Buffalo is Mourning … and What this Area Means to Me

May 16, 2022 From my Facebook Post …

Buffalo is The City of Good Neighbors. We take care of each other. Yes, we do have problems, but for the most part, we are a community of love and caring. We are grieving and outraged at the racial violence and murder perpetrated by one evil young man against our Black community on Sat May 14, 2022.

I’ve lived in a northern suburb of Buffalo since my adoption in 1956. The area targeted by the gunman on Sat May 14th is a very old community and close to my heart.

The two photos I posted here will give you an idea of my personal history. In the black and white photo, taken in 1946, you can see my future adoptive mother, Doloris Cannell Wheeler, on the right. Her father, Louis Cannell, stands in the middle, and his second wife, Rose, is on the left. They are both from Italy. This photo was taken in my grandparents’ front yard at 568 Jefferson Ave, Buffalo, NY; their house isn’t in this picture. It was torn down years later and replaced by new housing. The brick building across the street is 563 Jefferson.

This morning, May 16, 2022, I took the color screenshot of the same brick building. Note the renovated house next to it on the left is the same house in the background in the black and white photo.

TOPS Market, where the massacre occurred Sat May 14, 2022, is further up north at 1275 Jefferson. One block south of the location in this photo is Broadway. In 1956, when I was born, my natural parents lived a few blocks East up Broadway on Smith Street. My adoptive parents lived on Coit Street, one block over and three blocks down from my natural parents. After my mother died, my father relinquished me to my adoptive parents. Nine months later, we moved less than ten miles away from my natural father.

In the 1940s and 1950s, this area, Buffalo’s East Side, was home to Italian, German, and Polish immigrants, and African Americans who moved up North from the American South. Irish immigrants settled in South Buffalo, Jews in North Buffalo, and Native Americans were scattered in the inner city and several reservations to the south and north of Buffalo.

By the 1960s and 1970s, Buffalo became home to over 100 ethnic immigrant groups, with people from all over the world. We continue to be a vibrant community.

When I was a teenager, I was a Native American dancer. No, I’m not Native, but my high school friend invited me to join her family in this cultural dance group. We participated in annual Ethnic Heritage Festivals. Two to four groups performed dances every Sunday for 6 months. At the end of those 6 months, we’d have a three-day celebration of ethnic food, dance, and cultural displays at the Buffalo Convention Center. For some reason, this large event hasn’t happened in the last 30 years. However, we continue to host a variety of cultural programs throughout the year.

Yes, Buffalo has problems. We struggle like other cities do, but we organize to help each other. It is possible for love and peace to prevail. We need to find solutions to grow a peaceful world.

My Adoptive Mother and Her Parents, 1946, on Jefferson Ave, Buffalo, New York
Google Screen Shot of the same red brick building today May 16, 2022

Funerals are starting. We need to have difficult conversations. We need to make sure a mass shooting targeting blacks or Jews or Asians never happens again. Educate against racism and intolerance. Put a stop to ignorance.