Let’s Get Diverse, Rochester: You Should Know These Neighbors

If you don’t know them, you really should!

Allow me to begin this blog by stating very clearly that it’s my belief that building a strong community is of utmost importance during today’s turbulent times. Period. We cannot do that by ignoring whole communities within our city.

Whether our neighbors are majority black, white, latino, asian, or any other ethnicity, we have to admit that globally we’ve got to work and live together. The days of segregation are over. We’re all sharing space now.

I’ll admit, growing up in Pittsburgh where such segregation did (although not formally or officially) exist like most cities in the eastern part of the US, it’s taken me some time to get used to the fact that those “neighborhood lines” are becoming blurrier day by day. The days of saying “don’t go into that neighborhood if you’re [insert ethnicity here]” are going to end, because there’s just so many of us from a variety of cultures here – and that’s the whole reason this country was created to begin with!

If you’ll allow me to get really real, it’s my opinion that currently it’s hard to find such diversity in the Midwest, though this is changing. Therefore, it’s my goal to use this platform to change that in a positive, informative, and efficient way. We all can research and learn online regardless of where we live, right?

The purpose of this blog is to highlight some wonderful friends and neighbors who deserve recognition for what they do in Rochester. I have met each of these people personally, and they’re amazing. Would you like to meet them?

Let’s start…

  • Regina Mustafa: Regina and I bonded over being Pennsylvanians in Rochester at first. If you pay any attention to her online activity, I don’t have to tell you that she’s a person who stands firm in fighting for equal rights and walks the talk. Sometimes she needs help with rides from our community, and one morning I offered her one. We had a pleasant conversation about the changes we’d like to see in our community. Since it was Ramadan, I was gifted my very first date for the “trouble.” It was lovely!

  • David Jiang: David joined the Rochester City Music Board this year just like I did. His goal in joining was the same as mine; we want more diverse acts in music sharing the stage in Rochester. He is also a musician himself.

  • Eva Cruz Pena: Eva was kind enough to share with me her artistic visions for this community one afternoon at Café Steam. In fact, she rushed over and brought her daughter along with her just to make the meeting. She is exceptionally passionate about the art of expression, and the freedom to explore it. She regularly shares her online space with other collaborators. She enjoys being a life coach.

  • Laura Lee: Yep, I’ll address the elephant in the room and admit that most of us in Rochester probably know Laura already. She’s an anchor on KAAL-TV (and while working in local media we did cross paths a time or two), but what you might not know is that she’s a wonderful supporter of our Hmong community. To be honest, this is a community that I had never interacted with before moving to Minnesota, and I am so grateful for the information and beautiful pictures that Laura shares which give me a little peek into the Hmong world.

  • Pasquale Presa: I’d be a horrible advocate for my own Italian community if I didn’t mention Pasquale. I can’t tell you what a breath of fresh air it was to realize that an Italian immigrant opened a pizza shop in my city once I moved here. So, yeah, there’s bias with this one! You know his pizza. You love his pizza. Tryst me, when he says it’s authentic NY style, he’s not kidding! I grew up on pizza like his in Pittsburgh. What you maybe don’t know or haven’t noticed is that Pasquale employs a variety of people at his shop. As any good Italian should (and does), he welcomes anyone at his shop as though it’s his home. He literally and figuratively serves his community in so many ways. He’s held community events at his shop, donated food to many projects – the list goes on.

Again, these are just neighbors and friends that I have interacted with personally. So, this list is not going to cover every single amazing POC we have in our city whom also deserves recognition. If you know more, tell me! I’d love to meet them. Rochester is becoming more diverse by the day, and I want us to remember that and accept that.

I can’t wait to meet some more neighbors as Rochester grows!

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