A letter from the activist using the name "Susan B. Anthony" follows this blog.
The fate of a historic West Main Street church is one of the bigger stories in Rochester right now. One notable Rochesterian deems it sufficiently critical to interrupt her eternal rest.
“Susan B. Anthony” is the force behind an online petition drive to save the church. And if my inbox is any indication, hundreds have answered Anthony’s call.
The church in question is just outside the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood in southwest Rochester. There’s been a lot of revitalization work in that area — check out Anthony’s Madison Street sometime, it’s gorgeous — and many people say replacing the church with a proposed Dollar General would be like giving a supermodel a black eye.
The city’s Zoning Board is discussing the Dollar General proposal this morning, and it sounds like they have a lot of questions. A decision isn’t expected for a while.
I don’t know who’s behind the Anthony persona, but he or she is playing it to the hilt, even closing letters with the well-known Anthony line, “Failure is impossible.”
“I fully admit that what I say in the guise of Susan B. Anthony does not matter. What matters is the statements made by all of the people who have signed petitions on behalf of saving this building and the community that this building resides in. Please accept this petition and thoughtfully consider the demolition or salvation of this building and realize that whatever decision you make affects this building only and will not serve as a litmus test for other preservation efforts in the future,” says an excerpt from a letter that “Anthony” wrote to a city official.
I guess we’ll see how much pull the Anthony name still has around here.
I first found out about the 660 West Main Street church like most people in the community did. Three to four months ago the church story hit the news and I was intrigued. I'm not a preservationist, but I have a long history of living in the area. I personally can trace back my ancestors to this area by three or four generations. I am proud of Rochester and the role that its played in my life. When the initial news articles ran I knew that the community members trying to preserve the church would not succeed on their own. The news coverage was not sustained enough and there was not the public reaction to it that was necessary to save the building.
I also knew that no one would listen to me. At least noone that would help push my agenda forward. I work with the news media on an almost daily basis in real life and when you are acting in your own self interest reporters can be rather cold to you. So I knew that I had to do something different. I had to become a symbol; someone who would scare and intrigue people. I chose Susan B. Anthony because of the proximity the church was to her home. Also, and this has not been widely reported, the church chapel was built in 1959 only a couple years after Susan B. Anthony arrived in Rochester. So I thought it was rather poignant to have Ms. Anthony fight for this building.
Within thirty minutes of using her identity I knew I was on the right path. With the twitter account I began friending people in the media who would be intrigued by my efforts and the rest is history.
We as a culture think that social media is the great democracy of our society. It is not. If I had contacted people with my real identity no one would listen to me even though my cause is just. I would be cast aside. Several years ago I contacted the media when Emily Good was arrested for filming the police. Not one of the journalists I contacted ran with the story. If they did they would have broken a major news story that would have far reaching implications. Only when the story took on a life of its own did people take notice. They didn't trust the real me because I was seen as a blowhard with an opinion and she was an activist who was asking for it.
So now I use the symbol of Susan B. Anthony to fight my causes. This is just the beginning. I have gotten people's attention and I aim to use it in a way that benefits the people of Rochester. The twitter feed, Facebook account and petitions will be used in the future to promote causes that I feel strongly about — often causes that the media at large chooses not to write about and we will see together how far it goes.
In regards to this instance, the SBA neighborhood deserves better, we as a people deserve better and this is why I am fighting their cause. If we can allow this sort of conduct in our most historic and sacred places then how are we expected to protect the rest of Rochester???
Susan B. Anthony
"Failure is Impossible"