VILLA and the trashing of a movement

VILLA and the trashing of a movement

VILLA, 10 Franklin St, Rochester, NY 14604 [Photo: David Kramer, 6/2/20]

After a Black Lives Matter rally ended in downtown Rochester some protesters destroyed police cars and destroyed cars in a parking lot across from the Public Safety Building Saturday, May 30, 2020. Some of the violence spilled a few blocks away with VILLA being broken into with people running out with boxes of shoes. (Photo: Tina MacIntyre-Yee/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) From “Looters storm Villa store in Rochester, leave with armfuls of stolen goods”

Until September 2015, I was the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle‘s Make City Schools Better blogger (scroll down on the link page to see all posts). My very last post featured Area Manager Rickey Hunley of VILLA, the clothing store on 10 Franklin Street across from the Liberty Pole. (ARTICLE BELOW).

Outside the store, I saw a sign asking people to Join the Movement: a campaign to revitalize urban communities by supporting economic investments, educational opportunities and exposure to multi-cultural experiences, heroes,  and other inspirational figures.


David Kramer (left) with Rickey Hunley. [Photo: Gabrielle Ellis, management, downtown VILLA, September, 2015] Rickey loaned me an “I Matter” shirt.

Rickey explained that employees sign up not just to sell attractive sports wear, but to literally join a movement.  Voluntarily, employees participate in up to 25 hours of community service activities a month. “Project 1000″ is at the heart of the movement. Later, Rickey emailed a list of various “Project 1000″ programs that benefit school kids, young entrepreneurs, and high school students.

As the Make City School Better blogger, I was especially excited to learn that VILLA was joining the Adopt-A-School program where local businesses provide tutors for the Rochester City School District. VILLA was “adopting” East High School. I was ready to Join the Movement.

(left) Tian Stephens’ recitation of  Frederick Douglass’ “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” Geary Bka Kholaa in foreground; (right) Olivia Kim’s statue of Douglass on Corinthian Street (off State Street). The plaque reads, “Corinthian Street. The site of Douglass’ renowned Fourth of July speech.” From A Black Lives Matter solidarity rally with commentary from Kholaa and a walk down Joseph Avenue

In A Black Lives Matter solidarity rally with commentary from Kholaa and a walk down Joseph Avenue, we reported on Saturday’s Black Lives Matter peaceful rally that celebrated hope, strength, community and empowerment. As we all know, after the rally looters struck several downtown stores, including VILLA.

6/2/20. Sadly, the WARNING sign did not deter the looters.

That evening, deeply dissapointed, I read Ryan Miller’s  “Looters storm Villa store in Rochester, leave with armfuls of stolen goods” (D & C, 5/30/20) and watched the video of the break-in.

In A Black Lives Matter solidarity rally, I wrote I was proud to be a Rochestarian. Watching — in Mayor Lovely Warren’s terms — these Rochestarians shamefully fall into the trap set by the violent instigators, I felt less proud.

No doubt, VILLA and its movement will be back. People need revitalized urban communities and exposure to multi-cultural experiences. Hopefully, looters and vandals never again will return.

Today, at the Liberty Pole, I met two women holding signs (five people in all had gathered to express solidarity).

6/2/20. The Liberty Pole Way.

Just as I arrived, I heard two men say to the women: “White Supremacy.” As the men passed, another man on the benches told the white men, “black people have rights too,” to which the men retorted, “if they don’t like it here, go home.” The women said that, except for a couple of middle fingers given by passing motorists, the public response was very positive. The men’s outburst was the most openly antagonistic commentary the women heard all day.

On my way home, I saw the men jaywalking on Mt. Hope Avenue talking about being on welfare. One man carried a half pint whiskey bottle of Jim Beam.

The white supremacists who think black people should go home. Maybe Jim Beam inspires such brilliant thoughts. At least they are wearing masks. Mt. Hope Avenue, 1:25 p.m.

The Villa Movement: Adopting East High on the game plan in the near future (September 17th, 2015)

David Kramer (left) with Rickey Hunley [Photo: Gabrielle Ellis, management, downtown Villa] Rickey loaned me an “I Matter” shirt.

• September 17, 2015

Cycling past the Liberty Pole Way and seeing a storefront sign for the Villa Movement, my Unite Rochester blog antennae beeped.  As did my interest in sports gear and apparel.

[Photo: David Kramer]

Inside the store, I got the very cool story of Villa: Join the Movement  from Area Manager Rickey Hunley. The mission statement —  while powerfully crafted — just sets the stage for what Villa is all about.

rickey 2

Provided by Rickey Hunley

Fundamentally, as explained to me by Rickey, Villa employees sign up not to just sell attractive sports wear, but to literally join a movement. Fully voluntarily, employees participate in up to 25 hours of community service activities a month. In my short stay, I could tell these activities were more fun than work, watching Rickey and his assistant scroll though their phones containing abundant options for the post.

rickey 3

Provided by Rickey Hunley

Rickey has taken part in programs benefiting school kids, young entrepreneurs, high school students, and others needing a helping hand:

Personally since my employment with Villa I have helped our “Project 1000″ where we measured the feet and supplied over 700 kids with Timberland boots for Winter of 2012. We’ve also are committed to our Homesewn project where we are giving local entrepreneurs an opportunity to have their clothing lines sold in Villa on a permanent basis. We did a food drive, we collected non perishable goods and donated them to the Rochester City Mission. Lastly, I most recently spoke at the 585 Peace Walk rally, I talked about our I Matter Scholarship where we gave away 5 Scholarships ranging from $1000-$5000 to local Rochester High Seniors Seniors who graduated June 2015. We are opening up our 2nd enrollment for another round of scholarship opportunities for the class of 2016.

rickey 1

Provided by Rickey Hunley

As Rickey told the story, I could tell much of what he did at Villa is a labor of love.

I was especially interested in the Adopt a School program now getting started.  I learned that Villa is about to “adopt” East High, joining the ranks of community members who have come forward to help the new East succeed.

As Rickey says:

Adopt a School simply gives each Villa location access to the kids we serve. We are committed as employees to do community service on a quarterly basis. We can do application writing, resume writing and practice interviews.  Actually, whatever East needs. Soon to come!


What is it to be “Woke?”

The good more than overshadowing the bad on Monroe Avenue and Liberty Pole Way

A Black Lives Matter solidarity rally with commentary from Kholaa and a walk down Joseph Avenue

A Bull’s Head Renaissance with the Bodega Boys on Brown Street

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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