Celebrating Black Women in Rochester

The women of Brickstone by St. John’s gathered for their monthly social, eager and ready to listen– all due to the topic of discussion. Residents Geneva Stokes and Faith Prather presented the history of notable Black women in Rochester. “It is Black History Month, so there is no better time than now to highlight these women,” said Prather.

Faith Prather

Prather, who did most of the talking during the event, has lived at Brickstone by St. John’s for a little over a year. The retired professor was the provost of diversity at SUNY Brockport and was monumental in creating the college’s first women’s center. Prather said, “I have worked in education for years, so it is nice to be able to do this, and working with Geneva has been so great.”

Geneva Stokes, a Brickstone resident of eight years, worked a lengthy career in Washington D.C. for a law firm and mayoral committees, focusing on women’s issues.

Geneva Stokes with her sister Irene Ingram

The two worked together for several weeks in preparation for their presentation at the social. “We have worked really hard on this, and everyone has been so supportive and excited to learn,” said Prather.

Prather and Stokes told the group of about 65 women, “It is so meaningful to acknowledge the women before us — we could spend hours talking about these women.”

The presentation, which focused on Black women in Rochester’s history, was divided into three parts: Icons of the Past21st Century Pioneers, and Living Legends. Prather said that she and Geneva chose specific women to focus on based on their embodiment of the Black History Month colors. 

“Many people don’t know what the colors mean,” said Prather. “We have black, which represents resilience, red for blood, yellow for optimism and justice, and finally, green for growth. The women we chose to highlight are the embodiment of these colors.”

Some of the “multidimensional” women discussed included Anna Murray Douglass, Isabella Dorsey, Harriet Tubman, Gloria Langston, and Dr. Alice Holloway-Young.

Prather pointed out that February 15 marks Susan B. Anthony’s birthday, a suffragist and Rochester icon. “The ties between the civil rights and abolitionist movements to the suffragist movement are very strong — they are connected, so much of that history happened right here in Rochester.” 

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