SURJ ROC – The First 6 Years

When SURJ ROC was formed in October 2016, we had no idea how important it was
going to become just a month later to be part of a national network dedicated to being “a
home for white people working for justice.” The purpose of SURJ is to organize
white people working for racial justice, following the lead of BIPOC activists, thinkers,
and trainers. Following are some of the ways we do this:

Many people are familiar with our workshops about racism, whiteness, and white
supremacy culture, especially the popular “Responding to Racist Remarks.” In addition
to increasing our understanding of the roots of racism, including our own, SURJ ROC
conducts political education and calls to action through our monthly chapter meetings.
Topics have included police accountability, redlining, Islamophobia, direct action
training, defunding/re-investing, abolition, environmental justice, the inequitable state
budget, critical race theory, and school segregation.

We’ve been on the streets after the election of Trump, the police murders of George
Floyd and Daniel Prude, and at other local rallies/marches/protests for BLM, fair funding
for city schools, against “Force Science” training for city police, against eviction during

We were part of a statewide coalition of SURJ Chapters supporting the successful
Green Light campaign to allow undocumented residents (mostly farmworkers) the right
to a driver’s license, and the successful FREE NY campaign for criminal justice reforms
including bail reform, discovery and speedy trial. We continue to resist calls for rolling
back bail reform.

SURJ ROC was one of the first organizations to sign on to the call for a Police
Accountability Board, being present at City Hall press conferences, speaking at City
Council meetings, and contacting elected officials. We continue to serve on the PAB Alliance
and participate in the PAB’s calls for support from City Hall and the RPD.

We convened a statewide working group of SURJ members to support passage of
Daniel’s Law, which would remove the police as first responders to calls for help during
a mental health or substance abuse crisis. Currently we serve on the FTP- led DL
Coalition, which was relaunched in January 2023.

For the last three years, we have been part of the statewide Invest in Our New York
(IONY) coalition which calls in our members to contact legislators and the governor to
enact a more progressive state budget, raising billions more in revenue for programs
that address longstanding needs in education, housing, healthcare and more.

Our Education Committee initiated and co-led the Indigenous Peoples Day Committee
in alliance with local indigenous people, resulting in the City of Rochester designating
the 2nd Monday in Oct Indigenous People’s Day in 2022. With our indigenous advisor,
we also met with W. Irondequoit school officials to address racism in athletics as well as discuss school curriculum. The high school now flies the Haudenosaunee flag and
begins the day with a land acknowledgement. We continue to encourage members to
press for recognition of indigenous issues and removal of offensive mascots in other

We have signed on to numerous local and state campaigns, using our social media to
call members to action on issues such as Raise the Age, HALT, End Qualified Immunity,
Less is More, Release Aging Prisoners, repeal of NYS 50a, BLM at School, detained
migrant workers, City budget defunding/reinvestment, Fair Elections, writing postcards
to voters, Albany Lobby Days, Reawaken Tour, and Citizen Action’s Mobilization for
ending the School to Prison Pipeline. Currently we support the campaigns included in
the Justice Roadmap, Excluded No More, and IONY.

On a smaller scale, we call out acts of racism such as the local meteorologist’s remark
about Dr. King, racist incidents at the U of R and in Webster, Pittsford and Henrietta
schools, a noose hanging on a Greece garage.

Through workshop and meeting fees and calls to members, we have raised funds and
donations to local BIPOC causes such as Flower City Noire, PLEX, Global Refugee
Services, 540 W. Main, Alianza Agricola, Food not Bombs, Rochester Street Medics.
This document is intended to be a running report of SURJ ROC’s work and impact.
Check it out from time to time for updates!