History of RocACTS
Launched in 2014, the Rochester Alliance of Communities Transforming Society (RocACTS) is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, interfaith community organization working to transform our community for the common good by addressing the issues that impact the quality of life in our neighborhoods and community. RocACTS’ mission is “Transforming our community toward equity and justice through community organizing.” A member federation of the Faith in Action Network, RocACTS connects, recruits, trains, organizes, collaborates, and supports Greater Rochester Area faith communities and residents on mutual social justice initiatives to positively impact people with a special emphasis on dismantling systemic racism.
Transforming our community together toward equity and justice through community organizing.
An empowered and engaged community, grounded in shared values, working to build and sustain an equitable, just, and moral society.
RocACTS is a leader-led organization that has historically employed a small staff. The Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing the mission of the organization, money raising and management, 501C3 compliance and supervision of the Executive Director. Board members are expected to support and engage in the organizing work of RocACTS through the various task forces and participate in the annual Leadership Assembly.
Volunteer leaders are the backbone of the organization. Leaders participate in training sessions, Faith In Action national and regional events, task force issues, community outreach, research meetings, and public actions.
Member organizations pay annual dues as approved by the Board. Individuals who support and endorse the mission and vision of the organization may apply for admission as a Supporting Member by paying annual dues as an Individual Member.
RocACTS has a track record of effective action and of mobilizing thousands of people on specific issues of social justice. Since its founding in 2014, by a team of clergy and local residents in Rochester, RocACTS’ Criminal Justic Task Force successfully worked on Raise the Age, Bail Reform, Solitary Confinement, and Police Accountability. Working in partnership with other community organizations, RocACTS successfully advocated for the creation of an independent civilian review board of police conduct by the Rochester City Council, the result of a referendum in which 75% of the electorate approved passing the measure.
RocACTS Education Task Force successfully advocated for increased childcare funds at the county level collecting individual postcards from over 5,000 local residents through our member organizations, conducting press events, a demonstration, and a mass public meeting.
The Poverty/Jobs/Housing Task Force successfully increased public awareness of low pay and difficult working conditions among the area’s home health workers. Actions included publicity of the findings of “Wage Disparities in Monroe County by Race and Gender,” a 2017 report by the Mayr’s Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives and the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI).
In 2022 our task forces have worked on reforming solitary confinement through H.A.L.T. Initiative (Human Alternatives to Long Term Solitary Confinement) and have been a part of the Police Accountability Board Alliance. Additionally, RocACTS volunteers have focused on increasing wages, especially for low wage works of color working as health care providers; issues related to affordable housing and evictions; developing a county-wide report of anti-racism curriculum in the June 2020 Anti-racism letter from the Monroe County Superintendents.
Current Programs & Activities
Poverty/Jobs/Housing Task Force:
Collaborated with RMAPI to challenge the major employees in the area to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr. Advocating through social media, peer to peer communications and letters of support, UofR and Rochester Regional Health committed to raise wages by the end of the year.
Justice System Task Force:
Advocating for Daniel’s Law and Parole Justice.
Education Task Force:
Focusing on introducing anti-racism curriculum in Monroe County School Districts, Advocating for Solutions Not Suspensions (Bill-S1040/A5691).
Voting Rights Task Force:
Participating in voter education, registration events, postcard writing campaigns aimed at increasing voter turnout and “Souls to the Polls”. A program that targets churches in low voter turnout districts for initial outreach and provides transportation to the polls during early voting period.
Climate Justice Task Force:
Planning a listening campaign to go out into the community to meet with Pastors and others to learn what the community needs. The most pressing current issue will be the allocation of resources to disadvantaged communities under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act). It’s important that those who will be most affected have a voice.
RocACTS is an interfaith community organizing group of 20 multi-racial, interfaith, urban, and suburban congregations, the Rochester Chapter of the League of Women Voters and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East that train and empower citizens to create systemic change to affect the political and economic decisions that impact their lives. In 2021 membership was expanded to individual members who seek equity regardless of race, class, income, gender identity, age, or ability status.
Since its founding in 2014, RocACTS has worked with faith leaders, members, and neighbors of Rochester congregations. We intentionally engage in listening campaigns aimed at identifying directly impacted members of the community and allies who want to develop effective community organizing skills and work together to shape public policy. RocACTS leaders choose the issues that the organization works on through their organizing teams/task forces at citywide leadership assemblies. Between 2020 – 2022, RocACTS did not have a full-time organizer in place and the volunteer leaders kept the work of the organization moving. The RocACTS Board is comprised of volunteers nominated by member congregations. The Board is responsible for overseeing the fiscal health of the organization and ensuring that the organization diligently adheres to its mission and its 501C3 status.
