Rochester’s 19th Ward is one of the region’s most diverse, inclusive and historic neighborhoods. If you drive down one of the community’s tree-lined streets, you’ll often find lawns showcasing flags that speak to that diversity.
As of late, the flags have come under attack.
“We had an episode recently where a flag was not only taken but burned on the person’s front lawn,” Karen Emerson said.
Karen Emerson is the president of the 19th Ward Community Association, a member-supported, volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization formed to fight racist real estate practices, such as blockbusting and redlining, while purposefully cultivating a diverse neighborhood.
Emerson joined the 19th Ward Community Association in 1977 after buying a home in the area, the house she still resides in today.
“We decided that we needed to make a statement consistent with the reasons our neighborhood was set up,” Emerson said.
Residents intend on adorning their lawns with even more flags to make that statement. 100 Pride, Co-exist, and Black Lives Matter flags have been donated to the 19th Ward Community Association for community members to pick up and display.
“We are not going to tolerate that kind of behavior,” Emerson said. “We want to let people know all people are welcomed here — regardless of their ethnicity, their religion, their social status or beliefs.”
Located in the southwest section of the city, the 19th Ward is known for its desirable older, brick and stucco homes.
In the mid-1960s, real estate agents targeted the area with housing discrimination practices that threatened its diverse future.
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In 1965, the community came together to fight back.
“About 300 citizens got together and created the 19th Ward Community Association,” Karen Emerson said. “They wanted to make a statement to real estate folks that you can’t redline in our neighborhood.”
Redlining is a prejudicial practice that places mortgages, insurance, loans, and other financial services out of reach for inhabitants of specific neighborhoods based on race or ethnicity, rather than on an individual’s qualifications and credentials.
Redlining historically impacts minority neighborhoods more than others and strongly influenced the way Rochester neighborhoods developed.
“The association wanted to make sure that people could live here and feel included in our neighborhood, ” Emerson said.
Emerson says that the flag vandalism has been frequent over the last three or four years and that recent acts have targeted Pride flags more than others. LGBTQ pride Month is celebrated every June.
The association has met with a Rochester police task force for LGBTQ issues. Still, there are no credible theories about who is vandalizing the flags or the reason behind the destruction. When asked if the acts resulted from the country’s current social and political climate, Emerson didn’t want to assume anything; instead, she offered a unifying message.
“People love to believe the worst about every neighborhood except for the ones that are chic,” Emerson said. “But wonderful stuff happens in every neighborhood in Rochester. The people who live in the 19th Ward, in my humble opinion, want what everybody else wants. A peaceful place to live.”
The 19th Ward Community Association has information on their website for how community members can help at https://19wca.org/
Contact Robert Bell at: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @byrobbell & Instagram: @byrobbell
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