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Jerome H. Underwood

President & CEO, Action for a Better Community, Inc.

Years in current role: 4

What was your biggest success in 2021?

It’s challenging to point out what was the biggest success of 2021. I think of which perspective I should speak from: personal or professional. I’ll do both. Personally, I am very proud that our family, and extended family, was able to navigate through several major losses we experienced in 2021. It was a tough year where our love was the cohesive force that enabled us to get through. Professionally, I am very proud of the work that Action for a Better Community did in 2021. Our staff made much-needed adaptations necessary for us to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular we invested $1 million in helping to bridge the digital divide that was widened by the pandemic. We provided a variety of devices to families who were unable to access school, work, worship or telehealth.

What are your expectations for 2022?

My expectation for 2022 is that justice, in particular racial and economic justice, becomes a collective priority for elected officials, human service organizations, health institutions, educators, the private sector, and others. My expectation is that we evidence this commitment to justice by focusing and acting on the potential of an inclusive recovery whereby laws, policies and practices will be created, changed or eliminated as a means to a more equitable society for everyone.

What is your biggest takeaway from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Racism is a Public Health Crisis. That fact is my biggest takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic itself has been devastating to so many across the country and indeed here in Monroe County. Our collective response to the tragedy that is COVID-19 has illuminated the ongoing impact of systemic racism. Whether testing or vaccines when they became available, we ignored the preponderance of data regarding who needed help most. The challenge now, given what we have learned, is whether we have the will to make the necessary policy and practice changes so that our next response will be much more equitable.

This profile is part of Rochester Business Journal's Power 100 list for 2022. Information used in this profile was sourced from the honoree. View the full list at rbj.net.

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