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In a city in need of healing, a garden grows

by Arthur Dilbert Jr. and Ruth Marchetti

Originally published in the Democrat and Chronical, 9/26/21

In the early hours of a cold, wet morning in March 2020, Daniel Prude lay naked and dying in the street in front of The Abundant Life Faith Center on Jefferson Avenue.

His death was an inhumane and undignified end to a life that had both struggles and joys. He was a man, a child of God, a brother, co-worker and father. Our community institutions failed to have enough compassion to care for him, even as his brother pleaded for help. Daniel would have turned 43 last Monday.

Last fall, RAICA (Rochester Interfaith Climate Action) joined with The Abundant Life Faith Center, FTP Elders and Allies and “Blocks in Bloom” to plant a lilac tree in Mr. Prude’s memory in a small garden space near where he lay dying. Joe and Valerie Prude, Mr. Prude’s brother and sister-in-law, the Rev. Arthur Dilbert and congregants planted 41 bulbs, commemorating the 41 years of Mr Prude’s life.

Today, we will officially dedicate the garden by unveiling a stone engraved with “Daniel Prude’s Peace Garden, est. 2020”.

As people of faith, we believe that Daniel is finally at peace, but we know our community is not. The City of Rochester encompasses a community where people live, work, play and build families. But within that community people, especially people of color, still suffer the violence of poverty, poor educational outcomes, health disparities, unemployment and underemployment, easy gun access and biased treatment by our criminal justice system.

In addition, centuries of accumulated environmental toxins in low-income areas continue to inflict poor health on our city’s residents. The children who live and go to school in this part of Rochester have been traumatized by poverty, by the threat of police brutality and by the ongoing gun violence on the streets

outside their homes and schools. Their trauma affects all of us.

The health and well-being of the greater community of Rochester, it’s suburbs and adjacent rural areas, is dependent on the health and well-being of all the people who live here. Building peace requires the contribution of all. Like a table that can’t stand without the support of all four legs, building a community

where all people thrive depends on the commitment of business, civil society, social institutions, including places of worship, and family and individual responsibility.

Abundant Life Faith Center is a nondenominational church with a predominantly African American congregation, which strives to inspire its members, friends and the surrounding community to live life to the fullest by incorporating God’s word and most importantly His unconditional love.

RAICA plants trees because they are both efficient sequesters of carbon and other pollutants and symbols of care for future generations. In honor of Mr. Daniel Prude, we hope this garden is a symbol of the greater community’s commitment to a world where all children can grow up without fear and be free from the effects of racial injustice and inequity.

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