My Hope for 2018: The Creation of a Better Buffalo for Black People

by Pastor George Nicholas

As I reflect on the tragic loss of one of our young warriors Thapelo Hill, to needless violence on our streets. I am convicted on how I can and should do more to keep young brothers and sisters from losing their precious lives long before they are able to fulfill their potential. His murder was not an isolated incident, but it is a reflection of a community that has lost its way. His death reflects the failure of our community to come together and have a real conversation on how to stop this cycle of violence that has been plaguing our community for generations. His death reflects the lack of vision of community leaders to put forth an agenda that would inform and inspire the people to work together to make our neighborhoods safe for everyone.

so we can prevent these tragedies from happening again. It is ironic that Thapelo is the grandson of one of the community Mothers, Dorothy Hill. Mother Hill has tirelessly sacrificed so much for her people only to have to grieve like the countless others mothers over the premature loss of someone that was part of her being. Our community will mourn. We will light candles at vigils. Politicians will write resolutions. Musicians will sing songs. Preachers will deliver soaring eulogies. We will cry, laugh, shout and follow the casket to the cemetery. We will enjoy fellowship and food at the repast. Then we will retire back to our lives and prepare our hearts to do it again the next time one of your sons or daughters loses their lives to violence. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of this and do not want to bring that spirit into 2018. We cannot celebrate the economic renaissance of this region while brothers like Thapelo are vulnerable to sudden death just by enjoying some pizza with his friends. What kind of city is that? How can anyone be proud of that?

So this year I will continue to work with my fellow clergy to make a positive difference in the community. However, I am calling on all community assets to come together to create a better Buffalo for Black people.

Black mayor, Black Superintendent of Schools, Black NYS Assembly member, Black Council President, three Black City Council members, two Black County Legislators, four Black School Board Members, and Black judges at every level of the judiciary. We have over 200 churches with many distinguished influential pastors. We have a Black president at Buffalo State College. We have vibrant organizations like the CAO, Urban League and the NAACP. We have Blacks on several key boards like ECIDA, the Community Foundation, the Millennium Collaborative, ECMC as well as countless others. We have Black doctors, lawyers, educators and business owners. We have Blacks in key positions in the Labor Movement. All these people are doing righteous work in their respectful places. However, what we do not have is a space where these leaders meet on a regular basis to plan and implement a strategy that will advance the interest of Black people in this region.

In our quest for professional achievement and social mobility, we have failed to recognize the power of using our collective influence to better Black people. We have chosen to labor in our own lanes and do the best we can in the spaces that we are in.

However that is not good enough, we must recognize one of the responsibilities of leadership is to invest time and energy to connecting with all community assets to make the entire community better. If White folks can elect a complete idiot as president don’t tell me we cannot come together to develop a plan to advance our people in Buffalo. I am asking for all people of conscious to pray for a much needed gathering of community assets to come together this year.

I believe it is the responsibility of the clergy to make the call and I intent to work with them to make this happen this year. This is the way we can honor those like Thapelo by creating the beloved community he had hoped to live in until he became an elder.