A mural of a Buffalo icon is now hanging in the building named after her. City leaders, along with Beverly Gray’s family gathered to dedicate a special portrait created in the entryway of the Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center.
Gray, a former city council member and community activist, worked to support small businesses on the East Side. Inside the Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center, more than 100 women and minority small business owners have been given the tools they need to succeed.
Gray was a small business owner herself, and was the first African-American woman in Buffalo to be elected to a city-wide office position.
“The stories I hear about Beverly at 18, 19 years-old was that she was always very conscious of helping people and she was a bit of a fighter,” Dwaine Terry said, Beverly’s nephew. “If there’s a challenge to be met, she stepped up to it. I don’t think she made a decision to be who she is… I think it was kind of already in her.”
The renovated Jefferson Library sits on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and E. Utica Street. It’s an area of Buffalo she was passionate about helping.
“We understood that she wanted to see the Jefferson corridor and this Masten District come back to life as she remembered it when she was a kid,” Terry said.
Gray won re-election in 1999. In 2000, she became the first African-American woman in Buffalo to be elected as an at-large member of the city council.
Then, in 2001, she hit another milestone when she ran for mayor. She was the first woman to do that in the city of Buffalo as well.
“Those of you who knew Beverly Gray, knew she that she was a fighter,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said.
She fought through illness during that campaign, and in 2004, she passed away of breast cancer. She was 53 years old.
It’s been 15 years since her death, but her light continues to shine inside the building that bears her name.
“The name Gray is great,” City Council President, Darius Pridgen said.
Her legacy lives on inside those walls.
“What an honor to have her name placed on a building where other people’s businesses can be created and flourish in our community,” Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, the Majority Leader of the NYS Assembly, and a friend of Gray’s.