BUFFALO. N.Y. (WIVB) — The city of Buffalo is deeply scarred by the hate and racism that drove this weekend’s attack at Tops on Jefferson Avenue. On Tuesday, there was a vigil to heal together as a community.
A vacant lot across the street from the grocery store served as a spot for solemnity, reflection and community. This Tops was more than just a market for fresh food — rather, it was a neighborhood center where people gathered, which is exactly what residents did Tuesday night.
“Racism has raised its ugly head in our community, but we’re not going to let that define us,” Rev. Mark Blue, president of the Buffalo NAACP, said during the vigil.
The City of Good Neighbors gathered to sing, recite poetry and spoken word and to listen to activists in the wake of a deadly attack that killed 10 people and injured three others.
“Racism picked the wrong city. Buffalo is too full of faithfulness and fellowship,” Dewitt Lee III, a chaplain from the Toronto area, continued.
The vigil was held in the heart of the East Side to honor the lives lost and to call for change.
“Usually there’s a lot of thoughts and prayers, but not a lot of action that comes from that. So we want to make sure there is real action,” Jamil Crews, a vigil co-organizer, told News 4.
Civil Rights activist Shaun King traveled to Buffalo to participate in the vigil and offer his thoughts. He is hoping for real legislative change to combat white supremacy and racism, calling on Gov. Hochul, President Biden and local leaders to create new laws targeted at these topics.
“Thank you for your thoughts and thank you for your prayers, but what are your plans,” King said. “A country that continues to tell us they care about white supremacy, but does not put it in their budget does not put it in their staff and does not put it in their plan.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul called on Congress to create stricter gun laws, but many residents say it is more than changing those laws. It is about confronting this domestic threat head on. President Biden called white supremacy a poison, but did not offer a federal solution.
Not only did speakers call for government action, they also called for remembrance for the victims, their families and the city. Charles German went to McKinley High School with Margus Morrison, a beloved bus aide for Buffalo Public Schools.
“We grew up together. We come from the same cloth. He was just a great guy,” German added.
As the grieving process continues, residents encourage each other to help their neighbors heal and to promote change across Western New York.
“We need to pick up the pieces for each other. We need to be there for each other,” German continued.
“We aren’t the city of good neighbors for no reason. We’re going to continue to lean on one another, to rely on one another and just ask each other to come together so we can heal together,” Crews concluded.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.