July '64 at the Little

I headed to The Little (240 East Ave.) to see July '64 for a second time. It's an interesting view of what happened (in detail) on three nights in July, 1964. The flash point — shortsightedly referred to as the "cause of the riots" — was when police attempted to arrest an intoxicated man. Friends of the man had it set in their minds that they'd take care of him and keep him out of trouble; police had it set in their minds that he was to be arrested.

Taking one step back, this is an indication that the police were not trusted — they were not welcome in the neighborhood as protectors and more likely considered thuggish oppressors. Take another step back and you'll find that the blacks were forced to live in the 3rd Ward and 7th Ward of the city (if I remember correctly): if they applied for housing in other areas, they were either rejected or their application ignored, so college students and day laborers alike were crammed into crowded housing. Take another step back and you'll see that blacks were similarly dismissed for positions in the cornerstone companies like Kodak and Bausch and Lomb — unless they were willing to work as janitors.

So now you have a situation where you have to put up higher and higher walls to keep the "dangerous element" in the 3rd and 7th Wards contained in their prison. At some point they revolt, though, and July 1964 was a taste of that.

Filmmakers Carvin Eison and Chris Christopher were on hand to answer questions. They said they wanted to compare the situation to today and see if things have changed so they had The Center for Governmental Research (CGR) (1 South Washington St.) perform a study. The results were, well, frightening: the social and economic conditions in the two Wards compared to the City of Rochester in 1964 are almost exactly replicated when comparing the City of Rochester to the County of Monroe today. As "zero tolerance" efforts escalate, as relatively well-off people move to the suburbs and take industry with them, and as suburbanites soak in the belief that the city is a dangerous urban wasteland, conditions are ripe for another revolution.

1,521 total views, 1 views today