The Buffalo 10 Scholarship—just the beginning
Buffalo is the seventh most segregated city in the country for Black Americans, based on as 2020 study conducted by the Brookings Institute. Eighty-five percent of Black Buffalonians live on the East side of the city, where the racially motivated mass murder took place at the Tops grocery store on May 14, 2022.
The East Side of Buffalo has been racially segregated for over 70 years and this neighborhood has been plagued with poverty and many forms of institutional racism as a result. One such example is health inequity. The Upper New York (UNY) communications team covered health inequity on Buffalo’s East side in 2021. The neighborhood is also a food desert; the Tops grocery store is the only grocery store in the 14208 zip-code in Buffalo.
After the mass murder, the media was quick to tell the stories of the victims and the employees and shoppers who were at the scene. But there was not much focus on the residents who live in the neighborhood surrounding the store—residents who will be dealing with the trauma of this tragic shooting for a long time.
The UNY Conference has a team of Buffalo-area clergy who are working together to support these residents.
The first step is the Buffalo 10 Scholarship. Dr. Scott Johnson, Pastor Angela Stewart, the Rev. George Nicholas, the Rev. Raquel Alston, and the Rev. Tanya Spencer are all pastors at local churches in Buffalo. These pastors along with Buffalo area resident and Conference Commission on Religion and Race member, Charles Syms, submitted a petition at the 2022 UNY Annual Conference on Oct. 6, 2022, requesting the creation of a Buffalo 10 Scholarship to honor the ten Black residents that were killed at the Tops local market on May 14, 2022.
This petition called the UNY Conference to establish a scholarship in the name of the Buffalo 10 for students from the 14208 zip-code attending college. This petition was supported by 93.6 percent of the Annual Conference body.
The idea of the scholarship was Rev. Alston’s; she is the pastor at North Tonawanda First UMC. She explained how in the aftermath of the May 14th shooting, a lot of influencers in the Buffalo community created a fund of over $6 million to go to those traumatized by the event, mainly Tops’ employees, victims’ family members, and people in the store or store parking lot at the time of the shooting.
Rev. Alston said, “I am grateful for that fund, but I feel that very little of that will be going back into the community.”
Rev. Alston said, “The scholarship is to leave a legacy of the beautiful 10 people who lost their lives. The purpose of this scholarship is to give young people in this community a voice.”
She continued, “There are young people who want to invest in the community, but don’t have the opportunity. This scholarship will give those young (Black) people an opportunity to get the education they need to become a strong voice for their community. “
Dr. Scott Johnson, pastor at Pendleton Center and Buffalo First United Methodist churches, said, “This scholarship is not a one-and-done initiative. This is one piece that we are working on and hopefully it leads to more meaningful change for the folk that live there.”
Rev. Alston hopes that this initiative leads to investment in overall education on Buffalo’s East side. She said, “There’s a statistic that if a young black boy can’t read by the third grade, he’s already incarcerated. Hopefully, this initiative can lead to literacy programs and educational tools for the young people in this community.”
There is great momentum in giving for the Buffalo 10 Scholarship.
On Oct. 9, the day after the UNY Annual Conference ended, the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, UNY Director of Connectional Ministries and Assistant to the Bishop, was the guest preacher at Lincoln Memorial UMC, the Methodist church closest to the Tops’ supermarket where this tragedy occurred.
Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding said, “Rev. Nicholas asked for a second offering to go specifically to the Buffalo 10 Scholarship. I was so impressed with the number of people who came to the front of the sanctuary to give an additional offering.”
So far, the initiative has raised over $3,500.
Dr. Johnson said, “We hope to see this scholarship as a self-sustaining fund.”
Click here to donate to such a meaningful cause, the Buffalo 10 scholarship.