Black Buffalo residents stand united in wake of shooting
Written by Kiara Alfonseca ABC News on May 16, 2022
(BUFFALO, N.Y.) — The city of Buffalo, New York, is grieving following a mass shooting at a Tops supermarket that left 10 people dead and another three wounded on Saturday.
Resident Myles Carter was just a few blocks from the scene that day, and the sounds of his neighbors crying out in agony over the news has been replaying in his head since the attack.
“It’s a heart-wrenching sound,” Carter told ABC News. “I heard that sound over and over and over again, for a long period of time.”
The attack, which authorities are calling a racially motivated hate crime, left the predominantly Black community shaken, residents say, but they remain strong in their efforts to take care of and protect one another in the face of white supremacy.
“We just need to go ahead and make plans to take care of ourselves because it is clear that these elected officials aren’t going to do it,” said Shaimaa Aakil, a community advocate in Buffalo.
A 180-page document believed to have been written by alleged shooter Payton Gendron describes racist motives behind the shooting, including “replacement theory,” a white supremacist belief that non-whites will eventually replace white people because they have higher birth rates.
In the document, he allegedly said he planned to attack the supermarket because it’s located in a predominantly Black neighborhood. It’s one of the only grocery stores available in the area, residents told ABC News.
In response, people working with community fridges, funds and food drives are stepping up to ensure that residents are cared for following an attack intended to erase them.
Residents say some non-Black community members are offering to get groceries for their Black neighbors, while some are stepping up as security for places of worship and community centers.
Taking care of each other is something Buffalo residents know how to do well, according to Herbert L. Bellamy Jr., a Buffalo native who lives down the road from Tops.
Bellamy, who also is president of Buffalo Black Achievers, said the neighborhood-grown efforts bring him comfort, knowing the community he knows and loves is taking care of itself.
“We’re a close-knit community, so we’re in touch with everyone,” Bellamy said. “We’ve worked hard to develop that neighborhood. Things like this can be a huge setback for our community, with a food desert and people not being able to shop for food.”
And though the community’s resilience is shining in this moment, others say they are tired of having to be resilient. They say real change needs to come from this moment.
“We shouldn’t be responding to this,” said Carter, who is also a local social justice activist. “We’ve got to fix the problems so that we don’t have to have a community response.”
The attack not only signaled the country’s radical alt-right movement, but also highlighted the way white supremacy has permeated the community’s basic functions, Carter said.
Residents ABC News spoke with say the fact that there are limited places to buy affordable, healthy food in a predominantly Black part of a highly segregated city highlights longstanding issues of race.
“Don’t let them make you believe that this is a one-time issue, an isolated event,” Aakil said. “A lot of elected officials right now are going to imply that this is not a problem that’s bred here, that he is from four hours away. But Buffalo has a really deep problem with segregation.”
The tragedy has spurred a city-wide movement against racism as locals call on leaders and citizens alike to address white supremacy in communities and institutions across the country.
“You feel it even though you’re not here,” Carter said. “If white supremacy can do this in the heart of liberal Buffalo, New York — we got a Black mayor. We have Black people on our common council. We’ve got Black people in our Erie County legislator.”
If it can happen there, he said, “it can happen anywhere in America.”
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