For All Those Dying To Leave Rochester, NY

Aww, Rochester, NY.

"The Flower City"

The 585, The ROC

I use to hear about the days when Jodeci lived in Rochester, NY and Mid-town was the place to be. Back then, artists like Timbaland, Missy Elliot, Tweet, and Ginuwine began their careers in Rochester when Hip-Hop and 90s R&B was on the rise. Mid-town plaza was the first indoor mall in the country and the streets of downtown were crowded with folks from all over.

Photo: GIPHY 
For me there’s no better feeling than 90s R&B and I’m grateful to  know my hometown contributed to a golden era so many people appreciate. I just want to know one thing: When I was younger why would I always hear “Rochester is not what it used to be”?

I guess it's a rhetorical question.

By the time I hit 10th grade in high school Mid-town and the memories with it were demolished. It seemed like each year before its demolition stores were leaving the mall, never to return. Thankfully, I enjoyed my last carousel rides and clock tower memories as the mall became a dumping ground for slow progress.

Now 21, in having conversations with my peers I realized many folks feeling the sentiments of "what is there left for me in Rochester"? That's a question that can be answered based on life circumstances.

We don’t want to stay in Rochester past our youth.

There’s multiple reasons but the main reason I keep hearing is: "Rochester has nothing to offer us".

For others it may be growth, jobs in the career fields of our interest, a nightlife, and what our city has to offer Black culture.

For a city it seems that things here move slow. And when it’s time for things to pick up at times life can spiral out of control. We look at big cities because it seems this city never gets any love. Yet, we fail to realize the problems that exist here you can find in any ghetto in America.

No matter where you go, there’s always someone hungry. (Some of you might not understand this point.)
Photo: GIPHY

We look to cities like New York City and Miami as if these are places where we need to be. These places to come with their own struggles.There’s someone living in these cities that have never seen a glimpse of “the good life” we think these cities can provide for us. That's not to say they can't. Natives from Miami who have never traveled to The Miami Design district, or the tourist attractions that we feel so comfortable escaping from our own hometown.

It’s like the only time we love our city is when someone does something that can put us on the map. Like yeah I’m from ROC-CHES-TER. It seems like no one knows where we are located or how much talent lies under the roc. It seems that we’ve become tired.

We become tired of a world that seems so small, businesses that cater to our people closing down, violence, gentrification and Black and Brown folks being pushed out of the city. We become tired of those who never cared to live and work in the inner city in the first place, but are the first ones to tell us what we need to create change. We've become tired of the folks who leave to build other communities other than the one that raised them. Like you leaving to help others is cool and all but what programs or new developments have you brought to kids in your hood? I’ll wait.

Photo: GIPHY

I won’t front! Sometimes it’s not the city itself but the circumstances that you live in that makes you want to leave. Sometime it’s a combination of both.

I don’t want to live on a bi-weekly paycheck for the rest of life, suffering with no food on the week I don’t have income.

I don’t want to live in a home with no bed struggling to have enough money in my pocket to at least have a meal for one day.

I don’t want to live without life’s necessities and become immune to the struggle.

I don’t want to be comfortable or complacent with poverty.

I don’t want to look like a baddie and don’t have a pot, pan, or car to piss in.

I don’t want to act like the system not part of the reason why I’m here.

And for the love of the higher power… I don’t want to PRETEND I’m not broke to impress or to keep people out the problems I need help dealing with.

I don’t want to hate on the next man/woman for their season of success, because my season is on it’s own path.

I can only speak to my own experiences.

I can be truthful with myself that  there is an underlying problem in which our community must face. Memories that must be taught and a history of Blackness here that is vibrant but not promoted to the extent where those who want to be invested should be.

There are kids who still feel the University of Rochester, that sits in their own backyard is out reach. There’s always someone even outside of Rochesterians who feel there's a need for improvement. In realizing these problems, I still want to leave.

NOTED: I didn’t say leave and never look back.

I’m leaving for my personal growth. I lived here 21 years, attended K-College in Rochester. Not to mention, I’ve been so engulfed with Rochester, there are even some places as a native I’ve never seen.

"Invisible walls between the burbs and the inner city that have never been crossed" - Charli.

I know for a fact there’s kids in the ROC who have never been to Eastview Mall or traveled to Pittsford, even though it's only 15 minutes away from them.

So what do I want?

I want someone or someplace to store the Black history of Rochesterians because it’s not limited to Frederick Douglass or the Underground Railroad (if it exist, I haven't encountered it yet). I want a revolution to occur and for our youth to share the joyous sentiments of the generations before us.

I want a community healing. I think we could benefit from an arts center and from more structure in our developments and opportunities especially for people of color. I think there is nothing wrong in having clubs and entertainments spots that specifically serve Black audiences. Those few venues we have Pearl, Taylor, Platform 21 and Shamrock ain’t cutting it. Neither is us f*cking up the venues we get that cater to our people. However, I will admit violence exists everywhere and we cannot blame genres like Hip-Hop and Reggae for the challenges that arise. #BLAMETHESYSTEM

Photo: GIPHY
I’m tired of going in clubs playing techno (sorry not sorry). I want to hear my Dexta Daps, 2Pac, Biggie and Migos ALL night and throwback rotation. I want all the events happening in the city stored on Eventbrite so Thursday-Sunday I don’t have to stalk between 5 different Djays and 20 friends on Facebook to see what’s the move.

Let’s also not dismiss the poverty that lies in Rochester….concentrated poverty to be exact, the third highest in the nation.

Those young folks who are traveling out of Rochester seeing and living in other cities are noticing that if our city had just a few more adjustments and outlets we too can be ever vibrant.

I want to fall back in love and help my city.

So why I’m I leaving? My personal reasons for leaving are simple, I’m no longer happy here. I’m eager to explore what’s out in the world, get a new space, and find myself so that I can comeback and shape up the rough edges.

Yes, when I started to hate my environment I started assessing things I needed to explore and rediscover. Parks I’ve never been to, restaurants I never eaten, and new scenery. To be honest I’m grateful of the fresh air Rochester can bring, the flowers and the rich history of 90s music that I hold dear to me.However, my time has come where I must help myself before helping others.

I want ALL of downtown Rochester to glow like South Avenue with around the way girls and boys from the hood. I want to see more Black folks to win because our city deserves to win too.


Who are we to disrespect a city that gave you the motivation to be what you want to become? No matter how much you run, remember Rochester is a part of you.

It’s okay to be adopted by natives from other cities, to live it up in the “greatest cities known to man” but remember to bring love back to the city that never gets any.

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