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‘Nothing’s Changed’: Buffalo’s East Side Still in Trouble One Year After Shooting | Buffalo Shooting

A year ago, a white supremacist gunman opened fire at Tops Friendly Market on Buffalo’s East Side, killing 10 people and injuring several more, changing the community forever.

In the black-majority East Side, the only grocery store disappeared in two months and one day, turning the area into a food desert once again. The shooter’s incident received national and international media coverage and widespread attention from charities and the public.

At the time, some community members were skeptical. “How long will this attention last?” What happens when the cameras are gone? Will the community receive lasting investment? Immediately after the shooting, many local residents said nothing would change and that as soon as the cameras came on, even if there were any developments, they would quickly leave.

A year later, many on the East Side say they were proven right. When the camera left, so did the possibility of change and investment. The region remains plagued by gun violence, underfunded education, lack of food options, poor transportation and unemployment.

“It’s like Groundhog Day.”

May 14th, commonly known as “5/14” among Buffalo residents, was a brutal event for the entire community. But the devastation was particularly severe for some. This is the day Mark Tully lost his mother, Geraldine Tully, 62, and former Buffalo Fire Chief Garnell Whitfield Jr., his mother Ruth Whitfield. It is also the day that Mr. (86) passed away.

After the shooting, Tully went to Jefferson Street and started volunteering with several organizations. Eventually, he founded his own nonprofit, Agents for Advocacy. Since founding the organization, Tully has hosted 30 events “related to socio-economic improvement and classes on the East Side.” His book, The Day the Devil Came to Buffalo, about the shooting and its aftermath, will be published on the first anniversary of the massacre.

From his perspective, community members’ early concerns proved correct.

“Nothing has changed,” he said. “Everything is still stagnant. People helped out at first when we had news stations and camera stations, but then they left and left the community to fend for themselves…now is like Groundhog Day, and as the one-year anniversary approaches, those same people will come back again to spend more time marketing.”

According to Tully, the tragedy has become a photographic scene for people, mostly outsiders, who are unwilling to stay and continue working when their cameras are gone.

A police officer removes tape blocking a Buffalo supermarket after the May 2022 shooting. Photo: Matt Rourke/AP

Whitfield said he is aware that some will try to use 5.14 for personal gain, but hopes that community members will be able to capitalize on the growing interest in correct historical narratives. Stated.

“You don’t need everyone. You need a few good people to drive change,” he said. “If we don’t do this, to the victims of all those who historically would have written our story, written our story for us, and left us out of history. This is an opportunity to make sure that what happened here in Buffalo is memorable, that the story is complete, and that it’s our story from our perspective.”

Miles Carter, who lives in the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda and is involved with the East Side, said the rest of the city is back to “business as usual.”

“5.14 existed, but people and victims from it still struggle to get the resources they need to survive,” he said. “And Buffalo is moving on.”

“5.14 happens every day in our community”

The massacre didn’t cause problems on the East Side. But this tragedy brought them big trouble.

Eastsider Malik Stubbs, who hopes to one day become mayor of Buffalo, has consistently advocated for more grocery stores and food options in the area. When the stores closed due to the shootings, Tops officials bussed Eastsiders to various Tops stores, while groups and community members distributed food and groceries.

But with only Tops reopened, residents are faced with tough choices as transportation and other food options continue to be scarce. Either buy food at the grocery store where 10 locals were massacred, or struggle to find another option.

“It’s hard to go back to the tops and not think about what happened,” Stubbs said. “We don’t have a grocery store and most people don’t have cars, which makes it even more difficult to get groceries.”

But Carter says focusing on the East Side as a food desert isn’t enough. Gentrification is a pervasive problem throughout Buffalo, he said, but it’s now seriously impacting the East Side. Many people from outside buy and pass on East Side properties, displacing longtime residents.

“Reality is a resource,” said Carter. “People have no mobility.

People hug outside a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, after a mass shooting in May 2022.
People hug outside a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, after a mass shooting in May 2022. Photo: Matt Rourke/AP

Carter said it was important to remember that the people who worked for Topps were working minimum wage jobs, and Stubbs said the lack of job opportunities and transportation contributed to the Eastsiders’ predicament. Say you are spurring.

“People on the East Side have to move out of their communities to get jobs,” Stubbs said. “[But] Communities outside of the East Side are easier by bus or train. If you have to catch a bus or train on the Eastside it will take forever. ”

From transportation to housing to jobs to education, there are countless changes that supporters and residents will make, but the list has not changed since before the shooting.

