BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission came to Buffalo Monday for a listening session, in the wake of the racist massacre at Tops.

This session was the first in a three-part listening series to receive public input as the EEOC builds its five-year strategic enforcement plan.

The testimony focused on racial and economic justice.

Community leaders testified before the EEOC for five hours. Chair Charlotte Burrows said there’s a reason they came to Buffalo.

“We know that Buffalo has been engaged in a really important conversation about all of the broad issues of racial justice since May and we wanted to make sure that as we do our own thinking that we benefited as well from that conversation,” she said.

Representatives from the Buffalo Urban League, United Way, University at Buffalo, and several other organizations spoke about the racial issues facing our area.

Testimony covered everything from the struggles of people working to cross the poverty line, the role of municipalities outside city lines, and making communities aware of services the EEOC offers.

“They need to be able to make more money. They’re doing all the right things to become promoted, you know to make themselves marketable, and then when they are able to be promoted, they’re going to make more money, they’re going to find they’re losing access to benefits they still very much need,” said United Way Chief Operating Officer Trina Burruss.

Garnell Whitfield, son of shooting victim Ruth Whitfield, also testified in front of the commission.

“We need to treat this as an epidemic, this is a health issue for us make no mistake about it It’s killing us literally and figuratively so I think if you guys could do some work in that area it would be very helpful,” he said.

Burrows also said they’ll be sharing any issues outside the EEOC’s purview with other federal partners.

There are two more listening sessions in the series.

Monday’s listening session was the first commission meeting held outside Washington D.C. since 2015.

Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.