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Open Buffalo celebrates achievements in racial justice two years after mass shooting

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Since 2017, Open Buffalo’s mission has been to achieve racial justice and equity in Buffalo and Western New York.

That mission only intensified after the racially motivated mass shooting at Tops on Jefferson Avenue, just a block from Open Buffalo headquarters.

On Monday, Open Buffalo hosted a press conference on Jefferson Avenue to discuss the racial justice nonprofit’s progress over the past two years, current priorities and future prospects.

“We can never forget what happened, but we need to talk about what policies need to change and how we can protect the most vulnerable in our community,” said Franchelle Parker, executive director of Open Buffalo.

Parker says that while she’s frustrated by the lack of deep systemic change on Buffalo’s East Side, she sees progress.

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“I see a new level of resilience in everyday people,” says Franchelle Parker, founding executive director of Open Buffalo.

“I’m seeing a new level of resilience in everyday people, even if it’s not happening at the organizational or institutional level in our community, people are saying they’re tired of ‘old Buffalo,’” Parker said.

At the heart of Open Buffalo’s work is the organization’s anti-racist training and assessment program called “Race, Power and Privilege.” More than 1,500 Western New Yorkers at more than a dozen institutions have completed the training.

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“It helps institutions and agencies see where they are on social justice and move them forward,” says Dr. Kush K. Bhardwaj, director of racial equity and justice at Open Buffalo, at about the organization’s “Race, Power and Privilege” training. evaluation program.

“It helps institutions and agencies see where they are on social justice and move them forward,” said Dr. Kush K. Bhardwaj, director of racial equity and social justice for Open Buffalo . “It’s not just about changing your status on Facebook or putting a sign on your lawn. It’s about doing the critical and important work to understand how racism and privilege work,”

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“Open Buffalo has brought tremendous shared learning to our board and staff,” said Christina Orsi, president of the John R. Oishei Foundation.

“We recognize that we must come together as a community to ensure that a racist attack like the one that occurred on the East Side does not happen again,” said Christina Orsi, president of the John R. Oishei Foundation . “Open Buffalo has brought so much shared learning to our board and staff to help us understand how, collectively, we can be supportive allies in moving forward together as one within the Buffalo community to ensuring that everyone prospers in the future.”

It’s a mission that Parker says is more critical than ever as Open Buffalo looks toward the future of Buffalo’s East Side.

“We’re planting the seeds today,” Parker said. “In two years, we should absolutely see a decrease in overall poverty and unemployment in East Side communities. We should see a decrease in out-of-school suspensions and an increase in graduation rates. So there is elements against which we can measure our investment strategies.

As Buffalo prepares to remember one of the darkest days in Queen City history, Parker remains optimistic about the work of Open Buffalo and community partners.

“I’m convinced there’s a new awakening in our community that we’re not going back, we’re not going back,” Parker said.