Ryan Acuff has a bit of Don Quixote in him. The windmills should take heed because he's a driven man. His commitment to a popular struggle for human rights involves bottom up tactics, and the bottom is in Rochester. Be it homeowners facing foreclosure and eviction, renters fighting unscrupulous landlords, or the homeless in need of shelter, food, healthcare and other services, Ryan will march with them. Among other activities, he works as a case manager at the House of Mercy shelter, and fights beyond exhaustion with his fellow warriors in Take Back the Land Rochester.
When I first met Lydia Billings, we were sitting in our winter coats waiting to be arrested. I have the photo. Lydia, Katy, and Dawn. We were on a cold granite step below the Civil War Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. Minutes later we were handcuffed and crammed in a paddy wagon with four other women on our way to jail for refusing to leave the Washington Square Park during the early days of Occupy Rochester.
At 6am, David Dornford heads to an Ethiopian coffee shop on Main and St. Paul where friends greet him. It’s a community of insomniacs, homeless, and otherwise dependent folks. He calls them the people of the night.
“When I was gone for Thanksgiving, everyone was asking where’s Pops? For five days! And here I am a white guy. I just say good morning. They know I’m well off by comparison, but my presence there makes me part of their community.”
Jerome Nathaniel, human book. On January 25th the Rochester Public Library held a Human Library event, inviting 14 people to sit down with others to tell their story. Each book was given a name. Jerome was titled African American Community Activist. His message? It is time to blur the line between community service and living.
Camila Reyes Azucénaga is here on a mission. Her backpack is filled with hope, trust, and an eagerness to learn how to help her people heal and forge ahead with new methods of communication and understanding. When Camila began our interview, I asked her to tell me what was going on in Colombia, her home country. She told me that a bunch of people were sitting around a table. “They are right now sitting at a table with FARC, one of the armed groups.” I nodded, and pretended I knew what that meant.
On September 26, 2013 a crowd gathered to help Joe and Glenda Wood defend their right to remain in their home of 23 years. Enid Bennett was amongst them.
The Woods family, members of Take Back the Land Rochester, Metro Justice, Rochester Red and Black, the Band of Rebels, and other supporters lined Webster Avenue in front of the home.