The Path Forward From May 14: Insights from Black Leaders Within Roswell Park

As our community works to heal following the deadly May 14 racist killings at the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center acknowledges the painful experiences that are a daily reality for so many of our neighbors, our employees and our patients. 

We mourn with the families of the 10 people killed by a young man poisoned by white supremacist ideology: Aaron Salter, Ruth Whitfield, Pearly Young, Katherine Massey, Deacon Heyward Patterson, Celestine Chaney, Roberta A. Drury, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackneil and Geraldine Talley. We stand with all those who were injured or traumatized through this senseless act of hateful prejudice at a neighborhood hub, a place vital to the community for more than just groceries. 

As our community comes together in forceful affirmation of the dignity of every person, we invited several Black leaders within Roswell Park to share their reflections on this moment in our community and what it means for our path forward. 

“I want to challenge everyone to remember we have choices. We have choices to see the good in people; we have choices to respect other people for their differences, and we have choices to love everyone in the way we would want to be loved. We’re all human beings. At the end of the day, we all want the same things,” says David Scott, Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Roswell Park.  

Sustained commitment to change is critical.The demonstrations of compassion and togetherness on full display since the deadly attack must be a starting point. 

“It’s wonderful and reassuring to see how Buffalo neighbors from all walks of life have come together in the aftermath of this horrific tragedy, but that energy must be kept days, months and years from now to help create actual change,” says Dana Harris, Communications Project Manager. “Black people appreciate the sentiment and concerns of our friends and peers. We value them. But we also need everyone to see … we have not been making these things up. There are people out there walking this earth that hate us for the color of our skin. It’s heartbreaking, discouraging and we are just so tired of fighting alone every day and trying to prove our worth. When you ask what you can do to support us — get out and take action. Speak up when you see, hear or feel that something is wrong or unfair.” 

We also need to do our part, as a neighbor and as a presence in this city, to ask questions and listen to the answers, even if — especially if — they are difficult to hear. 

“It’s very clear there’s a problem. It’s not just this isolated incident,” says Richard Satterwhite, a Patient Engagement Specialist. “We need to be the ones to reach across and ask what we can do. We need to become a real ally. This is our community. We need to do a better job of taking care of people. This is an opportunity to truly engage and take care of the overall health of our community.” 

Next: “Racism Will Not Be tolerated

‘Racism will not be tolerated’