The recent Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center event highlighting Ms. Gray’s vision of business growth for her community, was a well-attended success . An open house showcased the services provided at the center and an iconic portrait in Ms. Gray’s honor, created by artist Edreys Wajid, was unveiled.
Her family was more than appreciative and expressed hopes that the center, located at 334 E. Utica at Jefferson Ave., bearing their loved one’s name, would indeed represent all that she stood for in terms of progress for her beloved east side community.
“I’m hopeful it (the center) will prosper and create opportunities in the neighborhood for small businesses and entrepreneurs and women,” said her nephew Dwaine. Terry. “Beverly was about community. Her dream was to help bring viable resource to this area. I remember her telling me what she wanted to see…i.e. banks, supermarkets, a new library… She didn’t do it alone but these were some of the things she championed,” he continued. “My family can now go by and see a building dedicated to her…my children and grandchildren will be able to do the same.”
Royce Woods, the center’s executive director, took it upon himself to learn all he could about Ms. Gray when he took the position. He also reached out to her family and the community to get a better sense about who she was and what she represented. Armed with an understanding of the powerful legacy she left behind, his direction became even more focused.
“Today the most important thing is the blessings and support of her family,” said. Mr. Woods. “I will work diligently to make the family proud and that the legacy of Beverly Gray lives on thru the center.”
Beverly Gray grew up and resided in the Masten District, located on the city’s east side.
Ms. Gray, being a small business owner and operator, was elected Councilmember-At-Large for the City of Buffalo in November 1995. She was the first African American woman in the history of Buffalo politics to hold a citywide office. She was sworn in and seated as Councilmember At-Large on January 1, 1996.
In Councilmember Gray’s first term as an elected official, she made her mark on the city as being outspoken as it relates to political, economic, and social injustice in the way government delivers services. She was unconventional based on her natural ability to plan, develop, and implement projects. Councilmember Gray established an open door policy in her first year making her the most publicly accessible member in local government, setting her apart from her colleagues.
The once commercially vibrant Jefferson Avenue was the focus of her economic re-development plans. Ms. Gray secured 3.5 million dollars to design and construct a state-of-the-art Telecommunication Center as an anchor tenant for Jefferson Avenue. The historic Apollo Theater property now houses The Buffalo Municipal Communications Center, Public Education and Government (PEG channels).
Ms. Gray won re-election in 1999. As an At-Large member, In 2000, Ms. Gray was elected to the State Democratic Judicial Committee. She was the first woman to run for Mayor in Buffalo’s history, and the first in opposition to an incumbent Mayor in 2001.
Her humanitarian activities were extensive. She worked with community groups and block clubs from across the city. She initiated the dialogue that led to the building of the 6th Precinct in the forgotten African American community.
She was a member of many social, civil, and political groups.
Ms. Gray was a member of the Metropolitan United Methodist Church. She participated in the re-enactment of the Slave Crossing of the Niagara River to Freedom that is sponsored annually by the Buffalo Quarters Historical Society. She was Chaplain of the Harriet Tubman 300s; a group whose mandate is to mark historical sites used by runaway slaves.
One of her favorite sayings was “To God be the Glory!”
She made her transition on Feb. 18, 2004