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The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality East

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord, Lord, hear my cry!” – Psalm 130:1

 

Desolation

 

On May 14, 2022, a white man walked into a neighborhood Tops grocery store on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, NY. He killed 10 people and wounded 3 more for shopping while black. Eleven of them were black. This store is a mile away from Canisius College, the place where I went to school and worked for many years. It’s a place I did not personally frequent but would occasionally stop by to grab a forgotten food item. Many of my friends, colleagues, and former students live in this historic, black neighborhood.

It was another mass shooting, making national and international news. This was the first time it was close to me. When I heard the news, my immediate first thought went to my friend who lived a block away. Then I thought about that neighborhood–already a community that has already suffered through redlining, a food desert, economic decline, and a feeling of abandonment from the growth happening in the rest of the city of Buffalo. How can this community bear more of this grieving, loss, and hatred?

My mind ran through more geography of this neighborhood. This Tops market is mere blocks from former “stations” for the Underground Railroad. Freedom-seekers were ushered to Canada by conductors, including Harriet Tubman. It is so close to where the Niagara Movement, the predecessor to the NAACP, began. This holy space, once safe and fertile ground for freedom-seekers, was desecrated again by hate.

I scribbled this in my journal on the evening of the attack:

See me through:
Harriet Tubman stopped by
To pick up a few passengers today.
An intruder tried to halt the train.
He failed.
“Only a few more blocks to
Michigan St. Baptist,” she whispered.
Du Bois wept as they passed.
Rev. Nash offered the final blessing.

Consolation

Rev. Bryan Massingale, S.T.D., spoke at Canisius College on the anniversary of the shooting. He advocated for time for lament and for passionate truth-telling. He said, “Lament does not accept the status quo. Lament demands change.” In the year since the attack, changes in our community are present. As a white woman working for justice, I have found consolation in engaging my family in both trying to respond to direct needs (hopefully allowing space for lament) and for advocacy. Our family provides food to a community fridge (for perishables) and a blessing box (non-perishables) on a monthly basis to this community. It’s been a concrete way for my family to respond to the direct needs of the community. I’ve also become involved in the Buffalo Chapter of SURJ (Showing up for Racial Justice) to put my faith and values into real action. For example, SURJ Buffalo works with partner organizations like Black Love Resists in the Rust (BLRR) to reduce the harms of the carceral systems. SURJ provides accessible trainings that have both in-person (with childcare) and virtual options. As a stay-at-home parent, I look for ways to become engaged in the community with my toddler and older daughters.

This month’s reflection was provided by Sarah Signorino, a graduate of Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.  If you would like to volunteer to provide an upcoming reflection, please contact Sean Toole, SJ: stoole@jesuits.org.

The views and opinions expressed in this reflection do not necessarily reflect those of Jesuits USA East.

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