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Buffalo, NY residents demand change 1 year after racist mass shooting

The shooter may be behind bars, but the community is still healing.
Buffalo, NY residents demand change 1 year after racist mass shooting
Posted at 5:57 PM, May 14, 2023

One year after an 18-year-old murdered 10 people at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood on Buffalo’s East Side, residents there say nothing has changed.

Renovated and reopened, but it doesn’t erase the damage from the May 14, 2022, racist attack.

The day still haunts Grady Lewis. He was standing just across the street when he heard gunfire.

"It was a tough day," said Lewis.

Residents in the neighborhood of Cold Springs say they want to see real change as they try to move forward from this tragedy.

"Me being 20 seconds 30 seconds away and knowing that I could have been one of those people on a wall. I don't want you ringing the bell for me. I would have wanted you to make sure nobody looks like me have that happen to them again. Make a real change in this country because this melanin is special," said Lewis.

Gary Heard, Paula Connors, Johnfredrick Daniels, and Grady Lewis are trying to be the positive change they want to see in their community by providing a space where people can feel safe again, right next door from Tops Friendly Market.

It’s been a collaborative effort, to bring this mural to fruition.

"I was really in a dark place, going through some rough times, and I'm a veteran," said Daniels. "I had to find something, and art like found me. So having the opportunity to be able to, you know, show the same thing that saved me, that may be able to save a couple more people or help a couple more people. Look on the bright side."

Organizers say the location will also have benches for people to sit on and lights to see the mural at night.

SEE MORE: Buffalo, NY marks 1 year since racist gunman killed 10 at Tops market

It’s one step forward, but Daniels says his community needs a whole lot more, like playgrounds for kids and dog parks where people can come together.

"I feel like there's just a community that needs more community," said Daniels.

But most importantly, he says they need more people in the community to step up.

"We need people that are part of the community or want to be part of it that's going to help and not people foreign or outsiders coming in just to take pictures and then leave or just to talk to the people and try to pour in some empathy and then leave. No, we need the people that's going to be there," said Daniels.

People like Paula Connors, who lives in Buffalo but not in the neighborhood, say she couldn’t just sit back and watch.

"For me not to step up just wouldn't have felt right," said Connors.

Not only a tribute to the 10 lives lost, but Connors also says she hopes people will see the mural, be inspired by their work, and encourage others to step up.

"I think what could be helpful is if they would look for grass-roots opportunities, really coming into the neighborhood, just like I did, and asking, what do you need? Ask the people, and then respond," said Connors.

As judge Susan Eagan, who sentenced the gunman to life in prison without parole, explains, redlining and systematic racism have plagued the community.

"The ugly truth is that our nation was built in part by white supremacy," said Eagan.

For Lewis, the fight isn’t over.

Despite the challenges, Cold Springs will always be home. 

"I’m Buffalo weak over here. I want somebody to be strong for me and do the right thing," said Lewis.

The group also tells Scripps News they want to paint a second mural nearby, but they’ll need funding to do it.

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