Buffalo Shooting Leaves Neighborhood With No Grocery Store | lifestyles

By PIA SARKAR and NOREEN NASIR – Associated Press

BUFFALO, NY (AP) – The Tops Friendly Market was more than just a place to buy groceries. As the only supermarket far and wide, it became a kind of community center on Buffalo’s East Side – a place to talk to neighbors and find out about people’s lives.

“Here we go buy bread and stay 15, 20 minutes because … you’re going to find four or five people you know and have a few talks before you go,” Buffalo City Councilman Ulysees O. Wingo said. representing the struggling black neighborhood where he grew up. “You just feel good because this is your business.”

Now residents are mourning the death of 10 black people at the hands of an 18-year-old white man who drove three hours on Saturday to livestream a racist killing spree from a crowded supermarket.

They also struggle with being attacked in a place that was so important to the community. Before Tops opened on the East Side in 2003, residents had to travel to other communities to buy nutritious groceries or settle for snacks and higher-priced staples like milk and eggs from corner shops and gas stations.

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The fact that there are no other options exposes the racial and economic divide that existed in Buffalo long before the shooting, local residents say.

“It’s unconscionable to think that Tops is the only grocery store in this neighborhood, my neighborhood,” said Theresa Harris-Tigg, a retired educator from Buffalo who knew two of the dead.

While Tops is temporarily closed during the investigation, the community is working to ensure residents don’t leave without one.

A makeshift food bank has been set up not far from the supermarket. The Buffalo Community Fridge has received enough cash donations to distribute a portion of the funds to other local organizations. Tops also arranged for a bus to take East Side residents to and from another location in Buffalo.

After decades of neglect and decline, along Jefferson Avenue, the East Side’s once-thriving main street, only a handful of shops remain, including a Family Dollar, a deli, a liquor store, and a few convenience stores, a library, and by blacks managed companies such as Golden Cup Coffee, Zawadi Books and The Challenger News.

Jillian Hanesworth, 29, who was born and raised there, said building an expressway helped cut off the neighborhood, allowing motorists to drive underground without ever having to see it. At a recent rally, Hanesworth said she asked the crowd how many GPSs it took to get there, and many of the white people raised their hands.

“A lot of people who talk about Buffalo don’t live here,” said Hanesworth, the city’s Poet Laureate and director of leadership development at Open Buffalo, a nonprofit focused on social justice and community development.

Like many residents, she pauses to think when asked where the nearest major grocery store is: none are within walking distance, and it takes three different buses to get to the Price Rite.

For years before Tops opened on the East Side, residents, lawmakers and other advocates pushed for a grocery store in a “food desert” after groceries and other businesses in the neighborhood’s Central Park Plaza were closed, Wingo said.

Yvette Mack, 62, remembers when the streets weren’t so empty. But by the time she was about 15 or 16, she started noticing places going out of business.

“Everything started to fade as I got older,” she said.

Eventually she moved downtown but returned to the East Side in 2020 and was glad a supermarket had returned. Mack says she shopped at Tops daily, sometimes three or four times, to buy Pops and meat and play her numbers. She was there on the Saturday before filming started.

Now she’s not sure if she’ll be able to return after the store reopens, but hopes the community conversations will lead to more business on the East Side. Harris-Tigg, the retired educator, also hopes the shooting will bring the city together to talk about differences.

“It’s time to do more. It’s time whites talked to whites and had really honest conversations,” she said.

Pastor James Giles, coordinator of the anti-violence group Buffalo Peacemakers, believes this is happening. He juggled calls offering help from area churches and businesses, the Buffalo Bills, competing grocery stores and even the utility company in the wake of the shooting.

“I want us to be the city of good neighbors. And I hope we strive to live up to that moniker,” Giles said. “But I feel like we can’t get there until we tell the truth about the white supremacy and racism that already exist in our city.”

Sarkar and Nasir are members of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. AP writers John Wawrow in Buffalo, New York, and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan contributed to this story.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

Buffalo Shooting Leaves Neighborhood With No Grocery Store | lifestyles

Source link Buffalo Shooting Leaves Neighborhood With No Grocery Store | lifestyles

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