From USRowing.org, by Ed Moran:
The boat bay at the Genesee Waterways Center was already warm and muggy before it started to fill with USRowing and Rochester city representatives.
It hadn’t rained in Rochester in almost two months, but this morning the rain came down hard. The opening ceremony for the First Annual USRowing Diversity Invitational Regatta was scheduled to be held outside and include a boat christening and rowing demonstration from the rowers of Cross Currents Minority Rowing Program.
The weather forced the rowers indoors, but nothing was going to slow down the official kickoff of what is hoped to be the beginning of a growth in minority participation in the Rochester rowing community and the start of an event that will eventually draw participants from diverse rowing programs across the country.
Here to celebrate the first-ever Diversity Invitational Regatta was USRowing chief executive officer Glenn Merry, Rochester mayor Thomas S. Richards, City Council president Lovely A. Warren and Lydia Boddie-Rice, founder of the Cross Currents program.
“We hope to see participation in rowing come out of this,” said Richards. “It’s a nice event, but in the long run, what really would make us happy, make me happy, make the city happy, is to broaden the participation in rowing in Rochester. And the involvement of USRowing gives it a certain substance that we couldn’t do on our own.
“I’m very optimistic about it and actually quiet impressed with it,” he said. “If we can get a diverse participation from kids across the city that ordinarily wouldn’t view this as the kind of thing they could do because they are just not exposed to it, that would be great.”
The diversity invitational is part of America Rows, a USRowing initiative that is aimed at broadening the level of participation in rowing from the more urban, underserved communities across the country.
The event includes this morning’s kickoff ceremony, a learn-to-row program in the afternoon and an evening social followed by a local regatta tomorrow morning.
It is a program that is important to USRowing, said Merry, and one that will take full commitment to accomplish. For Merry, who was born and raised in Rochester and never exposed to rowing until college, this was a perfect opportunity.
“I want to draw attention to the fact that rowing does not look like the American people. What I want to do with this event is see it as a turning point to making rowing more popularized in America, to bring the American people in as participants, and also as fans of the sport,” Merry said.
“It’s a sport that everyone can do and everyone is not doing. There are huge areas where we are rowing in this country that the neighborhoods surrounding them are not involved in the sport.
“As with many things, you have to start with what you have and build into it. People don’t just come to something unless it’s happened before. This shows that there is interest and a support level here in Rochester and that there is an interest and support level from USRowing straight from the Board of Directors all the way down to our mission statement and goals of the organization
“Diversity and inclusion are in the forefront of that mission and in the goals of the organization. This is a kind of a brick and mortar opportunity to demonstrate that,” Merry said.