Honoring, Mourning, and Remaining Committed to Action

May 14 victims

img credit: CNN

By Nora OBrien-Suric, PhD, President

On Sunday, May 14, the Buffalo community will mark one year since a shooter, driven by hatred and the vicious lies of white supremacy, murdered ten of our neighbors. The one-year mark will fall on Mother’s Day—an extra layer of heartbreak for those mourning the mothers and grandmothers that were lost that day.

We honor and send love to the families of Roberta Drury, Margus Morrison, Andre Mackniel, Lt. Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Katherine Massey, Pearl Young, and Ruth Whitfield.

In the days after the shooting rocked our community, national and international attention was given to the rapid response of community organizations serving the East Side of Buffalo. The closure of the Jefferson Avenue Tops Market disrupted food access, and the absence of the only neighborhood supermarket was deeply felt by many, especially older adults, parents of young children, or people without reliable transportation.

But then, a tidal wave of donations, community groups, and volunteers flowed in. The sidewalks and streets in the surrounding neighborhood were jammed full of Buffalonians collecting and distributing goods for the most critical needs. The Health Foundation was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Buffalo Together fund with many of our fellow local funders to support those efforts.

It was heartening, even in a moment of immeasurable sadness, to see those overwhelming displays of love and community.

In the time since, our team has begun a learning journey on a topic we haven’t addressed as a foundation before, though it has a strong impact on health equity: gun violence prevention. There are many incredible organizations in the regions we serve who deal with gun violence, and we are grateful for the chance to listen to them and learn about the complex drivers of and solutions to this issue.

While the response to May 14 rightly called attention to the plagues of white supremacist ideology and gun violence, there were many other issues illuminated by that terrible day.

Food deserts, poverty, inadequate transportation, segregation, and redlining: these are some of the historical systemic inequities that created the environment in which this tragedy took place. They are issues that drive economic and health outcome disparities, and issues that we, as a community, have a collective responsibility to address comprehensively.

These ‘everyday’ inequities are tragedies in and of themselves.

While we have the honor of partnering with community-based organizations like those who stepped up after May 14, we know our responsibility as a foundation is far greater than that: we need to be part of transformational systems change and the disruption of the status quo. We need to be part of the creation of a Buffalo—and Syracuse, and every other city and town we serve—where everyone has the same opportunities for a healthy life.

While we honor and mourn, let’s remain committed to action as well.

Commemorations and Events Happening This Week:

There are many commemorations taking place in Buffalo this week to honor the memories of those lost. You can see a list of some of them here.

We were proud to support our grantee partner WBFO in the production of a special series for their daily podcast Buffalo, What’s Next? The series takes a look at the aftermath of racist shootings in Charleston, SC, and Buffalo, and systemic inequity in both communities. Look for that to air on WBFO this week – May 8 through May 12.