The echoes of shock, grief and anger are still resounding a year later. We all know where we were that Saturday afternoon on May 14, 2022, when the unthinkable news started to spread across the region.
Ten mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends and neighbors had been gunned down in a racist massacre at the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue. A 19-year-old white supremacist killed them because they were Black.
Is it any wonder that the pain is still so searing and that healing still seems so far in the distance?
But we should take heart. As Buffalo – particularly East Buffalo – looks to the future and begins to reinvent a community that has suffered grievous harm through the racial inequities of decades, shining examples of resilience appear before us.
The stories of the family members whose loved ones were killed that day have been recounted locally and nationally. Yes, they are grieving. But they are also taking up work that will honor those they have lost and help lift up a wounded community.
People are also reading…
• Mark Talley, whose 62-year-old mother, Geraldine Talley, was killed, has launched a nonprofit, Agents for Advocacy, to fight injustice and promote socioeconomic equity in Buffalo.
• Pearl Young’s family is planning to build a permanent food pantry and soup kitchen on Leroy Avenue with the help of Good Samaritan Church.
• Wayne Jones, who lost his 65-year-old mom, Celestine Chaney, is working on a nonprofit organization to support children whose parents are killed as a result of violent crime.
• Damone Mapps maintains empty city-owned lots in his neighborhood in honor of his aunt, Kat Massey, who was involved in up to 20 community groups.
• Garnell Whitfield Jr. and his brother, Raymond Whitfield, have launched the nonprofit Pursuit of tRuth to fight white supremacy in honor of their murdered mother, Ruth Whitfield.
• And at Canisius College, a memorial scholarship will be named for Lt. Aaron Salter, the security guard who challenged a gunman in the face of certain death. The scholarship is being set up with the help of his fellow retired police officers.
There are doubtless many other ways in which family and friends of the murdered 10 are turning their grief and anger into positive change. These are the examples we should all follow.
Every neighborhood in Buffalo offers opportunities for volunteer services, whether in the areas of beautification, children’s activities, food pantries, help for the homeless or assistance for the elderly.
Through solidarity, hard work and – yes – love, Buffalonians can lift up an entire community. There’s never been a time when such fellowship was more urgently needed.
Indeed, these are very troubling times. Ten days after Buffalo’s May 14 massacre, a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, claimed 19 students and two teachers. More such events followed, bringing the 2022 total of mass shootings – traditionally defined as the intentional killing or wounding of four or more victims with gunfire in a single incident – to 42, with 252 people killed, 10 of them in Buffalo.
The relentless march of senseless tragedies is sounding even louder this year. Over the first four months and six days of 2023, 115 people have died in 22 mass killings – an average of one mass killing a week. The figures come from a tracking project that was started in 2006 by the Associated Press and Northeastern University, with USA Today. Requiring that four or more people are killed in each event, it has more conservative criteria than the Gun Violence Archive tracker, which lists a total of 201 mass shootings to date for 2023.
Whatever set of data is used, the numbers are devastating. Few experts would deny that lax gun laws and a proliferation of firearms contribute to the United States’ ignobly high standing worldwide in homicides by firearms. Its current rate of 6.3 deaths per 100,000, as reported by the Center for Disease Control, easily exceeds the rates in developed nations like Canada (2.1 per 100,000) and Australia (1.0), France (2.7), Germany (0.9) and Spain (0.6) (2023 Pew Research figures).
Sadly, it seems no amount of tragedies and statistics can make a dent in this country’s obsession with untrammeled gun ownership. In New York, at least, sensible restrictions, background checks and red flag laws help stem the tide.
Western New Yorkers should be thankful for these sane policies.
They should also be grateful for the inspiration provided by the May 14 families, who are heroically working through tragedy to find hope.
It’s a mission worth joining.
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