Who is India Walton and Why is She Running for Mayor?

pictured above Working Family Party endorsed Mayoral Candidate India Walton

In 2019 India Walton (above)  became the founding executive director of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust which she co-founded along with long term members of the Fruit Belt Community. “This is the first time in the history of Buffalo that a community led land trust has seen success in creating permanently affordable housing, while honoring and supporting the existing residents and fabric of the historic neighborhood I came to know and love,” said Ms. Walton

India Walton is running for Mayor of the City of Buffalo. 

When she first announced in December, a lot of people wondered, who is she? And why is she running against a four-term, intrenched incumbent who appears well on his way to a 5th  historic  re-election bid?

India’s   response:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “I decided to run for Mayor of Buffalo because I am tired of seeing my community in this condition. Nearly half of our children are living in poverty, while the racial wealth and homeownership gap in Buffalo continues to widen. It saddens me to see cranes in the sky and hear tales of a renaissance knowing full well that the story for the majority of Buffalonians, particularly east of Main Street, is the complete opposite. I am running because we have been striving as a community to be self-determined and self-sufficient. The way we get there is with leadership that works with, listens to, and is accountable to the people.”

Should she win she will  also find her place in history as the first woman elected mayor of  Buffalo.*

 -Real. Resilient. Ready.-

India with her four sons Mahkahi, Mikail, Maquan and Mason

India, born and raised in Buffalo, grew up on Monroe Street, the daughter of Doris Siddiq, a retired VA nurse and Louis Kelly, an  army veteran who is now deceased. She has five brothers and two sisters and attended Lorraine Academy #72 and Leonardo da Vinci High School.

She earned her GED while pregnant with twins and went on to graduate from SUNY Erie School of Nursing. A Registered Nurse, advocate and  organizer, she is the single mother of “four wonderful sons” – Mahkahi, 23, twins Mikail and Maquan 19, and Mason 11.

India recalls   her first experience with activism at about age 12.  She was involved with Families Against Mandatory Minimums with her mother as they fought against the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws which opened the flood gates of mass incarceration.

Today at 38 years young, armed with a history of advocacy  and community involvement, India sees herself as a change agent. From her experience  as a healthcare worker and an active  representative in the 1199 SEIU union; to her work as a community organizer  for Open Buffalo and a clear and present voice in the local Black lives Matter Movement; to becoming the founding executive  director of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust   for which she worked with longtime residents to develop permanent  affordable housing and pushing back against gentrification, India embodies what her campaign  literature describes as being  “Real. Resilient. Ready.”

-Party Line-

Last week her campaign received a boost with the endorsement of the Working Families Party,  an organization that has backed Mayor Brown in every election since he first ran in 1998.  “Receiving the WFP endorsement was exciting and validating,” India told The Challenger.  “ The endorsement of a national organization like the Working Families Party says that working class people in Buffalo are ready for change. All over the country voters are electing truly progressive women of color who are shifting the balance of power and putting resources where they’re needed most, in our neighborhoods and pockets, not in the coffers of wealthy developers and corporations.”

The endorsement ensures that the Walton Campaign will also be on the ballot in November regardless of the results of the June 22 primary.  

“Community Conversations” : A scene from Monday’s Platform Release Party, India Walton is pictured 4th from left.

-Platform-

 On March 1 India revealed  her campaign platform during  an innovative live streamed Platform Release Party. Hosted by Michael Farrow, it featured entertainment  (Drea d’Nur, Lazara Martinez, Michael Farrow, Joe Donohue) and pre-taped “community conversations” between  India and local stakeholders . During the event  India expanded on her  platform’s  three    priorities:   Public Health,  Neighborhood Stabilization and Fiscal Responsibility .

“Our platform  is centered on people and rooted in  love for community, respect for culture  and reverence for resources,” summed up India. “We believe that housing, healthcare, fresh food and a quality education are basic human  rights. When we invest in  our people  we create the conditions where we all feel valued and can thrive. I want to be a leader who leads  for you and with you. This is about  co-government, this is about  reclaiming our community, reclaiming  our streets and just building a better  more loving, compassionate, caring Buffalo.”

When asked about those voters who may feel she’s too young or inexperienced to hold the city’s top office she replied:                                                          “ I’m not that young and my life experiences have made me very well equipped to lead the City of Buffalo. Being a lifelong resident of Buffalo and staying deeply rooted in my community means that I am able to hear the concerns of everyday people, I’m not so far removed from the issues that I am unaware of what they are. I have a record of responding to the needs of community members.When residents of the Fruit Belt had issues with parking, I worked with the government, unions, community organizations and residents to win a first of its kind parking permit system. When rents and taxes were going up due to gentrification, I worked alongside community members to create the first community led land trust to secure affordable housing for generations to come. Amid calls for increased police accountability, I helped to establish the Police Advisory Board. As my neighbors struggled during the pandemic I raised money and coordinated with stakeholders to deliver healthy food and sanitary supplies to families in need. Being a nurse for 18 years means I am an expert at assessment, planning, and implementation of care for individuals and families during their most vulnerable times. I am a survivor of domestic violence and concentrated poverty.I know that the number one issue our community is facing is poverty and that does not improve by pretending it doesn’t exist. It’s time for a mayor that will face the systemic racism and inequities in Buffalo head on, with courage, excitement, honesty, and integrity. 

“I am a tireless advocate for progressive change. From the bedside at the hospital to our schools as a nurse or  fighting for criminal legal reform, fully funded schools, an end to the war on drugs, and the school to prison pipeline.

“A vote for me is a vote for us.” 

*(Note: India  is only the third Black woman to run for Mayor of Buffalo. The late Council Member Beverly Gray   was the first woman to run for Mayor in the city’s  history in 2001, opposing Mayor Anthony Masiello.  Betty Jean Grant was the second. She ran against Mayor Brown in   2017, making the point that there was a need for greater city investment in the East Side) 

(To donate or volunteer  go to   www.indiawalton.com  Email info@indiawalton.com or call (716-246-1492)