BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — An initiative by one of the survivors of the Tops mass shooting and his mother is another step closer to fostering a new generation of inclusive and compassionate leaders.

After the May 14 racist massacre, Zaire Goodman and his mother, Zeneta Everhart, created an Amazon wish list of books in hopes of educating kids on racism, diversity and inclusion. For Zeneta, education is at the forefront.

“The issues in our country are not new. They’re old, and they’ve been here forever,” Zeneta said. “This project is about letting people know that it’s real. Racism is real and it’s time that we start talking about it, and it’s time that we start educating our children about it.”

Since its inception, Zeneta and Zaire’s wish list has collected almost 10,000 books from across the country. They’ll be donated to community centers, libraries, schools and local organizations in Western New York to start the conversation.

“Representation matters. This isn’t just about educating Black kids about their history. It’s about educating the greater community about who Black people are,” Zeneta said. “We’re human, just like everybody else, and I think that it starts with our kids. It starts with our kids learning and understanding different cultures, different religions and different ethnicities.”

“How can this country ever really say that it’s progressing in the right direction if we’re not telling the story of the people who live here and who built this country?” she asked. “We have to tell those stories.”

The donated books are now making their way to their new home: Villa Maria College. The school will serve as the “hub” where all the books will be separated, cataloged, and later distributed from. Dr. Matthew Giordano, president of Villa Maria College, said they are thrilled to play a part in Zeneta and Zaire’s initiative.

“We as an educational community — K through 12, higher ed, in the suburbs, in the city — I don’t care where you are. We have a duty and the responsibility to combat racism and violence by providing a broad, inclusive, diverse, equitable education to all students,” Giordano said.

Moving the books and partnering with Villa Maria College is a full-circle moment for Zeneta, as both she and Zaire went to school there.

“It made sense for Zeneta and Zaire’s book club to be housed at Villa Maria College because it is the place that taught me about me,” Zeneta said. “Villa Maria College has always been a bright spot in my life. I’ve told many people Villa saved my life.”

“Zeneta and Zaire have been long-time integral members of the Villa family,” Giordano said. “[Zeneta’s] story is representative of our mission and our values and what we try to do and so we’re thrilled to be supporting Zeneta and Zaire and to be the home of all of the books.”

Zeneta said even though tragedy brought us here, her heart is full of love and appreciation because of those who purchased a book.

“Every time I look at [the pile of books], it’s crazy. It gets crazier and crazier,” Zeneta said. “I believe the world is an amazing place. I know it is an amazing place because of [the books] behind me.”

Click here if you would like to purchase a book from Zeneta and Zaire’s wish list.

Jordan Norkus is an award-winning anchor who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.