"Black Lives Through Lenses" Exhibit Brings Rochester's BLM Protests Into Focus


(ROCHESTER, NY)-- A new gallery exhibit at the Avenue Blackbox Theatre provides an intimate, street-level view of the Black Lives Matter protests that have shaken Rochester over the past five months.

"There's joy, there's pain, there's anger, there's sadness. There's so much in these pictures," says Cocoa Rae David, curator and one of the featured photographers of the "Black Lives Through Lenses" exhibit.

"It encompasses everything that's going on, not only what happened with Daniel Prude but what's going on in this whole entire country this year."

Cocoa Rae David and Reenah Golden (PHOTO: L Hannon)

The "Black Lives Through Lenses" exhibit includes about 30 photographs submitted by both professional photographers and community members. While most of the images are from BLM protests in Rochester, some were taken during a protest in Washington DC.

"That's very important, the fact that we're able to center it here in Rochester, through the lens of folks that are right here, whether they be on the ground as photojournalists at the protest, or just folks who are affected deeply," says Reenah Golden, founder of the Avenue Blackbox Theatre.

For the last five months, Black Lives Matter organizers in Rochester have been speaking out against police violence, systemic racism, and the systematic abandonment of communities of color.

In early September, news broke that Rochester Police officers had suffocated Daniel Prude to death back in March while responding to a mental wellness call. Emails and internal documents show city officials had tried to block the details from becoming public.

Protests intensified. Organizers continued speaking out, speaking louder, demanding change.

For Cocoa Rae David, images have the power to carry on the central message of the Black Lives Matter movement where words fail.

"It's just, how else can you talk about an issue, when you use words over and over again and no one's listening? Images--images speak those words that apparently no one's listening to," David says.

One of the photos in particular--an image of candles at a Daniel Prude memorial on Jefferson Avenue--speaks volumes for her.

"People don't see how sacred it is when blood is spilled, especially innocent blood," David says, becoming overwhelmed, her own words failing her.

"I like what she says about the sacredness," says Reenah Golden picking up the narrative. "There's something sacred in the stillness of a photograph. And placing that [photograph here], this becomes somewhat of a shrine or a memorial for these times."

The "Black Lives Through Lenses" exhibit will run until November 13th. David and Golden say they wanted it to remain open for a total of 42 days, one for each year of Daniel Prude's life.

The gallery at the Avenue Blackbox Theatre is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, 3pm to 7pm, and Saturdays 12pm to 3pm, at 780 Joseph Ave.

DARIEN LAMEN is news director/producer for Reclaiming the Narrative. He can be reached at wxirnews@gmail.com. Leslie Hannon contributed to this report.