Activist community

“People are scared.” Buffalo supermarket to reopen as fear still grips the community

Whitfield said the ensuing mass shootings and Republican lawmakers’ refusal to support tougher gun laws made the task even more difficult to handle. He also worries that many elected officials and religious institutions have remained silent about the impact of white supremacy.

“You go from being sad and missing your loved one to being really angry,” Whitfield said. “It’s a lot to take in knowing that other people are going through the same thing. It’s a lot to know that people are sitting in places of authority and basically giving the green light to this nonsense.”

Tops Friendly Markets will reopen its Buffalo store on Friday two months after Whitfield’s 86-year-old mother Ruth E. Whitfield and nine others were killed when a white supremacist opened fire there. The supermarket has undergone a full refurbishment, with additional safety and security measures in place, as well as the creation of a memorial for the victims of the shooting inside the store, Tops Friendly Markets said in a press release. hurry. New security measures in the supermarket include improved video surveillance systems, an audio/visual emergency evacuation alarm system, the installation of additional emergency exits and increased professional security inside and outside. outside the store.
Community members say that while the Tops store is indispensable in the neighborhood, many Buffalo residents are still traumatized by the massacre. Family members and survivors are still grieving. Residents fear another attack. And there is always unease when neighbors see a white man walking through their predominantly black neighborhood of Masten Park. Local activists said they did not expect many people to shop at the store in the first weeks of its reopening, but they hope the apprehension will not last. The the neighborhood on the east side is a food desert and residents fought for groceries before Tops opened in 2003.

“I think there will be people who don’t want to go and never go back,” said Garnell Whitfield, who is Buffalo’s former fire marshal. “But convenience and necessity take over and this store will be a viable part of that community.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for the reopening of the store was held on Thursday afternoon and included a community prayer and a moment of silence for the victims of the shootings.

“This is the day we declare that hate has not won, hate has been defeated, hate has no place in East Buffalo or Buffalo or the great state of New York, and that this community…has driven away the darkness,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “It’s a beautiful day in Buffalo and I want residents to know that everything will be fine.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the outpouring of support for the store’s reopening is “positive proof that love beats hate.”

“We will take this place of tragedy and in the days, weeks, months, years to come, it will be a national and global example of a place of triumph,” Brown said.

‘Fear of it happening again’

Community activist Liz Bosley said she spoke to many residents, especially older people, who were terrified of returning to Tops’ location. Some wished Tops had torn down the store and rebuilt it so people wouldn’t have to relive the devastation, she said.

“There’s definitely a fear of it happening again,” Bosley said. “If they see a white guy around, their minds wander. People get scared.”

Bosley said locals go to a makeshift market set up by volunteers after the shooting, where free groceries and hot meals are handed out. Others took buses or Uber rides to other parts of the city to get groceries. Still, Masten Park needs a brick-and-mortar supermarket, Bosley said.

Bosley is applying for a job at Tops in hopes residents will see her working there and feel more comfortable shopping at the store, she said.

“I want to give people the courage to know it’s okay to come back and shop at Tops,” Bosley said.

Other community leaders also hope to persuade residents to shop at the reopened store.

Bishop Perry Davis of New Life Harvest World Ministries in Buffalo said he plans to be at Tops on Friday when it reopens to console the community and comfort anyone who comes along.

Davis said the store’s reopening would open up sores for many neighborhood residents.

“There will be fear of another attack because it’s so new, it’s a new situation,” Davis said. “We’re talking about 10 souls, 10 people who died just a few months ago, so that’s definitely going to stay front and center in everyone’s mind.”

But Davis encourages the community to show strength by patronizing Tops, which he says is a necessity for the neighborhood.

“We’re not just going to bow down and bow down to fear,” Davis said.

A son channels his grief

Mark Talley, who lost his mother, Geraldine Talley, in the offense, agreed the Buffalo East side needed to stay strong and keep Tops open.

“I originally didn’t want the store to reopen,” Talley said. “But at the same time, I don’t want the city and my community to feel like we should succumb to defeat.”

Talley said he was still angry that his mother – whom he described as a kind woman who loved to bake banana pudding, red velvet cake and sweet potato pie – was killed by a white supremacist.

Biden delivers moving speech after Buffalo shooting: "White supremacy is poison"

But Talley said he refused to let tragedy hold him back. He channels his grief by helping distribute groceries to residents of the makeshift market. Talley said throngs of people came out weekly to receive items from the market, proving he was filling a void in the community while Tops was closed.

Talley said giving back helped him cope.

“It’s just my form of grief, just something to help,” Talley said. “Something that will keep me from having to think about the incident, trying not to get lost in thought.”

CNN’s Athena Jones, Bonney Kapp, Beth English and Tanika Gray contributed to this report.