The president of the National Urban League laid a bouquet of flowers Saturday at the memorial to the 10 victims of the May 14 racially motivated shooting, then discussed how an economic plan could revitalize the Jefferson neighborhood.
Marc H. Morial, the head of the New York-based organization dedicated to racial justice and urban advocacy, didn’t dwell on “the unspeakable act of domestic terrorism and racist hate crime.” at Tops Market three weeks ago. He focused on the future, taking the right action and including the right people for a productive path forward.
“I think there is a need to respond to this with a plan that addresses systemic issues, and that plan cannot be put together on the back of an envelope,” Morial told about 70 community members and media gathered. on Jefferson Avenue from Tops. . “It needs to be put together with care and thought, and then demand people invest in it.”
The plan should focus on housing, youth, health and mental health, said Morial, head of the National Urban League since 2003. The Urban League has 92 community affiliates, including one in Buffalo since 1927.
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Morial met with Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, whom he said he has known for several years, and Buffalo Urban League President Thomas Beauford Jr. for about 90 minutes to discuss how to design such a plan, before a stakeholder meeting – with business leaders. , government officials and grassroots organizations, Beauford said — began Saturday afternoon. The purpose of the second meeting was to encourage membership.
“One of the things we’ve known in the past is that when we do this in pockets and we don’t have an inclusive strategy, it’s not sustainable and it usually doesn’t deliver the results. what we want to get,” said Beauford, president of the Buffalo chapter since 2020. “We want to get an upfront commitment that they’re not just here for an initial response, but it’s going to take an immediate response and a long-term response. term.”
Morial, who said the plan should benefit both the Jefferson neighborhood and “East Buffalo,” repeatedly referenced a collaborative effort he is involved in in Indianapolis called the African American Equality of Life Renewal Initiative. The $100 million investment project, focusing on economic development, housing and jobs, was funded by Lilly Endowment, a private philanthropic foundation.
This economic plan may not serve as a model for Buffalo, which will likely require city, county and state support, Morial said, but also a rapid pace.
“There was an extensive process of hearings and discussions with the community, and a needs assessment was done,” Morial said of the Indianapolis project, which was announced nearly two years ago. . “I think there needs to be faster action on this.”
Both Morial and Beauford said balancing the need for quick action while developing a wise and inclusive plan was the main challenge.
“People’s impatience, the desire to have a plan moving forward is very real,” said Morial, who also served as mayor of New Orleans for eight years. “What I’m here to do is say, ‘People, for a plan like this to work, everyone has to be at the table.’ “
While Morial said he intended to bring financial resources and “political muscle” to the plan, Brown and Beauford will guide local progress.
Brown, who also spoke to the media Saturday with several other officials, said he asked President Biden for resources similar to what a community might receive from a natural disaster.
“I am committed to bringing the resources this community deserves back to the East Side of Buffalo to ensure that as we heal and families grieve, this community rises stronger and better than it did. never was,” Brown said.
Ben Tsujimoto can be reached at [email protected], (716) 849-6927 or on Twitter at @Tsuj10.