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In aftermath of shooting tragedy

Community responds to racist media coverage

Published Sep 6, 2010 10:41 PM

Community members organized two powerful protests against the Buffalo News on Aug. 27. The anger of the community spoke truth to power about the insensitivity and racism of the Buffalo big-business-owned media. The newspaper published a front page story — with a huge headline — listing the criminal records of those who had just died or were wounded by gunshots Aug. 14 at a family party in a downtown restaurant. Four people died and another four were injured, one critically.

All of the victims were African Americans and many in the community feel that if the victims had been white, the paper would not have published such an attack on them.

The publication occurred only one day after the last funeral. Darnell Jackson, a community activist who organized one of the protests, stated, “We think the timing and the content was totally disrespectful. After the media came into our home, our churches, our communities, playing like they would have sympathy for us, they turned right around and seemed to murder us again.” (Buffalo News, Aug. 27)

Protesters — including many youth — spoke about the constant negative and disrespectful portrayal of their communities by the media. They chanted, “What do we want? Fair shot! How do we get it? Boycott!”

Erie County legislator Betty Jean Grant said it was “just incomprehensible that anybody could print that story one day after the last person was buried.” Samual L. Radford III, chair of Millions More Movement, Buffalo Committee, said, “We understand their responsibility as journalists to cover a story, but there is a way to cover a story that is respectful and sensitive to people without re-victimizing them.”

One protester shouted, “There is a new wind blowing in Buffalo. We are not going to put up with this anymore!” Others cheered in agreement.

Shocked and saddened by the latest deaths, people are mobilizing to examine the causes and plan what can be done. Town meetings are occurring where the community is speaking out about the conditions that exist, especially for youth: poverty, lack of jobs, poor schools, police brutality, the high incidence of incarceration, and other forms of racism and oppression. It seems that the “new wind” in the community is the feeling that the time to just talk is over; that it is time to take action to address the impact racism has on all aspects of life here.