’s sentiments.

“We all know each other. We see each other at the same meetings. A lot of us show up to these homicide scenes. A lot of us are at the hospitals. A lot of us deal with the families. A lot of us are there for the prevention and we don’t see them,” she said. “I think there are two of the grassroots organizations on the list of 20, so, we’re kind of looking at each other like, where are the people who are boots on the ground?”

The group collectively took issue with one particular $225,000 allocation to a program called In Control because it is run through Planned Parenthood.

“Sex education is their number one priority. This is money specifically for anti-violence,” said Ayesha Kreutz, who works for the Frederick Douglass Foundation of NY. She also pointed out that the In Control website links young people directly to the Planned Parenthood page to set up healthcare appointments and at least one of the employees previously worked for Planned Parenthood for more than eight years.

Evans countered the criticism saying that the In Control program has been in Rochester for more than 25 years and is supported and utilized by many organizations and schools in the community. He says while Planned Parenthood of Central & Western New York oversees the In Control program, the $225,000 from this year’s Peace Collective allocation is to help teens of color in Rochester reject violence by learning valuable skills to overcome systemic racism and engage in positive behaviors.

“I am grateful to all of the organizations that submitted proposals to participate in the Rochester Peace Collective and strongly encourage those that were not selected in the initial round to maintain their interest in this program and continue with their own important work to promote peace in our city. It is my goal to continue to develop and expand the Peace Collective with new membership as we seek additional support from the philanthropic sector,” Evans said in a statement. 

The full list of funded projects is available here.