Our work doesn’t end when the headlines fade. We must talk about future plans for this community. To the public, please know that our community was experiencing disparity before this massacre. It has to change.
BUFFALO, New YorkꟷI was out of town when I heard the news of the massacre in Buffalo. Despair consumed me. This can’t be real, I thought. That despair soon turned into anger and then, grief. This was my community. I had to get home to my people. Wasting no time, I took the next flight home to Buffalo.
When my plane touched down at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, I did not go home. I leapt into action. So much needed to be done. I had to find ways to be there for my community. I checked in on family, friends, organization members, and everyone I could to make sure they were okay. They checked in on me in return.
One of the hardest moments I recall was arriving at the Tops Friendly Market where the murders happened. Reality set in. I knew the people that were inside Tops; the ones that were killed.
I spoke with families and others impacted by the horrific crime. They told me stories of people who hid in freezers inside Tops while gunshots sounded. This was painful to imagine but even worse for those who lived through it. I needed to be there for other organizers, activists, and those close to me. Holding each other through trauma and tragedy while being there for the community felt excruciating.
Then, the calls started. I reached out to people I trusted, and those doing community work before the massacre even happened – organizations like Feed Buffalo, the African Heritage Food Co-op, Colored Girls Bike Too, and others. These are groups that have been doing this work for years – trying to solve problems and support the community long before the shooting.
With Tops closed, people responded actively, so we had to plan and coordinate an effort. We realized quickly that we needed to come together for this effort to be sustainable. Deciding each group’s roles and responsibilities allowed us to move forward in just two or three days.
We launched food pop-ups and called for volunteers. The African Heritage Food Co-op and Urban Fruits and Veggies delivered food to people in the community. The attack had caused some people to be scared to leave their homes, so we worked to bring food to them.
Mental healthcare also took priority. I talked to a team that deals with mental healthcare and we put together a system of connecting people to therapists. Our organization committed to paying for at least a year of therapy services and facilitating co-pays if the person had insurance.
We also thought about the vulnerable, like the elderly who lived at home and could not easily get around. We asked what they needed from us. This is an integral part of response efforts: knowing how to better assist the community from their perspective, rather than just throwing things at them to take. We connected with Open Buffalo to conduct canvasses. We have been doing this about three times a week since the massacre.
Our teams went door-to-door, getting people signed up for food delivery, mental health care, and other needs that have to be met. We compiled a list of those needs and worked tirelessly to figure out what other organizations and services can help fulfill them.
Our work doesn’t end when the headlines fade. We must talk about future plans for this community. To the public, please know that our community was experiencing disparity before this massacre. It has to change. We must resolve the level of disinvestment in our community. There have been times when Buffalo’s East Side was thriving; times when it was full of black-owned businesses and spaces where black people could convene and be safe together. Now, we have a place where people are struggling just to survive.
We must look to the future.
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