Ontario County Justice Coalition To Host May 3rd Dinner Honoring Reverend Lewis Stewart

The Ontario County Justice Coalition will host their first annual dinner on Friday, May 3rd 2019 at Club 86 in Geneva, NY at 6pm. The event will honor President of the United Christian Leadership Ministry, Reverend Lewis
W. Stewart III, and will bring together interfaith and law enforcement leadership with members of the community to create a stronger, more unified city and county.

Reverend Stewart, the keynote speaker, co-founded the United Christian Leadership Ministry (UCLM) in 2013, is a board member of the Greater Rochester Community of Churches, and serves as co-chair of the Rochester
Coalition for Police Reform. He also serves as a member of the Mayor’s Judicial Screening Committee, and has been working as what he describes as a “liberationist” since the 1970s.

The event will be emceed by Reverend Donald Golden of Geneva’s Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church. Speakers will include Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes Dr. Ellen Wayne, attorney Michael Bersani, citizen journalist Jim Meaney, Lentory Johnson of the UCLM, and Geneva mayoral candidate Mark Pitifer.

“The very thing that has torn our city apart is the very opposite thing that can bring us to together,” says Juanita Aikens, founder of the Ontario County Justice Coalition (OCJC). “Simply put, hatred tore us apart, and love can unite us all together.”

The event will set the stage for the first Ontario County Police-Community Summit that will take place on September 21st, 2019 in the Vandevort Room on the Hobart William Smith campus in Geneva. The Honorable Frank P. Geraci Jr., chief judge of the US District Court for the Western District of New York, will be the keynote speaker, and panelists will be available to discuss questions presented to moderators.

“The first step that needs to be accomplished is the recognition that problems exist within the legal systems,” continued Aikens. “Each person should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, disability, income or the notion of being privileged as a friend or family to law enforcement or the court system. The long term goal is an independent police accountability board that has disciplinary powers.”

The public is invited to attend the May 3rd event. Tickets are $25 and include dinner, and can be obtained by contacting Juanita Aikens at 315-290-2082.

The public is also invited to attend the next monthly OCJC meeting on May 4 at 1:00pm to 3:00pm at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church (70 Clark Street, Geneva).

The Ontario County Justice Coalition was founded in Geneva, NY in 2018 with a goal of seeking justice, equality and unity throughout our community. In January 2019, OCJC voted unanimously to join the United Christian
Leadership Ministry as a sister organization.

Historical Portrait
The Reverend Lewis W. Stewart, Jr.

The Reverend Lewis W. Stewart, Jr. was born in Newburgh, New York to the late Bishop Lewis W. Stewart, Sr. and the late Carrie Stultz-Williams Stewart.

He earned an AAS degree from Orange County Community College. He then transferred to the State University College at Brockport in 1969, graduating with Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. He received the Masters of Divinity Degree from Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree. He then studied at Syracuse University School of Social Work and History.

Rev. Stewart was called to the ministry at the age of 17. He was ordained as an Elder in the Church of God In Christ in June.1972. He is also an ordained Baptist Minister. He served as Associate Minister at Second Baptist Church in Mumford, New York under the leadership of Dr. Charles Thurman, and at Christian Friendship Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Dr. John S. Walker. He is presently the Pastor of Christian Community Church.

Community and Social Activities
While a student at Orange County Community College, he strongly advocated for a Black Studies Department which was created a year later.

Rev. Stewart was a board member of United Church Ministries, Inc. and served as the Coordinator and Organizer of the Black Family Life Conferences 1 and 2 in 1976 and 1977. He was a coordinator for the Rochester Black Political Convention in 1978 and the Coordinator and Organizer for the Black-Hispanic Political Conference in Newburgh, New York.

He was a delegate to the National Black Political Convention in Little Rock, Arkansas, and a delegate to the New York State Black Political Assembly in 1976.

He was a contributing essayist for About Time Magazine which was owned by publishers Jim and Carolyn Blount. He was host of RISE television program in the early 90’s.

He was a founder and President of the Congress of African American Unity and served as the Coordinator of the United Church Ministry’s United People’s Coalition which advocated for a revamped Civilian Review Board. In 1998, he campaigned for the New York State Senate.

From 1988 – 1992, Rev. Stewart was the Pastor and Protestant Chaplain for the New York State Department of Corrections at Groveland Correctional Facility, and from 2000 – 2009, he was the Pastor and Protestant Chaplain at Five Points Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Romulus, New York. As Chaplain, he fought for prison reform and advocated on behalf of inmates.

