Years ago, when Midtown Plaza was not only a going concern but the vital heart of a vibrant downtown, if you were a smart newspaper reporter, you hung around at lunch to buttonhole the bigwigs. There would be judges and executives, members of City Council, high-profile lawyers and the chairmen of both political parties. All eating lunch and reading papers in the broad, open atrium, laughing and visiting, talking loud, seeing and being seen.
It was the heart of Rochester.
And just outside the front door, where it opened onto Main Street, next to the heavyset man with the bass voice who sold scented oils, was a tall thin man who wore a soul patch and held a sheaf of newsletters in his hands.
That was Minister Lawrance Lee Evans Sr.
He was a friend of mine.
And everyone else on the planet.
And he was the prophet of Doology, a simple faith he created, built around the idea that complaining accomplishes nothing, but doing can accomplish anything. Don’t be a complainer, be a worker. If you get up and do something, you can serve and change a community – you can serve and change the world.
Last night, that man’s son, a young man raised to believe that service belonged before self, won a primary election which will make him the next mayor of Rochester.
The bigwigs are gone, Midtown Plaza isn’t even remembered, the downtown offices are all empty, and you’re hard pressed to find someplace to eat lunch.
But Rochester persists, and so does the Evans family, and a new day of hope has dawned.
Because yesterday the Democrat voters of Rochester chose a new direction. They rejected the incumbent mayor 2-to-1, they deposed her two closest allies in the county legislature – setting that body on a new course, and they ended the political legacy of the late Assemblyman David Gantt.
In a city in the throes of a gang war and on track for what may be the most violent year in its history, the voters decided to go a different direction. They haven’t abandoned their progressivism, they didn’t reach out to a different political party, but they have chosen different people and different values.
Malik Evans represents those values. Meekness without weakness, passion without anger, justice without vengeance, pride without prejudice. All wrapped up in a man whose house is in order, whose decency and goodness are not in question, whose life has been his best advertisement.
He will need prayers and support, and he won’t always get it right, but he will learn and grow and serve and build upon the firm foundation of capability his life has thus far established. There will be less drama, more peace, more reaching across every aisle and shaking of every hand. He will be everyone’s mayor, and there will be no more us-versus-them out of City Hall.
No more fighting with Congressman Morelle, no more fighting with the state legislative delegation, no more fighting with anybody.
The city voted, and then it breathed a sigh of relief.
Lovely Warren will find her way in life and in history. She has legal and personal challenges to face, a criminal proceeding in her future and a threat to her law license and presumed livelihood. She has a husband facing federal charges and six months of an administration in turmoil.
But I wouldn’t bet against her.
She is a young woman still and, if her legal problems clear up, as they sometimes do, she could yet rise to prominence in appointed or elected office. In Washington or Albany or in the robes of a judge or the offices of some non-profit.
History will be kind to her, remembering her as a first and not as a failure. She will have served two full terms, a not insignificant achievement, and the list of her accomplishments will be burnished and remembered more fondly with time. She had brilliant days, and very dark days, times when she acted with inspired goodness, and times when she acted with inexplicable evil. She was, like most of us, a mixed bag. But she was, like very few of us, the mayor of her town and the leader of her people.
And a hundred years from now her portrait will still hang in City Hall.
Right next to the portrait of Malik Evans.