The Reject Racism Press Conference on the steps of City Hall in Buffalo, N.Y., drew a large crowd today.
Many folks are fed up with Buffalo school board member Carl Paladino, and rallied to fight the systemic racism permeating our city and schools. We heard from great speakers including Open Buffalo's Executive Director, Franchelle Hart, as well as Richard Lipsitz, President of WNY Area Labor Federation,AFL-CIO, John Washington, community organizer with Push Buffalo, and concerned parents and citizens fighting racism in Buffalo.
Franchelle Hart delivered the following statement today (07/14/15):
"Good morning! My name is Franchelle Hart, and I'm the Executive Director for Open Buffalo, a citywide movement for social and economic justice. We represent thousands of average, everyday Buffaloians that have one thing in common – we know we are stronger together, and that if we unite on a few issues we can turn this city right-side up.
"When I was asked to speak today, I received a lot of feedback on why I shouldn’t speak. People said, (Carl) Paladino may add me to what he calls the “black sisterhood.” Well, let me tell you something: If being in the “black sisterhood” means standing up here as a confident, educated black woman and fighting for the education and future of our children, then make me a part of the sisterhood!
"With the Donald Trump comments, what’s going on in South Carolina, Ferguson, Baltimore, and right here in our own back yard, there is a lot of conversation regarding, “What is racism?”
"Racism is very different from racial prejudice, hatred, or discrimination. Racism involves having the power to carry out systemic discriminatory practices through the major institutions of our society.
"So excuse me if I don’t particularly care who makes assumptions about me because of the color of my skin, or who wouldn’t deem me acceptable to marry their son. Today, we are specifically talking about those individuals having the power to carry out systemic discriminatory practices through major institutions, i.e., Buffalo Public Schools. Today we are talking about Carl Paladino.
"We aren’t saying racism goes away with Carl. We aren’t saying Buffalo Public School are instantly fixed if Carl goes away. However, I don’t want someone with this level of power and influence over our youth.
"I spend a lot of time thinking about why I do the work I do, and, like a lot of busy women I encounter, I found myself immersed in a mountain of “stuff” – stuff that someday I was going to get to organize. One day I finally had enough! I made it up in my mind; either I was going to organize this stuff, or I was just going to move to a bigger place. Strangely enough I found most of this stuff were t-shirts. Well, I’m a millennial, and we love our t-shirts. I got this t-shirt while doing anti-war organizing, and I got this t-shirt for education reform, or saving some program.
"And as I sat, legs crossed, on the floor looking at all of these t-shirts, a few things crossed my mind: one, that I have hoarder tendencies; two, that all of these campaigns meant something dearly to me; and that somehow missing one t-shirt would mean the puzzle was incomplete. I started to wonder why they meant so much to me. I realized that each t-shirt was a statement against an institution that was attacking my way of life.
"I was sad to look at some shirts, because we had suffered equally as many defeats as victories. While, some of the victories brought some benefits, the fact of the matter was that for a lot of the working class, working poor and communities of color, if we didn’t get them this way, we got them that way. And that it wasn’t a system to save the “Baby Frans.” All the people or Baby frans who were born “just regular” – no birthright advantages, but a world of obstacles standing in their way. A system that would protect and empower the person, not just fix one particular problem.
"Even though this “Save the Baby Frans” campaign only existed in my mind, it’s the work I feel we do at Open Buffalo. And that’s our jobs as citizens – to create a system to help the Baby Frans.
"But, according to Paladino, little black girls and little black boys that come from places where I come from, should be warehoused and taught hygiene.
"So as a member of the “black sisterhood,” I leave you with a few points.
"Today, I want to be a part of saving the Baby Frans.
"AND the people that are standing out here with me today believe something different.
"We believe that, if you create a vision for our kids, they will follow. If you prepare them for the jobs on the medical campus, and you prepare them for jobs at Solar City, guess what: They will work! And guess what: When our youth are working they turn from a life of violence. I want school board members who believe this, too! That certain kids aren’t destined for a life a crime, and that our kids want to learn.
"We believe that when our taxpayer dollars go to subsidize private companies like Ellicott Development, Buffaloians should have access to those jobs!
"We believe that when you clear the path of just some of the obstacles, they can find their own way.
"We will never rid ourselves of prejudice, but we can remove systemic racism from Buffalo Public Schools.
"When we collectively act, we can be greater than the sum of our parts. Today, we are asking you to join us in finding leadership that believes all the Baby Frans should be fought for equally, regardless of which place on the planet your ancestors come from. All that matters is that you are here now, with us. And we believe in you!"