Notes from Community Development Campaign Kickoff

If we just talk to each other, we’ll find out that we’re not that much different from one another. Remember that bald white guy you thought was with the Aryan Nation? After talking with him, you found out he was a public defender who is a huge Nas fan. What about that young black guy with the trendy clothes you thought was a gang member? It turns out he is a unionized construction worker who owns a sleek Harley Davidson. How about the Arab-looking woman who you thought was some type of suicide bomber? After speaking with her, you find out that she is originally from Nepal and teaches underprivileged youth in a public school, and she loves Lady GaGa. And, oh yeah, that older Hispanic woman up the block who you thought was some type of welfare mom, thanks to the 17 children that you see come in and out of her house, actually runs a pretty popular daycare. “The Closer” is her favorite TV show and after further conversation, you find out that you live in the same area and that you have so much more in common. Many of the barriers that we place upon ourselves are mainly superficial and based on television stereotypes. At the end of the day, we are all human beings who essentially want the same things: food, clothes, shelter, and good neighborhoods. The best way for people to get past their preconceived differences is by talking to each other. “The lot across the street is very dirty and unsafe. Individually, we can’t afford it, but let’s find out how we can acquire it and turn it into something better. Perhaps we could turn it into a small playground for our kids, or even a garden.” “That dilapidated old city firehouse would make a great community youth center. Where can we get started?” “My son just lost his job. Will the new grocery store hire people from the neighborhood?” “You’re a great drummer. I write poetry. There are many others like us in this community. The area could really use a place for small performances.” “We could use more lighting on that busy street corner after dark.” “My bike repair business has outgrown its current location, I was thinking about expanding into one of those larger old commercial buildings around the corner.” “There are many mothers with younger children in our neighborhood who would love a pediatric care center close by.” Well, the call went out and the community responded. On April 18th, PUSH Buffalo launched their Community Development Campaign Kickoff at the Butler-Mitchell Boys & Girls Club as a way to listen to and engage the community on what they felt they needed in the community. The conversation was between community members (specifically on Buffalo’s West Side) and the topics of conversation ranged from community gardens, to vacant housing and lot preservation, to commercial space management, to small businesses development. We are all about building power through community involvement and that’s exactly what our Campaign Kickoff displayed. For those of you who don’t know, the West Side consists largely of working class people. Many of us are low-income individuals of different ages and ethnic backgrounds. In the past, access to power is something that has not been available. Keeping this in mind, we wanted to make residents aware that we want to put together a plan that truly encompasses the community on many different levels. So, why do we need a community development plan? Well, some of us budget our finances. Some of us have been saving for small purchases. Others among us plan the outfits we’ll wear tomorrow. A good coach prepares his team before every game and that’s exactly what we are doing. Why not plan for the things that will work best for everybody in our neighborhood? PUSH Buffalo, with the help of the community, is developing a plan for the development of our neighborhood. And, our greatest resource is you! The development, or redevelopment, of our area will depend on having broad community participation. And, our kickoff is only the beginning – to get involved, stay tuned here and at for upcoming events, or contact us at 716-884-0356 or