Between July 18 and 22, Open Buffalo held its first “Justice and Opportunity Week” — five days of free community discussions, performances, and workshops throughout the city of Buffalo.
To start off the week, members of OB’s Justice and Opportunity Table held a special press conference unveiling the initial findings of their community policing survey, which measured more than 2,000 Buffalo residents’ confidence in the city police department. Speakers also explained the next steps in collaborative efforts to improve safety, decrease tensions between city residents and the Buffalo Police Department, and reform outdated policing practices. Ahead of the press event, accomplished singer/songwriter Drea d’Nur leant her massive talents to kick off J&O Week with an original musical performance.
Speakers at the press event included: D’Artagnan Scorza (Social Justice Learning Institute); Pastor James Giles (Back to Basics Outreach Ministries & VOICE-Buffalo); Councilman Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. (Masten District); Steve Peraza (Partnership for the Public Good); and Franchelle Hart (Open Buffalo).
One of the highlights of the week was a keynote address by delivered by special guest D’Artagnan Scorza, Ph.D., the nationally renowned Founder and Executive Director of the Social Justice Learning Institute (Inglewood, CA). Among an array of topics related to community development, Scorza highlighted opportunities for innovative engagement with and empowerment of youth who have experienced trauma at home and in their communities. A replay of Scorza’s presentation can be found here.
A “Know Your Rights” workshop, co-hosted by Open Buffalo, the Western New York office of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Greater Works Christian Fellowship, provided an opportunity for the community to express deep frustrations with the recent cases of police violence in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota. While the original intention of the workshop was to provide tips for interacting with the police and understanding your rights, the focus shifted to finding ways to allow for the community to share their feelings with the recent events. This created a dialogue on how OB can support the community in continuing these conversations and bringing the “Know Your Rights” trainings to the community.
Other J&O Week events included a showing of The House I Live In, a documentary exploring the effects of the 40-year “War on Drugs” (hosted at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center), and a “Poetic Justice” open mic night in Masten Park, which wrapped up the week’s events. This open-air creative session inspired solidarity, hope, and motivation for the difficult work that lays ahead for allied change-makers and organizations working to advance justice and opportunity in Buffalo.
Thanks to our Justice & Opportunity Week partners:
Back to Basics Outreach Ministries
Citizen Action of New York
Prisoners Are People Too
SSJ Sister Karen Klimczak Center for Nonviolence
Partnership for the Public Good
NY Civil Liberties Union (WNY office)
News Coverage from Justice & Opportunity Week:
“Justice and Opportunity Week Pushes to Educate, Empower the Community”
Time Warner Cable News
“Study released on Buffalo Police & community”
Jeff Preval, WGRZ, Channel 2
“New survey results shed light on how public views Buffalo Police Department”
Callan Gray, WIVB, Channel 4
“Open Buffalo: Right Now, Right Time to Start Talking”
Rochelle Alleyne, Time Warner Cable News
“Community group taking steps to reduce police tensions”
Chris Caya, WBFO News
“National scholar contributing to city’s poverty conversation”
Ali Ingersoll, WIVB, Channel 4