NIAGARA, N.Y. (WIVB) — In the midst of everything the Western New York community is going through in the days after a racist hate crime killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket, a Niagara County family woke up to a disturbing sight Monday morning: “KILL ALL (racial expletive)” was written on the back of their fence.
Johnny Parks, who lives at the home, saw it and called police to file a report. He then calmly told his wife that he’d figure out how to get it cleaned up.
Parks is a father of four, and a grandfather. He was a youth football coach for 25 years and then coached at Niagara Wheatfield High School for four years. Now, he’s a referee.
Parks lives near a local park and regularly puts out water bottles for the teenagers playing basketball. He also picks up debris from the playground so the kids can have a nice place to enjoy themselves.
“He’s won our Helping Hands award at the town, he’s on a couple committees, he wants to get involved … and this is the thanks he gets from our community,” Town of Niagara Supervisor Lee Wallace said. “It’s just sad.”
Wallace said he’s appalled by the racism, and Parks’ kids say the same.
“I’ve never felt so out of place in my own neighborhood, and this is the place that I basically grew up,” said Jazlyn Parks, Johnny’s daughter. “It’s sad.”
“Enough needs to be enough,” said Willie Fair III, Johnny’s son. “I bleed. I have cells in my body. I have two legs, two arms just as a white person does. We’re all the same. Skin color appears different, but I’m a person just like you’re a person.”
But instead of getting angry, Johnny said he just wants people to be better educated.
“I think if everybody got to know their neighbors a little bit better, this wouldn’t happen,” he said. “It’s something that we need to educate our young people and our older people, so that we can move past this and it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
And when asked if he still considers this area as the ‘City of Good Neighbors,’ he said “Yes.”
“One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch,” he said.
Parks said Home Depot replaced the panels of the fence that were painted on, and paid for a security camera to be installed in the area.
Kelsey Anderson is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.