On Friday evening, Rise Up Rochester gathered members of the community to remember “all who have fallen victim to homicide” at Baber A.M.E Church.
It’s an event Reverend James Simmons, who leads the church, has put on six years in a row. He chose the holiday season because he said it can be particularly tough for those missing loved ones.
“You hear people’s faith come alive during these hard times, and faith has been an anchor for these families,” he said.
There were roughly four dozen names read during the service- all lost loved ones heavily missed. And after every name a candle was lit in their memory. Not all of those named died this year.
A number of people were in attendance including Sirena Cotton of Roc The Peace who was there with her four-year-old son, Jamar. She was remembering her son Christopher Jones who was killed in 2007 at the age of 16. According to Roc the Peace’s website, he was Rochester’s 52nd homicide that year. Cotton started Roc the Peace the following year on his birthday and since the organization has worked extensively to educate youth on and prevent violence.
And locally, many know how high rates of homicide and violence means that it wasn’t just those in attendance hurting. About three dozen Rochesterians have been victims of homicide this year alone.
The church, also home to Rise up Rochester, often takes proactive steps to address issues in the community and is known for being much more vocal and active than many local churches and congregations. For instance, in June, Simmons led a service to remember gun violence victims, including those of the Charleston church shooting and the Orlando Pulse night club shooting.
“We can not sit idle on the sidelines and watch the blood of our sons and daughters continue to be spilled in the streets of Rochester and we do absolutely nothing about it. We cannot sit back and watch while our children die,” he said at this event.
“Too many people are settling their disputes with guns,” Mayor Lovely Warren said at a press conference in April. She noted that crime was definitely declining but that there was still pain in our communities. “Too many people are making senseless choices and causing needless tragedy on our streets. And too many people, myself included, are going to funerals to bury our city’s young people.”
“It’s scary,” said Jamell Walker, 19, during a youth discussion in November. “I’ve seen two people shot in front of me and it’s not like I was on the block at 2 a.m. We need to do something about this violence; it’s tearing our neighborhoods apart.”