For Immediate Release
July 28, 2015
Open Buffalo Reports Successes and Priorities of Movement for a More Equitable and Democratic City
BUFFALO – Nonprofits, artists, attorneys, colleges, block clubs, and faith-based groups are combining their powers like never before to form the Open Buffalo collaborative. And they’re making measurable progress to improve lives in Buffalo.
Allied grassroots activists converged on Massachusetts Avenue Park Tuesday morning for a press conference and community cookout, where they heard Open Buffalo success stories from the first half of 2015 as well as the network’s priorities for the remainder of the year. Highlights included:
- Organizing Fruit Belt neighborhood organizations and allies in labor, the arts, workforce development, and grassroots activism to develop and demand a Community Benefits Agreement with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. “Our alliance is calling for a powerful Community Benefits Agreement, with provisions intended to combat the gentrification, speculation, and other negative consequences of the medical campus’ rapid growth,” said Aaron Bartley, Executive Director of PUSH Buffalo and co-chair of the Open Buffalo High Road Economic Development Table.
- Unveiling the Emerging Leaders program, a groundbreaking training and empowerment program. With its first cohort beginning in September 2015, Emerging Leaders will teach participants how to fully claim their citizenship through advocacy, community organizing, creative problem solving, and more. “Emerging Leaders is an investment in our future, ensuring that our citizens know how to claim the rights to which they are entitled, and to fight against oppression and inequity,” said Erin Heaney, Executive Director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York.
- Spreading the practice of Restorative Justice, with Peace Circles now being practiced for the first time at the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, as well as the establishment of eight “peace hubs” in the city of Buffalo. Said Pastor James Giles, of VOICE-Buffalo and Back to Basics Outreach Ministries, “Through Restorative Justice practices, we are able to mend damaged relationships, prevent and resolve conflicts, and bring healing to families and communities.”
- Organizing Buffalo fast food workers to play a major role in New York State’s Fight for $15 movement, ultimately compelling the formation of a State Wage Board, which last week recommended a series of wage increases for fast food workers (reaching $15 per hour by 2021). “Since our growth last fall as part of the Open Buffalo movement, my organization has been able to join the Fight for 15 and help win a victory that should change the lives of nearly 200,000 New Yorkers,” said the Rev. Kirk Laubenstein, Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Justice.
Those attending Tuesday’s press conference heard updates from Open Buffalo partners including:
- Aaron Bartley, Executive Director, People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo
- Pastor James Giles, Board President of VOICE-Buffalo, and Executive Director, Back to Basics Outreach Ministries
- Franchelle Hart, Executive Director, Open Buffalo
- Erin Heaney, Executive Director, Clean Air Coalition
- Jayne Hughes, Education Coordinator, Buffalo Arts Studio
- Rev. Kirk Laubenstein, Executive Director, Coalition for Economic Justice
- Sam Magavern, Co-Director Partnership for the Public Good
A free and fun cookout celebration with more than 100 residents, elected officials, and activists, followed Tuesday’s presser. The music of DJ Milk served as a vibrant soundtrack. (See attached photos.)
About Open Buffalo:
Open Buffalo is a community movement for social and economic justice. It is one of three projects in the nation chosen for the Open Places Initiative of the Open Society Foundations. For more background information, visit www.openbuffalo.org.
For media inquiries, please contact Max Anderson, Director of Communications for Open Buffalo, at (716) 292-4995, or email@example.com.