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Local organizers raise funds for burned Southern black churches

Several local organizations and members of the community gathered Friday evening at a local coffee house to raise money and awareness for a number of black churches that were damaged or entirely destroyed in late June across the South.

The fundraiser at the Sweet_ness 7 Cafe, 220 Grant St., was hosted by the Coalition for Economic Justice, the Buffalo Anti-Racism Coalition, members of the faith community and their allies.

Local singer-songwriter Jon Herr performed and light refreshments were scattered on tables for guests to snack on. A portion of the proceeds from the coffee bar also will be donated to the Build the Churches fund, managed by Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis.

“It’s making a statement saying we’re with you, and when you’re hurt, that’s what you need,” said the Rev. Drew J. Ludwig of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church. “When so many people are attacked in a short period of time, it’s important to show support.”

Six churches were fully or partially destroyed by arson, lightning or falling trees landing on electrical wires, causing a fire.

The churches that will each receive one-sixth of the total donations raised Friday night include: College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church, Knoxville, Tenn.; God’s Power Church of God in Christ, Macon, Ga.; Briar Creek Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C.; Glover Grove Baptist Church, Warrenville, S.C.; the Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church, Tallahassee, Fla.; and Mount Zion AME Church, Greeleyville, S.C.

Ludwig said black churches are supposed to be a place of refuge and solace, and when one is attacked, it takes those things away from the community.

The goal is not only to raise money, but to bring awareness to the bigger issue of racism not just in the South but across the country.

The Rebuild the Church organization already has raised roughly $209,000 toward a $250,000 goal, according to its website.

Lou Jesus said the Friday event can help make people across the country aware that Buffalo is passionate and aware of the issues going on, and people want to fight against racism.

“I can’t think of a better cause,” she said.

The Rev. Kirk A. Laubenstein, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Justice, said at the end of the day it’s important to have a community conversation about race because racism is alive and well.

“Ultimately, when people come together, change can happen,” he said.

Those who are interested in supporting the effort can donate at, with the memo “Rebuild the Churches.”