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BUILD ?is reborn ?to aid Buffalo

BUILD of Buffalo was known for shaking things up ever since it started as an activist organization in 1966.

It created the BUILD Academy in 1969 in partnership with Buffalo State College and the Buffalo Public Schools.

It initiated the Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo in 1976, which has grown into one of the biggest annual celebrations in the country.

And in 1974, about 10 BUILD demonstrators were arrested during a nonviolent sit-in at the Buffalo Police Department to protest alleged police brutality.

The organization, which stopped operating in 1983, is running again with the same vision: to right social injustices.

After 28 years, there's still a need for change, said Charley Fisher III, president of the group.

"There's still a need to organize and advocate for people who can't do it themselves or don't know how to," said Fisher, a former member of the Buffalo Common Council and currently a senior administrative clerk at the Erie County Legislature.

The new headquarters for BUILD – Build Unity, Independence, Liberty and Dignity – is at 1327 Jefferson Ave., just a few feet away from the original location. Members meet each Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Frank E. Merrriweather Jr. Library on Jefferson Avenue., and the first convention of the reconstituted group was held earlier this month with the same goals as before: to empower African-American and other minority communities and to encourage self-determination.

One of the group's objectives is to address the lack of direction and unity in ethnic and minority communities in Western New York by establishing a forum of community leaders, activists and concerned citizens.

Since the group was reconstituted in July 2011, there's been a steady stream of people bringing their social problems to BUILD practically every day, said volunteer Lesley Haynes, a social activist and retired social worker.

Some of BUILD's services include helping people deal with consumer issues and claims of police brutality. The organization also has a housing committee that accepts complaints such as allegations of redlining – denying, or increasing the costs of, services such as housing, banking, insurance, employment or access to supermarkets in communities due their racial makeup. Committee members review the complaints and find ways to deal with the problem, Fisher said.

BUILD also has a community and health services component that recently dealt with issues surrounding the May 31 closing of Sheehan Health Network on Michigan Avenue.

"A plan is needed in terms of what do we do now? How do we pick up the services?" Fisher said. By Aug. 1, BUILD's business directory should be completed, providing information on about 1,000 urban businesses, churches, nonprofit organizations, block clubs, lawyers, doctors, and charities.

Once the organization receives its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt designation, plans include opening a co-op to sell organic produce primarily from black farmers and a jobs center to recruit minorities for skilled trades.

For more information on BUILD or to become a member, go to, or call 650-8889.