Mass shooter targeted the only major grocery store in the Buffalo Black community
"We have to figure out how are they going to get food. It is so painful because what did we do wrong? What did we do wrong besides just being Black?"
Kelly Galloway had just finished celebrating the young girls who participated in her enrichment program for at-risk youth in Buffalo, NY when she got the news.
“We have about 40 little Black and brown girls with their dresses on, their gloves. And we had just finished,” Galloway said in an interview with theGrio on Sunday. “All of a sudden, one of our workers pulled up Facebook on her cell phone. And it was a Facebook live from someone that was still in the parking lot of Tops. You could still see the bodies on the concrete. They hadn’t even removed the bodies.”
The horrifying scene she saw was the aftermath of a mass shooting by an 18-year-old white supremacist which claimed the lives of 10 people and wounded three. 11 of the victims were Black.
The shooter, Payton Gendron, drove three hours from a rural part of New York to the city of Buffalo, specifically seeking to harm Black people.
Buffalo, NY is the second-largest city in New York state and has remained one of the most segregated cities in the country due to policies like redlining and racial zoning.
Galloway, 36, a native of Buffalo and President of Project Mona’s House, had been hopeful about her city’s trajectory prior to his attack. But yesterday, she went from preparing to post celebratory photos of her mentees, to comforting scared children who wanted to know why they were targeted.
“Mr. Kelly, what did I do wrong? Why they don’t like us, just cause we Black? I thought you told me wasn’t nothing wrong with my skin.” Galloway recalled children saying to her.
“Some of their grandmothers didn’t come home because they were gunned down. Another safe space, which was our only grocery store, was no longer safe because somebody made it the target.”
The Tops supermarket is one of the only major supermarkets in the 14208 zip code area. Galloway said many people in the area don’t have cars and have no other options for easy access to food.
“We only have one grocery store in the Black community in Buffalo, New York,” said Galloway, who recalled once having to go to predominately white areas of Buffalo to buy groceries.
“It is not an affluent area. People walk to that grocery store. And so now we have to figure out how are they going to get food? It is so painful because what did we do wrong? What did we do wrong besides just being Black?”
According to CensusReporter.org, the community where Saturday’s mass shooting took place, is 78 percent Black with a median household income of $33,140. Forty-three percent of children live in poverty. COVID-19 only exacerbated the effects of poverty, resulting in higher death rates in the area, compared to other counties in New York state.
Galloway’s efforts to support youth are part of a larger network of Black community leaders who have poured their time and resources into revitalizing the Buffalo area.
Jamil Crews, 41, entrepreneur and CEO of Cruise Control Media LLC, owns an office right next to the Tops supermarket. His phone was flooded with messages of concern after the shooting, and he went to the scene to check on his staff.
“I woke up this morning hoping that it was a nightmare,” Crews told theGrio. “But realizing that it wasn’t. It absolutely wasn’t.”
“These are some of the most sweetest, most vulnerable people. The supermarket is in a historically depressed area of economically depressed area of the city. So if it wasn’t for that supermarket, that that area would be a food desert,” said Crews.
In addition to his business, the Tops on Jefferson Ave was located next to other Black-owned businesses including Golden Cup Coffee shop and Buffalo’s African-American local newspaper, The Challenger News.
“Over the last several years is a renaissance of sorts where there’s a lot of economic development coming into the city,” said Crews. “And a large part of the community still felt as though that that renaissance wasn’t happening for them… because of how they looked.”
For both Crews and Galloway, the attack is two-fold— an attack on innocent Black people and an attack on a beloved community, where Black people had pulled together.
“That specific place is a mecca for our village,” said Galloway. “That area is Black- Black. My Dad always used to tell the stories about how like Jefferson [Ave] was like our Black Wall Street and they burned it down…Right now, our city is like in this revitalization of trying to bring life back to Jefferson.”
“One thing about the Buffalo community, especially the Black Buffalo community, is that we are a strong, tight knit community,” said Crews, who is now focused on organizing a vigil for the victims of the attack, and connecting with other community leaders to ensure families have what they need.
Galloway wants to give her girls a second chance to celebrate their accomplishments.
“We wanted to like take over social media yesterday just showing how beautiful these princesses are and young people in our community. It robbed him of their moment,” said Galloway.
“I’m still going to post the pictures of them, but it’s still bittersweet. They worked so hard, and I’m like, ‘How dare you steal that from them?'”
Similarly, Galloway is organizing food drop-offs and efforts to ensure food gets to all families who are affected by a lack of access to the supermarket.
“As Black and brown people, we are strong, we are resilient. We will rise. We will be stronger because of this. But I just wish that we didn’t have to.”
Natasha S. Alford is VP of Programming and a Senior Correspondent at theGrio. An award-winning journalist, filmmaker, and TV personality, Alford is writing her forthcoming book “American Negra.” Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @natashasalford.
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