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Thank You to a Transformative Community


This week we extend our thanks to all those who made the ACTS 2017 Spring Banquet possible. Next week, we will feature several of our awardees from that night.


1. Intro to the Banquet Night

2. Thank you to Our Keynote Speaker: Kathryn Howe Ruscitto

3. Thank you to Our Sponsors and Advertisers

4. Thank you to Those Who Have Made This Past Year a Success

1.            It is hard to believe that the ACTS 2017 Spring Banquet was only last week. On April 25th, at 6:00 p.m., over 455 people gathered at the Drumlins Country Club to commemorate social justice. The attendees, from over 33 congregations and organizations, walked into Drumlins’ Banquet Hall to an atmosphere of guitar music and the constant hum of conversation. 

            As the 10x2 Band from the David Clark Learning Center played an iconic Beatles song just before 6 o’clock, the ACTS community mingled with a diverse crowd from Syracuse and elsewhere.

County Executive Joanie Mahoney, Co-Legislators Linda Ervin, Monica Williams, and Chris Ryan, and At-large Common Council Candidate Tim Rudd all attended. Common Councilors Nader Maroun, Helen Hudson, Jean Kessner, and Susan Boyle joined their colleagues that night and bolstered representation from the local government. The Banquet also welcomed the five mayoral candidates of Andrew Maxwell, Ben Walsh, Howie Hawkins, and Juanita Perez Williams. Finally, it was wonderful to see the Syracuse Central School District's Board of Education members present, namely President Derrick Dorsey and Board Member Dan Romeo. 

The turnout from ACTS congregations and organizational members exceeded past numbers. Organizations like the CNY Community Foundation, the Allyn Foundation, Le Moyne College's Dept. of Occupational Therapy, Sisters of St. Francis, InterFaith Works, Syracuse University's Community Engagement Team and the El-Hindi Foundation all made appearances. Students from Le Moyne and SU as well as young people from area high schools and the ACTS Youth Council came to witness a night of solidarity.  

            Laughs were plenty as Rev. Quinn Caldwell took the microphone around 6:45 p.m., and delivered a sharp-witted invocation.

“Tonight, we pray for deliverance from dry chicken,” joked the young pastor from Plymouth Congregational Church. Guests would later enjoy an exceptionally delicious serving of chicken. However, the luxury of that meal was tempered beforehand with a reminder of humility from Caldwell, directed toward those who received the staff’s dedicated service.

             “And I pray, that if even one person was abused, overworked, or overlooked so that this Banquet could be brought to our tables, that the food turns to ash in our mouths, and the drinks turn to bile in our throats.”


            “Amen,” was the room’s answer. Caldwell’s opening Invocation would set the tone for the Banquet. There were moments of excitement and then moments of seriousness. These contrasts were melded seamlessly, and ensured the Banquet steered well clear of frivolity and instead imparted a message of collective power. After all, the power of social justice to transform a community is what ACTS is all about.

            As we receive photographs from our talented photographer, Vanessa Campbell, we will share more stories from the ACTS 2017 Spring Banquet. For now, we’d like to thank so many for making a fantastic evening possible... 

2. Thank You to Our Keynote Speaker: Kathryn Howe Ruscitto


            The retired CEO of St. Joseph’s Health is a woman who knows all about leveraging a community’s power for the common good. Her career began on that sentiment with the introduction of a 911 Call Center in Syracuse, which brought equitable emergency services to people of all income levels. Likewise, her career has progressed on those same values of equality and compassion. Since her tenure as CEO at St. Joseph’s Health in 2011, she has led the revitalization of Syracuse’s North Side neighborhoods through conscious community health decisions. In an excerpt from our April 18th interview with Ms. Ruscitto, she provides an example of one of those decisions: the construction of The West Side Clinic.


            “The economical, easier thing to do would have been to put the clinic on our campus. We made the decision to put the clinic in the neighborhood instead, where single mothers with multiple children could easily access the care. It was a homerun,” explained Ms. Ruscitto.  


            Her keynote address at 8:15 p.m. expanded on such themes, as well as the Banquet’s center of “ACTing for a Just Community.” The most important advice she delivered that night revolved around alignment, engagement, and listening.


            “I think our biggest challenge is to align around a common vision,” said Ms. Ruscitto to ACTS before the banquet, “If we don’t align on common ground, we’re going to continue to see the city struggle, [which will] have a profound impact on all of Central New York.”

            Her advice for community leaders to listen to their constituents is a simultaneously self-evident and arduous task. Thankfully, she provided a couple 

of markers for the Banquet guests to follow. The Program for the Advance of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC), for instance, was a program she urged activists to consider. Additionally, she suggested that the community benefits from “best practices” by observing movements such as ACTS, Consensus, FOCUS, Northside UP, and the West Side Initiative.

