Rochester mourns loss of two revered activists
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Community leader Rev. Lewis Stewart passed away on Friday and LGBTQ rights activist Sue Cowell passed Saturday morning, both leaving behind legacies that will never be forgotten.
According to former Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Rev. Stewart was someone who was a difference maker.
“I was city council member for northeast, and then city council president, and then mayor so, we worked together a lot on different issues and he was always very passionate about police community relations,” Warren said.
After years of serving as a chaplain for inmates around New York, Rev. Stewart co-founded United Christian Leadership Ministry in 2013 where he successly advocated for criminal justice reform.
“We, in New York State, had the most restrictive of the body worn camera policy when it came to when the camera needed to be turned on and when it needed to be turned off and all of that came from partnership with UCLM and leadership from Rev. Stewart,” Warren said.
These are changes that Rochester City Councilmember Willie Lightfoot said are just one of Rev. Stewart’s enduring legacies.
“He was a man of God. He was a minister and I also had the pleasure of being able to sit on the same stage as him as he ministered the word of God to the community,” Lightfoot said.
Sue Cowell, a champion of LGBTQ rights and co-founder of AIDS Rochester passed away Saturday morning.
According realtor Mark Siwiec, Cowell was the tip of the spear when it came to advancing gay rights since the 1970’s.
“She took some of these thoughts for a better and more equal society and she came out and started to come out. She started to make herself visible and others visible,” Siwiec said.
Siwiec says the changes will be seen and felt across Rochester forever.
“She started this lesbian art collective on Monroe Avenue. She was one of the first founders of Aids Rochester. She was the campaign director, or the chair, of Tim Maines, who was the first openly elected gay man in the State of New York,” Siwiec said.
Mayor Malik Evans has released the following statements on the passing of Rev. Stewart and Sue Cowell:
“I join with the Rochester community in mourning the loss of Sue Cowell, a fearless giant and a progressive voice who moved the needle of public opinion toward acceptance on important issues like women’s equality, LGBTQ rights, and public health. A social justice pioneer, Sue was recognized and awarded for her many efforts to build equality and justice. She leaves a shining legacy of advocacy and support of the cultivation of gay candidates and allies of the LGBTQ community, and for helping to make the city of Rochester one of the most LGBTQ-friendly communities in the country.”
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Reverend Lewis W. Stewart Jr. Throughout his more than 40 years of ministry, community, and civil rights leadership, he believed strongly in the prophetic calling for social justice. His commitment to the eradication of social, economic, and racial inequities has made an everlasting impact. Rev. Stewart consistently expressed a strong ethical and spiritual commitment to strengthen the voices of the Black community and firmly stood up against injustices. The City of Rochester will be forever grateful for his exemplary actions and ministry and send our condolences to his family and the many lives he touched.”