A Wednesday Word from The Director | Power Is With the People


During these uncertain times a 540Monthly Membership ensures that 540WMain is able to create multi-media content, virtual classes, and educational programming rooted in and taught from a social justice and anti-racism perspective. If you love 540WMain consider becoming a 540Monthly member for a little as $3/month. 

Dear Community,

I’ve spent the better part of the last four days trying to manage a seasonal “fibro flare” and do my best to care for myself physically while maintaining as positive of a mental outlook as possible. Flare ups of chronic disease is never easy and I hope that my following essay (originally shared on Facebook) helps you to better understand how the current global pandemic the already oppressive systems and structures of the U.S. only add to the daily burden to exist and survive.

Power Is With the People

What frustrates me most about all of the “resources” as far as emergency loans, grants and funding for small businesses and people from the state unemployment application to Payroll Protection Program, to the City of Rochester and Monroe County is how inherently inaccessible they all are. A convoluted mix of online and paper that requires immense levels of mental bandwidth to shift through, digital internet access, a working printer, time, know-how, technical savvy, a cell phone that works, a working email, organization skills, patience, and many more things I am forgetting.

Any combination or lack thereof of any of these areas means long delays, frustration and depending on circumstances a business or sole proprietor more than likely not getting through the process. Adding insult to injury are long customer service wait times or flat out no one to talk to, online systems that crash or are broken on the programming side, and even if you get through to a person, it is highly likely that even they can’t really help you or do not know much more than you do as the applicant. I do not know of any small business owner that has navigated any of these systems without headache. All of it is incredibly demoralizing and frustrating to navigate even if you have the privilege like myself to all have the pieces to the puzzle. Note, we are all living under the stress of a global pandemic. There is ubiquitous stress emotionally, physically, and mentally at the very least for every single person regardless of whether or not they are a small business owner.

It is almost as if (gasps in sarcasm) the systems were never designed to be helpful or remotely accessible to more than a small privileged few and the pandemic only reinforces this fact. And then to see major billion dollar making companies like the LA Lakers and Shake Shack get the money quickly when they clearly don’t need it is a slap in the face so hard that you almost want to give up on humanity.

“The power has always been with the people”

I am forcing myself as a small business and non-profit owner to try to apply to any and all programs that 540WMain is eligible for. So far, 540WMain has been denied (or ineligible) all emergency funding including that through local larger foundations and organizations like Rochester Area Community Foundation and United Way. Still I am keenly aware that our organization will be fine. I will personally and professionally be fine. 540WMain has an amazing network of supporters and monthly members and thanks to individual people and grassroots organizing not one week has passed without a donation from the community. My immediate personal and business expenses are paid more or less.

One thing that is reinforced for me throughout all of this is that the system at large is designed to exclude most and the facade of being for everyone is not only a lie but shameful psychological gaslighting. The power has always been with the people, individual people making a difference $1 at a time. I thank each and every one of “my people”. I am you. You are We.

Throughout the month of June, 540WMain will celebrate 4 years of community enrichment. In just four years the organization has become a pillar in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood and a convener and curator of important and vital community conversations, classes, and programs. Your financial support helps us scale up this work in 2020 and beyond with a year long fundraising goal of $40,000

Published by Calvin Eaton

(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a disabled community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism, equity, justice, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain, Inc. a non-profit online and community-based organization for accessible education and events that promote justice for all.

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