For months, protestors have been calling for Mayor Lovely Warren to be replaced, and Rochester City Council Member and UR alum Malik Evans ’02 is her main competitor.
Evans grew up in Rochester, attending Wilson Magnet High School. At a young age, he became involved in community programs and helped found the City-County Youth Council, now called the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council. In talking about his campaign, Evans said that youth development is the under-discussed issue he is most interested in.
As a UR student, Evans stayed involved in the Rochester community. He was a part of the Mayor’s Council on Race and Ethnicity and the Mayor’s entertainment task force.
Evans did not originally plan to go to UR. He wanted to live in Washington, D.C. and was interested in American University’s journalism program. “If you would have told me that I was going to [UR] when I was in tenth grade, I would have laughed at you”, he said. But the University’s Political Science department, coupled with a good financial aid offer, enticed him to stay in the city.
Once he got to UR, Evans was highly involved in campus organizations and activism. He helped found the College Diversity Roundtable, which partially resulted from protests in 1999 that Evans participated in.
He recalled a situation when he was a first-year in which a Public Safety officer called the Rochester Police Department on students of color despite them showing their identification cards. Though the situation was difficult, it led to positive change, including increased efforts to hire more faculty of color, admit more students of color, the reactivation of the Frederick Douglass Institute, and moving the location of the Office of Minority Student Affairs out of the basement.
“I got to [UR] and realized they didn’t celebrate Martin Luther King Day. I went crazy and didn’t like that so […] we started the Martin Luther King Commemorative Address.” At the inaugural address, Evans introduced NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, the first speaker for the annual event. He was also involved in the Minority Student Affairs Board, the Black Students’ Union, and the Rochester Men’s Forum, which he co-founded.
Recently, student activists, such as those who created petitions this past summer, talked about the University’s role in the community, especially in terms of gentrification. “I think [UR] is a great resource for our community, but they have to make sure they’re embedded in the community,” Evans said. “They’re one of the top employers, so they play a very important role in Rochester. But they have to make sure that they aren’t displacing longtime residents that were there, so it’s a balancing act for them.”
For all four years, Evans served on the Students’ Association Appropriations Committee, and spent two years as SA Treasurer. Since graduating, Evans has worked in the banking industry, in addition to his government positions.
Soon after graduating, Evans ran for the Rochester School Board, and at 23 years old he became the youngest-ever person elected to the group. He later went on to serve as its president. He will be running for Mayor in the upcoming June election.
Evans encouraged students to get involved in politics. “I’m turned off by politics, too, but everything is politics and politics is everything,” he said. “When someone says they don’t want to be involved in politics, I’m like ‘what are you talking about?’ […] your birth certificate is signed by probably a registrar that was appointed by a politician, and then the person who signs your death certificate was probably appointed by a politician.” Evans emphasized that many relevant public issues like taxes, roads, street lights, and schools, are all determined by politics.
“Politics doesn’t mean you have to run for office.” Evans said. “Think about it from the broader context to say: ‘what can I do to make a difference?’ And that difference may be working for a nonprofit on criminal justice reform, or working on a community development financial institution.” At the very least, Evans stressed, students need to be sure to vote.
Evans said that his time at the University was important to him in many ways beyond the classroom. “Yeah, I got a great education at the [UR], but I got even a greater education because there are people now that are working on my campaign that were students with me […] I’ve got lifelong friends from [UR].”