“5/14 happens every day in our community. People are dying on the streets of our communities every day,” Whitfield said. “People are dying [from] Gun violence, drugs and alcohol, lack of medical care, lack of resources, criminalization, police attention, lack of resources, shrinking communities, declining property values, generational wealth lost. ”

according to 2018 survey With 85% of Black Buffalo residents living east of Main Street, the Public Good Partnership (PPG) makes Buffalo one of the most isolated cities in the country. This area is home to all of Buffalo’s 51 census block groups with limited access to grocery stores.a 2021 Survey According to the Center for Urban Studies at the University of Buffalo, “Black Buffalonians haven’t progressed in the last 31 years.”As Recently, 2019Buffalo was the third poorest city in the United States and had the second highest child poverty rate.

In 2022, PPG will release a policy brief on the lead exposure crisis in Buffalo. “5.83% of Buffalo, NY children tested for blood lead levels between 2000 and 2014 suffered from lead exposure.” The abstract reads:. “That’s three times as much as Flint.”

“This has been going on for generations. It’s all by design. It’s all on purpose,” Whitfield said. “All of this is underpinned by a society built on white supremacist principles. The situation is no coincidence, our situation in this country is no coincidence.”

Advocates say the white supremacy that motivated teenage boys to drive hours to kill blacks, many of them elderly, is the same white supremacy that continues to oppress the East Side. claim to be.

“This is not just about Buffalo,” Carter said. “This is representative of black indigenous peoples across this country. We are struggling to take ownership of our community…so we are losing. will be.”

Both Whitfield and Alex Wright, co-founder of the African Heritage Cooperative, say racism is at the root of the problem but something people are hesitant to admit.

“We haven’t talked enough about it. We haven’t talked enough about racism. We haven’t talked enough about why it’s so important to teach things other than black history in schools. It’s this big elephant that we want to sweep under the carpet and pretend it doesn’t exist,” Wright said.

“Where’s the money?”

In March, Ho Chul announced more than $1.4 million in federal funding for Eastside mental health programs. This comes after she announced a $2.5 million state grant to those affected by the shootings and a $50 million targeted investment in the region, with other organizations and groups also contributing significantly. Promised to procure and collected.

But many of the people on the ground, including survivors of the Topps shootings, families of victims, and community activists and members, said the funds allocated so far have not tangibly helped people and moved slowly. mainly said. They wonder if the new funds will help them change their material situation.

“We struggle to get what people need,” Carter said of his work with mass shooting survivors.

He says he hears about millions of dollars all the time, but has never actually seen one.

“What money are you talking about? That’s my question. People keep saying, ‘Millions of dollars.’ [and] I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” he said. “That’s the reality. People connected and working with victims don’t know what they’re talking about when they say ‘millions of dollars.'”

A man prays at a memorial at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in May 2022.
A man prays at a memorial at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in May 2022. Photo: Brendan McDiarmid/Reuters

Carter said some survivors in her community are struggling to pay their bills, while others are trying to support their families with low-paying jobs. If there were millions of dollars, he asks, why didn’t people see it?

of African Heritage Food Cooperative Launched in 2016, (AHFC) is “a response to the lack of ownership of black grocery stores in the black community,” according to the Doseikyo Facebook page. After the shootings, AHFC received $200,000 from the USDA’s Health Food Lending Initiative to strengthen its East Side and Niagara Falls locations. AHFC received $3 million as part of Ho Chul’s funding Targeted East Side Investment.

Attention is focused on the East Side, but Wright hopes people can overcome the waning interest and create a sustainable system.

“What we have to do is build a system that allows us to be self-sufficient while we have the attention and the resources,” he said.

Before the shootings, the AHFC was an 1876 building at 238 Carlton Street, originally built as a grocery store and residence, and then vacant for decades, the building was vacated by 300 to convert it into a full-service grocery store. I was trying to raise a million dollars. Eating and drinking spaces and community spaces will be set up inside the store, and coveted fresh food will be available. fully funded by the state. A model of the building is on the east side of his AHFC.

Whitfield believes it was naive for people to think millions of people would “solve the problem overnight.”

“It would be naive to think that millions of dollars will come true.” [enough],” he said. It’s naive to think you can turn things around.It’s a drop in the bucket.It’s an approval.” ‘Nothing’s Changed’: Buffalo’s East Side Still in Trouble One Year After Shooting | Buffalo Shooting

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