BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — “It’s a somber milestone. Our city is still grieving, our city is still healing,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “A part of the healing process is us examining what caused the mass shooting in the first place — white supremacy and hate.”

48 hours prior to the one year mark of the 5/14 racist massacre, political, educational and faithful leaders sat side-by-side, sparking the conversation of what led to this hateful act to happen in Buffalo’s east side.

“If I had been asked the day before, ‘Could something like this happen in Buffalo?’ I would say yes,” said Dr. Helene Gayle, President of Spelman College. “I think we’re not here just about what happened, but how do we think about moving forward and addressing the issues that we have far too long not wanted to address.”

Gayle sat in a panel alongside Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, John B. King Jr., Chancellor of the State University of New York, Most Reverend Michael Curry Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States, and moderator Melissa Harris-Perry during the discussion that took place Friday morning at Roswell Park.

The panel spoke on the importance of having honest discussions of the systemic obstacles that Black people in the east side face, and the importance of finding ways to combat racial inequality, fighting white supremacy and the hate that’s engrained in society. They believe we can’t move forward together until we see this truth and change the normal.

“Love begins with truth telling. It always begins with truth telling and healing begins with truth telling,” said Most Rev. Michael Curry. “We grew up here with people who struggled to make Buffalo Better. Who struggled to have — not just equality but equity, who struggled with school systems who struggled with continuing poverty, who struggled blighted communities–and much of that continues.”

“We need to find a way to repair the damage, and those were damaged directly were Black people,” said Mayor Brown. “At the federal level, at the state level, they don’t want to say ‘Black Buffalo,’ because who was affected, who was killed? Who was directly traumatized? And when you try to direct resources to those who have been systematically left out, systematically damaged.”

Brown says billions of funds are coming into Buffalo from both State and Federal government. He believes the government should aid the people mostly impacted and talked about Route 33 and who will be working on it, and Black business.

“If you were going to properly intervene, you have to design public policy in a way that the Black people who were harmed see those resources,” said Mayor Brown.

“I think when we talk about what happened a year ago, we have to situate it in a context of our history as a country, and not think about it in isolation, but acknowledge that racism and hate are apart of our American story,” said King Jr.

King also shared about his family history with slavery. He found out where his family was enslaved, and found out that the family that enslaved his family still lived there. His family met the family, and says it’s been a fascinating journey of learning.

“I’m alive today because ancestors survived, they persevered,” said King. “These were two families living in the same physical space, one owning the other, that’s part of the unbroken string of what happened here a year ago. That’s part of our history.”

The panelists believe the same things will keep happening, until we have these honest conversations about the factors that led to this massacre.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.