His ministry in prison was powerful, dramatic and inspiring. Rev. Stewart had the largest attended worship service in Five Points and he stopped a riot because some of the correction officers wanted to arrest him but the men who attended his services almost resorted to violence in defending their Pastor. Rev. Stewart saw himself above all else as a Pastor.

In August 2013, he co-founded and co-organized with a group of pastors the United Christian Leadership Ministry of Western, New York, Inc. (UCLM) and was elected the organization’s president. He advocated on behalf of Brenda Hardaway when no one else spoke up on her behalf, Rickey Bryant and Chris Pate and others.

Prior to the rebellion in Ferguson, Rev. Stewart advocated for the use of Body Worn Cameras (BWC) to aid in improving Community-Police Relations. He also served as Co-chair of the Rochester Coalition for Police Reform and the Police Accountability Board Organizing Committee.

In these capacities, he and other team members researched, developed and drafted policies for the Body Worn Camera program. Presently, some of the policies became part of the Rochester Police Department Policy Manual. UCLM and the Rochester Coalition for Police Reform are still engaged in advocating for stronger policies. Along with Iman Abid of the NYCLU and other members they have called for the implementation of BWC policies in the surrounding law enforcement agencies. In November of 2017, Mayor Lovely Warren, Mike Bleeg and Rev. Stewart signed a Memorandum of Understanding creating the Community Justice Advisory Board. The purpose to monitor the utilization of BWCs and make recommendations.

UCLM and members of the Coalition also researched models for an independent Police Accountability Board (PAB). Rev. Stewart participates in the City Council-Community Committee to revise the PAB draft proposal.

Rev. Stewart has taken a public stand against gun violence. In 2014, he organized a “Black Church Summit on Youth, Guns and Violence.” He has engaged with Lentory Johnson and Min. Kenneth Muhammad of Muhammad’s Mosque to raise community awareness on gun violence and the trauma impacting families. Along with Mrs. Johnson, Min. Muhammad and Mrs. Hayes, they organized UCLM’s Light the Way Gun Violence Prevention Awareness Initiative, a curriculum to be used in after school programs at the City’s recreation centers. UCLM is still looking for volunteers. He has lost several family members due to gun violence. Moreover, he also initiated projects such as Community Healers, Adopt-A-Block Initiative and the Partnership in Excellence: Achieving Careers and Education in partnership with BOCES where adults over the age of 21 study to obtain their GED’s.

Rev. Stewart has advocated for OACES which was defunded $500,000 in the Rochester City School District. He organized a press conference and a series of meetings with stakeholders including the Superintendent of RCSD. The funding was restored. OACES is an invaluable and needful asset to the community. Presently, Rev. Stewart is Chairman of the OACES Institutional Advisory Board.

In the summer of 2016, Rev. Stewart called for a Police-Community Summit to address issues of harassment and excessive force by law enforcement against people of color. To date, there has been four successful summits. Chief Mark Henderson of the Brighton Police Department and at that time Chair of the Monroe County Law Enforcement Council came together with Chief Richard Tantalo of Irondequoit, Chief Pat Phelan of Greece, Chief Ciminelli of RPD and others to dialogue and to build trust and legitimacy. Rev. Stewart, community activists and law enforcement executives still meet to explore strategies to improve Community Police relations.

Rev. Stewart battled cancer from 2009 thru 2012. He had a 20% chance of living after 5 years. The Lord preserved his life. He is a cancer survivor.

Rev. Stewart does not designate himself as a “community activist,” but rather a “Liberationist.” He believes in the prophetic calling for social justice and that the Gospel delivers the whole person and society. He is committed to the systemic transformation of the community and nation; and the eradication of social, economic and racial inequities. In effect, he is a disciple of Jesus the Liberator.

Rev. Stewart is a board member of the Greater Rochester Community of Churches, Co-Chair of the Rochester Coalition for Police Reform, serves as a member of the Mayor’s Judicial Screening Committee. Rev. Stewart has a strong support in his wife, family and friends for which he is very grateful.

“All men and women desire freedom and justice. If there is no remedy, and these are denied, then the only alternative is rebellion. God is our co-partner in the struggle for freedom, justice and human rights.”  – The Reverend Lewis W. Stewart

Leave a Reply