            When it comes to listening herself, Ruscitto has a favorite tactic that she shared with the Banquet guests. Her approach is called "Up-Down-Left-Right," and it addresses the question of representation. The approach is much like it sounds, that is, a search in all directions for ideas and perspectives

           "Before I approach any problem, I think about who needs to be at the table. Who is on the front lines? Who is in the Community? Who is from elsewhere that has a best practice? Through this method there is a diversity of opinion between age, gender, race, and religion. If people don't feel heard they're going to dig in, and we're not going to get the collaboration that we need," Ruscitto has said of the method and need for expansive representation. 


            She concluded her address with a call to, “be calm, be kind, and be bold,” with each undertaking of leadership. 


            “The crises in our inner city…[are] going to require some vision and leadership for us to rally…Everyone needs to take a deep breath, because we’re going to get through it,” said Ms. Ruscitto in our exclusive interview with her from April 18th.

            Ms. Ruscitto was also kind enough to supply us with her power point slides from her presentation, so that we can review the broader points she made during the speech. 


3. Thank You to Our Sponsors and Advertisers


We could not continue our mission without our Sponsors, so this small display of thanks is still unworthy of their generosity. However, we would still like to thank the following sponsors for believing in the mission of ACTS. Together, we will dismantle structural poverty and racism, and create a community of equity, solidarity, and compassion.


Rev. Regina Reese-Young donned a pair of sunglasses and channeled the O’Jays during her speech as she sang “Money, money, money.” Well, money is one thing ACTS certainly needs to continue its social justice mission. We’d like to thank the following organizations for their advertisement purchases. Your business represents a major assistance, which means so much more to us than mere dollars and cents. Thank you for your contributions!



-Catholic Charities Diocese of Syracuse

-Congregation Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas

-Beer Belly Deli and Pub

-Shiu-Kai Chin and Linda Milosky

-Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center of Syracuse

-St. Lucy's 

-Justin's Tuscan Grill and Pascale Catering at Drumlins

-Upstate Medical University

-Temple Concord

-Genesee Cleaners

-Helen Hudson

-The Printing Center

-The Linked Catholic Communities of St. Joseph the Worker and Immaculate Heart of Mary

-Plymouth Congregational Church

-100 Black Men of Syracuse Inc. 

-The Democrat Caucus of Onondaga County Legislators

-The Islamic Society of Central New York

-William B. Magnarelli, 129th Assembly District

-State Senator David J. Valesky

-L'Arche Syracuse

-Bernie B. and Ona Cohn Bregman

-St. Vincent de Paul Church

-Rahma Health Clinic

The CNY Community Foundation

Juanita for Mayor

-Moving People Transportation Coalition

-Assemblywoman Pamela J. Hunter

-Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church

-Ben Walsh '17 for Mayor

-JF Real Estate

-Bousquet Holstein PLLC

-Immaculate Conception Church

-Allyn Family Foundation


-Niagara Organizing Alliance for HOPE

-The Ahmad and Elizabeth El-Hindi Foundation

-Zen Center of Syracuse

-Christ the King Retreat House and Conference Center

-Hansen's Advisory Services, Inc. 

4. Thank You to Those Who Have Made This Past Year a Success


            Aside from the speakers already mentioned above, there were others who delivered awe-inspiring addresses on the night of April 25th.

            Jackie Warren-Moore, a poet, playwright, theatrical director, and freelance writer, was the author of a spellbinding spoken-word piece. The Drumlines Banquet Hall truly fell into enraptured silence as she spoke, and as her poetry tumbled into our ears. Thank you to Ms. Moore for something truly astonishing.

            They say people remember the beginning and end of things best of all. In this case, we were left in good hands before departing Drumlins. Rabbi Andrew Pepperstone of the Congregation Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas, a member organization, gave a closing blessing at the conclusion of the evening. Rabbi Pepperstone is also an ACTS Clergy Caucus Co-Chair, and one of the people who works hard to keep ACTS on its course.



In the Banquet Booklet the Following People are listed in special thanks for making the past year a success:


Next week, we will bring you more stories from the Banquet as the photographs are prepared. The ACTS 2017 Spring Banquet had several awardees on April 25th, which we will feature in an article for the next issue of the Newsletter.

-Aneesah Evans was named Volunteer Leader of the Year.

-Rev. James Wiggens PH.D. was presented the 2017 Social Justice Leadership Award posthumously.

-Father James Matthews was presented the Rev. Dr. Nebraski Carter Clergy Leadership Award

Let's Transform Syracuse Together

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