As a member federation of the Faith in Action (FIA) Network, RocACTS believes catalyzing the power of people to transform their communities begins with a commitment to and investment in the formation of people. FIA defines formation as the processes and practices in which one learns the art and craft of organizing. Leadership training is offered in national and regional formats. National Leadership Training is offered twice a year, in which FIA convenes clergy and leaders from federations across the country to learn essential organizing principles and practices. The same curriculum is offered at Regional Leadership Training throughout the country. Regional Leadership Training is designed to reduce costs of national training and be more accessible for clergy and leaders to encourage more people to attend. RocACTS cascades the same principles locally to congregations, organizations, and individual members to provide training needed for them to perform effectively in their various roles.
The organization works to promote diversity and address inequality, oppression, and discrimination within our organization as well as the larger society.
RocACTS’ Ledership Assembly, an annual gathering of volunteer leaders, has named racial justice/equity as a top organizational priority. Each of the issue teams have identified issues that directly impact communities of color and low-income families in Rochester.
Systemic Problems & Issues
The organization works on systemic problems and issues identified by leaders such as Police Accountability, Affordable Housing, Low-Income Housing, Poverty Wages for Health Care Workers, Solutions not Suspensions, and introducing an anti-racism curriculum in the Rochester Public School System.
Goals and Objectives for the Year
RocACTS completed a rigorous Strategic Planning process to identify primary goals for 2022-2023. That goal is to prepare our volunteer leaders to take full advantage of the RocACTS organizing model to assume their roles to act on Task Force issues. Task Force priorities for 2022-2023 are as follows:
Climate Justice Task Force
Response to Noise Pollution
Work with City of Rochester to Promote Green Space & Tree Planting
Develop Educational Campaign w/Congregations Regarding Recycling Priorities
Conduct Energy Audits for Small Black Churches via Grant Funds
Poverty/Housing/Jobs Task Force
Support City-Wide Tenant’s Union to Advocate for Protection Rights for Tenants
Participate in RMAPI Housing Work Group
Participate in RMAPI Employment Work Group
Facilitate One-Stop-Shop Workshop for Renters, Landlords, Housing Agencies
Voting Rights Task Force
Participate in Souls to the Polls
Conduct Voter Registration Campaigns
Provide Speakers for RCSD Civic Classes to Speak on the Topic of Voter Registration and Register Eligible Students (Partnership w/Women League of Voters)
Justice Systems Task Force
Advocate for Bail Reform
Advocate for Parole Justice/Elder Parole
Support Reduction of Gun Violence
Support Daniel’s Law
Advocate for 13th Forward Legislation
Partner w/Police Accountability Board Alliance
Education Task Force
Advocate for Solutions Not Suspensions Legislation
Collaborate w/Monroe County Superintendents to Monitor Progress for Anti-racism Curriculum
Advocate for Childcare Subsidies for Low-Income Families
Promote Early Intervention/Exclusionary Discipline
System of Change
RocACTS believes building healthy communities requires the involvement of grassroots leaders who are directly impacted by issues and policies. The organization believes that faith institutions are critical stakeholders who inherently have power in the community. By engaging clergy, congregational members, residents, and allies in an intentional process of community organizing, RocACTS has demonstrated that change can happen. Essential components of RocACTS theory of change include: an emphasis on building a diverse base of leaders who are trained in effective community organizing strategies and principle; relational 1:1 listening campaigns to ensure that chosen issues are important to the community; research and public actions; and an intentional focus on non-partisan voter registration, education, and mobilization. RocACTS is currently focused on the following systems in Rochester: Education, Public Safety, Incarceration, Climate/Environmental, and Housing.
Movement Building and Collaboration
RocACTS has a long history of collaborating with local faith communities, nonprofit organizations, labor unions and other stakeholders. Our work would not be possible without these partnerships. RocACTS has worked in collaboration with the following organizations to achieve its goals: Enough is Enough, League of Women Voters (Rochester Metro Area), Parole Justice Coalition, Police Accountability Board Alliance, The Children’s Agenda, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Rochester Chapter), Rochester Area Interfaith Climate Action (RAICA), Faith in Action National Network, SEIU Local 1199, Metro Justice, Citizens Action, United Christian Leadership Ministries (UCLM), New York Civil Liberties Union, Monroe County Public Defenders Office, and elected government officials.