Unleashing Potential: The Dual Legacy of African American Achievement and the Fight Against Poverty


 During February, Black History Month serves as a time to honor the achievements and contributions of African Americans. Beyond the significant political milestones marked by Barack Obama as the first African American President and Kamala Harris as the first woman Vice President of African American descent, African Americans have made profound impacts across every aspect of our nation.

In science, Dr. Patricia Bath revolutionized the field of ophthalmology with her invention of the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment, becoming the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent. In literature, Toni Morrison, a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, deeply influenced American literature with novels that explore the African American experience. In the realm of technology, Roy L. Clay Sr., known as the “Godfather of Silicon Valley,” played a pivotal role in the development of Hewlett-Packard’s computer division. In the arts, Augusta Savage, a sculptor, and teacher during the Harlem Renaissance, left an indelible mark on the art world with her work and advocacy for African American artists. From civil rights activists who fought for equality to artists who used their mediums to bring attention to the plight of the marginalized, American history is rich with examples of African Americans who have made lasting and impactful changes in society.

In a nation that sets aside a month to celebrate the contributions, accomplishments and achievements of its African American community, an underlying challenge to its position as a global powerhouse remains: the pervasive impact of poverty. The scourge of poverty, with its disproportionate impact on African American communities, presents a profound barrier. Systemic hurdles which preclude access to quality education, healthcare, and viable employment opportunities perpetuate this cycle, making it dauntingly difficult to break.

The durable presence of poverty’s hardship and injustice stifles and diminishes the potential contributions by future generations of African American scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, and thinkers, effectively suppressing the nation’s innovation, creativity, and other vital contributions essential for a thriving, dynamic, and innovative society. When a significant portion of the population is suspended in the grip of poverty, their ability to engage fully in educational opportunities, pursue creative endeavors, or innovate within technology and science is severely limited.

To truly honor Black History Month, we should not only celebrate the notable accomplishments and achievements of African Americans but also commit to working towards eradicating the systemic issues that perpetuate poverty. If we acknowledge and confront this challenge head-on, we can pave the way for everyone to realize their full potential, thus enriching their contributions to the world with the diverse talents and insights of everyone. When we validate the systemic racism faced by many in the African American community and work towards equitable solutions that create pathways to upward mobility, we can ensure a future where poverty and its consequences are no longer barriers to success and where everyone can thrive and experience prosperity.

Aqua Y. Porter 

Executive Director, RMAPI 

Unleashing Potential: The Dual Legacy of African American Achievement and the Fight Against Poverty

Aqua Y. Porter is the Executive Director of RMAPI, a collective impact initiative devoted to increasing upward mobility for the City of Rochester and Monroe County residents. With over 30 years of experience at Xerox Corp, Aqua had a profound career holding various leadership roles. Her tenure at Xerox enabled her to develop as a mature, confident, and innovative executive with exceptional interpersonal skills. One of her strengths lies in her ability to construct strong teams that consistently deliver remarkable outcomes.

In addition to her professional achievements, Aqua is an active member and advocate of various organizations. Aqua currently holds the position of President in the Rochester Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, where she has displayed exemplary leadership in several key roles throughout her service. Aqua’s commitment to the community is further enhanced by her role as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, Inc.  Aqua is a longstanding member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the first Greek Sorority established by African-American college-educated women.

Beyond her professional and community endeavors, Aqua finds joy and relaxation in her hobbies. Reading, shopping, and traveling are activities that bring her immense pleasure.  She is the proud mother of an adult son, Jordan.

Aqua is an alumnus of Kettering University, graduating with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, and the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she earned an Executive MBA.

With her extensive experience, leadership ability, and commitment to the community, Aqua continues to make significant contributions as RMAPI Executive Director, enhancing the lives of countless individuals in the City of Rochester and Monroe County.

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