News & Opinion » News

Racial equity commission names new co-chair, seeks applicants


The new Commission on Racial and Structural Equity (RASE) is set to have its first meeting in early August and is currently seeking applicants for its board, co-chair William Johnson said Monday.

The commission is looking to appoint 21 board members and Johnson said eight have been selected thus far from a pool of about 30 applications.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference, Johnson said the board must be representative of Monroe County and urged anyone interested to apply. He added that the Commission may be broken down into subcommittees tasked with examining specific issues in the community.

“This is not a rhetorical exercise, we know what the problems are, what we’ve lacked is the will of every sector of society to act,” Johnson said.

RASE co-chair Muhammad Shafiq. - PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • RASE co-chair Muhammad Shafiq.
The creation of the commission was announced two weeks ago by Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, who said the commission would be responsible for examining and developing recommendations around policies and legislation in areas such as education, health care, job creation, business development, and social services.

The mayor and county executive set a deadline of six months for the commission to report its findings and recommendations for structural changes in the public and private sectors.

In other developments, it was announced Monday that a third co-chair, ESL Senior Vice President Arline Santiago, has been tapped to join Johnson and Nazareth professor Muhammad Shafiq in overseeing the commission.

Johnson emphasized that every institution in the county needs to be evaluated for structural change. But simply addressing what issues are at play will likely not be enough to spur any sort of substantial impact.

Santiago said a major part of the commission’s job is to establish what local laws need to be enacted, repealed, or altered to ensure sustainable progress.

“We have put this off for far too long,” Santiago said. “The conversations we need to have to move us forward are not going to be easy, nor should they be.”

Of utmost importance to Shafiq is that the board is representative of the community at large and poised to examine every nuance of systemic inequality.

“If the commission represents anyone, it must represent everyone,” Shafiq said.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at