UPDATE: On May 19, 2022, photos I took on May 17, 2022 were added to the original post, as well as an addendum with images of memorials in honor of the victims of the May 14, 2022 tragedy.
[Marquee of Apollo Media Center.]
Note: This blog has never posted a piece written by an author other than myself. Today I make an exception. Lorna I. Peterson, PhD, is a retired library science professor with a deep knowledge and love for the community in which the May 14, 2022 mass shooting incident occurred, at the Tops supermarket located at 1275 Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York. Although I worked at the 1490 Jefferson Avenue office of Prisoners Legal Services of New York when I arrived in Buffalo in 1976 (decades prior to the construction of the Tops), and have had the privilege of working the past eight years or so alongside community members fighting gentrification of the nearby Fruit Belt neighborhood, I cannot begin to provide the informed perspective reflected in Dr. Peterson’s message sent on May 15 to her colleagues at the Black Caucus American Library Association (BCALA). I thank Lorna for consenting to this posting.
From: Lorna Peterson
Date: Sun, May 15, 2022 at 8:36 AM
Subject: message from Buffalo
To: BCALA Listserv <email@example.com
Many of you have no doubt read, heard, or viewed information about the shooting
at a grocery store in Buffalo NY. You might be interested to know that across the street from the small shopping plaza is a branch public library, the Merriweather Library
of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.
I write this to give our community the sense of the neighborhood that Payton Gendron
targeted and chose to drive for three hours from his rural community to kill Black people who live in a city.
[Entrance of Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Branch Library. Original library building can be seen in the distance across the street.
The grocery store is in a neighborhood where I have been doing the most of my volunteer activities while in retirement. In fact, a community activist with whom I collaborate, called me shortly before 3 PM Saturday, May 14, to say that there was an active shooter at the Tops Market. She lives across the street from the store and was just walking over to get bread. She is okay.
Located in the neighborhood
called Cold Spring, and the [city council] district called Masten Park, I live just one mile to the west from the area. I have shopped at that particular Tops Market and I frequent the nearby coffee shop Golden Cup
and also the branch public library. I once had an exhibit mounted there about the Fruit Belt neighborhood and a housing development called McCarley Gardens
. Nearby is the Apollo Media Center
where the press conference was held. During the broadcast, the gleaming, colorful tiles, hand painted by children, provide a backdrop that speaks to the innocence and ordinariness of a peaceful, active community just trying to live their lives. And across the street from the old theater, now a media center, is one of our Black newspapers, The Challenger
. When the local power elites were pushing for the building of a medical corridor that required the destruction of the Fruit Belt
community that I advocate for, I started calling the corner of Jefferson and East Utica “the communication corridor” because it has the public library, a Black newspaper publisher, and the Apollo theater/public access media center.
[Multi-use building at the northeast corner of Jefferson and E. Utica, housing, among others, the Golden Cup coffee shop, The Dance Camp, Open Buffalo, Premier Cigars, Group Ministries Inc., and The Challenger Community News.
[Entrance to Golden Cup coffee shop at 1323 Jefferson Ave.
Racial demographics for the area
are 80% Black/African American. It is only lately that the area is below 90% Black as gentrification on the West Side of the City of Buffalo has seen a migration of the Hispanic population to the East Side of Buffalo. Buffalo speaks of itself as a quadrant of East Side, West Side, North Buffalo, South Buffalo. These are not suburbs, boroughs, or separate municipalities, they are just folk designations for sections of one city, the City of Buffalo NY.
The corner of Jefferson Avenue and East Utica Street is a hub of cultural, commercial, public transit
, and residential activity. Disinvestment and population loss are part of the neighborhood as well as the entire Buffalo–Niagara Falls region. But it certainly does not define it.
[The corner of Jefferson Ave. and E. Utica Street, looking south.
Also, for New York State, once people think beyond New York City, the entire state somehow gets called “Upstate.” This diminishes the geographic expanse and geological diversity of the state. Buffalo is in the far western portion of the state– we are closer to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Detroit, than we are to NYC. Buffalo is just a bridge away from Canada– the Peace Bridge
which takes you to Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada.
Lorna Peterson, Buffalo
ADDENDUM of photos taken on May 17, 2022:
[ I Leave Peaceprints markers remembering each of the ten human beings who lost their life on May 14
. Note: “On Good Friday 2006, Sister Karen Klimczak’s life was tragically cut short. Sister Karen’s tragic passing in April 2006, sparked the ‘I Leave Peaceprints’ movement in Buffalo and the surrounding areas. The peace dove has become a message that has been carried on with much love and dedication.]