Black Livelihoods Matter! “Justice For All” Rally Calls for End to Racially Biased Discrimination at NFTA

Community members, activists, faith leaders, and advocates along with current and former Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) employees held a spirited in-person and virtual “Justice for All” rally outside of the NFTA Ellicott Street offices last Saturday to  demand fairness and racial equality. The rally was also called to address  what they described as overt racism and discriminatory and retaliatory Human Resources practices. 

“If we talk about Black Lives Matter, policing and criminal justice reform, we also need to talk about the scourge of racially motivated  economic  injustice and that’s what  we have at  the  NFTA today,” declared   Jerome Wright, HALTsolitary Campaign activist and member of Elim  Christian  Fellowship Church.  

 Rev.  Charles  Walker, pastor of Mt. Hope Baptist Church and president of  United Coalition of Churches Brotherhood, called  on   former employees  to    share their stories  of being unfairly fired and discriminated against. Two    high ranking African American  men (number one in seniority in their  divisions) and two women  who were terminated based on something either   petty or non–existent bravely stepped forward.  Rev.  Walker and his wife host  The Community Voice Radio call-in radio show on WEBR 1440 AM, Fridays  from   6-7 p.m. They have been profiling what he calls “The NFTA 5’s ” saga  for the past several weeks.

“We demand  that there be changes made  at the  NFTA,”   said Mr. Wright,   “ The  higher  you go up the corporate ladder   the ‘whiter’ it gets.” Yet, he continued, NFTA It has a ridership that is predominately Black, Brown and Latinx people (over 80%) ;    and  a workforce that does most of the work (drivers, maintenance, custodial and other non-administrative positions ) that is Black and  Brown people but  a supervisory and administrative staff that is  predominately – if not all –   White (less than 1% minority).

“In  this day and time we are calling for  equality and justice, there’s nothing  more unequal and unjust  than an economic entity – a public authority –  that does people of color – its ridership  and this community, an injustice  economically ,” he continued.  It was pointed out that there were many others who had testimonies but were “extremely nervous about    coming forward” for fear of retaliation “because they don’t  know how far the  retaliation may go beyond the   NFTA. We all know how Buffalo is connected in some kind of way.”

“Clean up your act  NFTA” charged Wright, “because we’re coming with not just a rally…we’re coming  with a community that says enough is enough! This is  just the beginning,”  he assured.

Co-sponsors of the rally included the United Coalition of Churches & Brotherhood (U.C.C.B.), Mt. Hope Community Church, Elim Christian Fellowship Church, #HALTsolitary Campaign, VOICE Buffalo, Free The People, and Citizen’s Action.  Also on hand to show support was  Murray Holman of Stop The  Violence Coalition and Pastor  James of Giles Back to Basics Outreach Ministries.