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Wingo happy to have started dialogue on race, police

Masten Councilman Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. again raised his fist in the air at the start of the Common Council meeting Tuesday in a silent protest over police killings nationally of African-Americans – but this time, Wingo was joined by dozens of other people who came to support him.

Representatives of local clergy and the Peacemakers group as well as civic and housing organizations such as PUSH and Open Buffalo were among the approximately 50 people attending the Council session to support the Masten councilman. Some joined Wingo in raising their fists rather than reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the Council meeting.

“We were very proud of Wingo,” said Franchelle C. Hart, executive director of Open Buffalo, a civic organization focused on issues of justice and equality, after the meeting. Hart was among those in the audience who joined in raising a fist during the pledge. “We are standing in solidarity with what’s happening in Buffalo and across the country,” she said.

While there are many good things happening in Buffalo, particularly with development, a conversation is needed on what’s happening with the city’s African-American community, Hart said.

“And not just with issues of law enforcement, but access to jobs, workforce development – you name it,” she said.

Wingo’s protest, she and others said, is encouraging that conversation.

Wingo agreed. The councilman said after Tuesday’s meeting that he believes his protest has succeeded in getting a conversation started. Therefore, he said, he does not plan to raise his fist in protest at the next Council meeting. He will instead, he said, be joining in future conversations addressing racial issues in Buffalo, and empowering the black community to have a larger role in decisions affecting its future.

Wingo first protested police killings against blacks by raising his fist rather than reciting the pledge during a Council meeting two weeks ago.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Wingo again spoke of African-Americans killed by police throughout the country, and read the names of seven African Americans killed in September alone.

While none of these killings occurred in Buffalo, Buffalo is nonetheless one of the most segregated and high-poverty cities in the United States, Wingo said. He called on Buffalo to lead the necessary conversations on race in America.

“We want to make sure Buffalo is not one of the cities that makes it on the national news,” he said.

Wingo also introduced a letter he has written, that is addressed to “White America.”

“Black Americans need allies,” Wingo wrote in the letter. “We need our white friends and neighbors to listen to our stories and make a concerted effort toward acknowledging our pain. We need you to work toward dismantling a system that was built on the backs of our ancestors, and never meant to benefit us.”

Wingo’s Council colleagues did not join in his fist-raising protest, but several did support his right to protest.

“I applaud him for speaking his conscience,” said Niagara Councilman David A. Rivera, a retired Buffalo police officer. “I believe we need to have the dialogue.”

email: sschulman@buffnews.com

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