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How Buffalo is coping, one month later


Angry, frustrated, unsafe - that's how residents living on the east side of Buffalo, N.Y., describe how they're feeling. It's been one month since a gunman opened fire at a grocery store there - a racist attack targeting Black shoppers. Ten people were killed. The community is coping with tragedy but also the very practical loss of that Tops Friendly Market, which remains closed for now. Phylicia Brown is a native of the east side. She runs a community organization there and has been talking with neighbors and friends about the impact of the shooting.

Thanks for joining us.


RASCOE: So what is it like there? It's been a month after the shooting. You know, I'm going to ask you how you're doing, but I recognize that is probably difficult to put into words.

BROWN: Yes, definitely difficult to put into words. And, you know, you saying angry, frustrated, all of that grieving - right? - trying to figure out what is next feels like the energy on the ground. And, you know, I resonate with all of that as well.

RASCOE: The practical part of this is that this happened in a grocery store. And now there isn't any place on this part of the city to get groceries, right?

BROWN: Right.

RASCOE: Where are people getting food right now?

BROWN: People are being as resourceful as they can be, right? We see other organizations and food-related causes that are offering support to the community in this moment and the community at large. You know, we have partnered with folks like Feed Buffalo, Urban Fruits & Veggies, the African Heritage Food Co-op. And then also, I think people are trying their best to get to a place that sells groceries where they can get what their families need - the supplies, the groceries and all of that.

RASCOE: I mean, how far away is the nearest grocery store now that that one's closed down?

BROWN: Some reports say that the nearest grocery store is two miles away from the - from where the Tops was.

RASCOE: But it's not as convenient as that was for the people that were used to shopping there?

BROWN: Right. It's not in walking distance, right? And when we think of all the other systemic issues within our communities - right? - a lot of it depends on, do you have access to a car? When we talk about our transit system that has been underserving our community for a very long time, you know, what does it look like to take the bus with maybe your whole family to a grocery store? And all of those kinds of things need to be considered differently in this moment than maybe they have been considered before.

RASCOE: And you remember shopping at this grocery store as a kid, right?

BROWN: Yeah. We grew up not too far from this grocery store. You know, it was the closest grocery store to us. And it still is for my father, for my brother as well.

RASCOE: I mean, I heard that, you know, y'all would get some lotto tickets, go with your grandfather. They would play the numbers. Did they have a special number that they played? 'Cause I know my grandmother will always ask me, like, for my license plate number and stuff and be like, I want to - I need that number. Give me that number (laughing).

BROWN: No, not that I know of - lots of birthdays...

RASCOE: Birthdays, yes.

BROWN: ...Lots of anniversary dates.

RASCOE: I mean, so this was a part of the community. I mean, what do you think, like, outsiders don't really understand about how an attack in this way affects a community?

BROWN: Well, I think one of the first things we have to talk about is, you know, 30 years of divestment and disinvestment that even sets us up to be in this sort of predicament to begin with, right? We have to talk about a long history of our communities not being well resourced. And then, you know, Buffalo - western New York has a history of racism. It feels really important to make sure that we're talking about that in this moment as well.

You know, a lot of people talk about this as a person who came from somewhere else penetrated our community. And all of that is true. And so for us, it's really important that this is continuously being lifted up in the media because although, largely, reporters have gone home, cameras have gone home, it's our everyday life. It is our folks that still have to figure out, how do we move forward from this? And it feels important that that's a conversation that is continuing on a larger scale as well.

RASCOE: That's Phylicia Brown, executive director of Black Love Resists in the Rust, a community-building organization. Thank you so much for talking with us.

BROWN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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