In Rochester, NY, Rise Up Rochester, Inc. shows up after every homicide. The nonprofit organization works to establish and maintain a nonviolent culture in their community, and to support crime victims and their families. So when there are homicides in their city, Rise Up Rochester’s Crisis Response Team offers resources to the families of victims. The members of the Crisis Response Team help them navigate city services, liaise with the police department and social workers, and support them in their grief.
“The members of Rise Up Rochester, Inc., who are all survivors of gun violence, are constantly finding ways to lift up survivors, bring peace to our streets, and show the children of our community that they are loved and that they have a choice to be nonviolent,” Christy Tenhaeff, the City Gun Violence Co-lead for Moms Demand Action in Rochester, NY, said. “The support work that Rise Up Rochester does when there is a homicide is difficult, and I am inspired by how the members lift up others despite their own pain.”
Rise Up Rochester, Inc. was founded in 2008 after James Slater, the son of one of the organization’s founders, was murdered in front of his home. In the years since, they have established themselves as a strong voice for nonviolence in Rochester.
“Each member of Rise Up Rochester, Inc. has felt the impact of gun violence in their personal life,” Reverend James C. Simmons, Senior Pastor of Baber African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church and Chairman of Rise Up Rochester, Inc., said. “I was named after a cousin who was murdered a month before I was born (my middle name). I’m also the nephew of a murder victim, and in 2013, one of my godchildren became a victim of gun violence.”
To bring awareness to the impact of gun violence, Rise Up Rochester, Inc. teaches conflict resolution to share with the youth and community members how to peacefully resolve conflict. They also work with victims of violence to create a plan of action that will interrupt retaliation, and support victims and survivors of gun violence through remembrance services, support groups, and more. Through public awareness and support, they are working to make a difference in their community—and transform lives in the process.
“Each summer, we walk streets where homicides have occurred to provide resources, comfort lives, and build relationships,” Reverend Simmons said. “One week, some brothers on the corner who just had experienced the murder of one of their friends stopped us to ask for prayer. The appreciation those brothers expressed will always be etched into our memories.”
Success for Rise Up Rochester, Inc. is “when we see a life transformed or a dispute resolved or a parent who had lost their child to homicide able to find strength to endure another day,” Reverend Simmons says. Every interaction is a meaningful step towards ending gun violence in Rochester. He continues to do this work because of faith: “The belief that we can make a difference. The belief that we can create a better world for our children and our children’s children. The belief that God put us here for a purpose.”
Through partnerships, like the ROC Against Gun Violence Coalition with the City of Rochester, Rise Up Rochester, Inc. has been able to broaden its reach, and collaborate with other local partners, including the local Moms Demand Action group. This coalition allows Rise Up Rochester, Inc., Moms Demand Action, and other local organizations to work together in meaningful ways. Because of these partnerships, the collective is focusing its efforts towards street outreach and creating a trauma outreach vehicle.
“As a chapter, we decided early on that we would not try to recruit the local gun violence prevention groups to become Moms Demand Action volunteers but rather find ways to support them,” Tenhaeff said. “It has meant that we can invite and include local gun violence prevention groups to lobby days and give them tools on legislation, without them having to put their resources into it. Most importantly, we have formed meaningful friendships and grown to respect each other, and that has changed my life and helped my understanding of gun violence evolve.”
Events like Wear Orange on June 4, also known as National Gun Violence Awareness Day, allow Rise Up Rochester, Inc. to reach a new audience of people as they spread the message of nonviolence. This year, they will be marking Wear Orange by participating in a press conference with city leaders to proclaim National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
“It is when we appeal to a wider audience for people to join our crusade to create a world free from gun violence,” Reverend Simmons said. “It is a time where we put a human face on the impact of gun violence, since the media often makes victims of violence into stereotypes or statistics. It is a time where we regroup and prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s battles.”
Support Rise Up Rochester, Inc.
This year for Wear Orange, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund has pledged to support organizations committed to ending gun violence, racial injustice and other root causes of gun violence, and suicide prevention.Donate