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.