We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there ‘is’ such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dear Friends,

Happy new year and welcome to 2023!

When my dad was a young boy, he took a road trip with my grandfather to Washington D.C. to attend the 1963 March on Washington.

The road trip was spur of the moment. My grandfather, who was passionate about civil rights, told my dad to hop in the car because they were going to be a part of something important. On the way there, my grandfather explained the significance of the pivotal moment in American history they would soon encounter. There would be no sitting on the sidelines. This was something they would need to experience for themselves.

What my grandfather and father did not know was the awesome power of the vision for equality and justice Dr. King would lay out that day. Encouraged by Mahalia Jackson who famously said, “Tell them about the dream!” Dr. King launched into soaring language that is now permanently etched into our collective consciousness. He said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation, where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

As we kick off the new year and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, we must ask ourselves as a community, are we living up to “the dream” for all our children?

As ROC the Future has shown in our most recent State of Our Children Report Card, when it comes to indicators such as infant mortality, school readiness, and early grade literacy, there is still more work to do to achieve the dream. Far too often, the color of our children’s skin as well as their socio-economic status determine outcomes in school and in life.

In the spirit of Dr. King and so many others who fought for freedom and equity, we remain committed to expanding the shared community vision that we have established, cultivated, and refined over our 12 years of working together as an alliance. Our vision is that every child in Rochester will be school ready, supported and successful from cradle to career.

For more than a decade, ROC the Future Alliance has led our community to move closer to that vision as well as the vision described by Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech. For us that has meant working with everyone in our community from parents to youth, teachers to administrators, funders to nonprofit leaders, activists to public officials and those who are committed to improving outcomes for all young people.

In 2023, we will do this by prioritizing and focusing on improving our civic infrastructure. What do we mean by civic infrastructure? We utilize the definition provided by our national partners at StriveTogether, who define it as the way in which a community comes together to hold itself collectively accountable for achieving equitable outcomes for all young people.

In the year ahead, we plan to focus our efforts on continuing to build parent/family partner power to change and transform systems and advance equity for all Rochester’s children. We will do this by advancing our Whole Child Initiative, strengthening partnerships with RCSD, supporting the work of a strong and diverse pipeline of teachers, and continuing to lift the campaigns and services of our alliance with the focus of collectively addressing the systemic barriers that have endured for our children for far too long.

Let this be the year that we partner collectively to make “the dream” and vision of Rochester as a place where every child thrives, a reality.

Until all the children are well,

Brian Lewis