BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The city’s downtown development is apparent — and for many city residents, so is the neglect in their areas.
“There’s a lot of energy around the development that’s happening,” said Franchelle Hart, the executive director for Open Buffalo. “People really want to see their communities be a part of that development in the city and the only way to be a part of it is if they have seat at the table.”
In 2014, Buffalo was one of three cities around the country to receive a $1.9 million grant through Open Society. That grant helped Open Buffalo get up and running. The organization is tasked with finding lasting solutions for societal issues, sparking change and growing communities leaders.
“Buffalo is a prototype of a ‘can-do’ city,” said Hart. “We’re seeing tremendous growth. However, we still suffer some of the worst disparities in the country.”
From the city public education system to policing, Hart says Buffalo has a long way to go. She says she is seeing more young people noticing the disparities and becoming active in their communities to try to combat them.
Sherman Webb is one of those people.
“Just being upset, angry and frustrated with the world around me,” said Webb, a Riverside native. “Things are not like they seem.”
Webb says he started noticing differences at a young age.
“I’d watch TV and see things in the media and they didn’t reflect what was going on in the world around me,” said Webb.
He says he acted out a bit in school and met a mentor that way – a man who changed his life. Now, he is involved with changing his community.
“The things that are going on in terms of injustices that are being done by the police, the community has to step up,” said Webb who completed Open Buffalo’s emerging leaders program.
Webb says now as the city rises, he still sees disparities between communities.
“Every time somebody tries to do something a little different out of the norm, they [dominant groups in society] try to neutralize them in one way or another,” said Webb.
He has dedicated his life to making sure people who seem like they can’t be heard, have a voice. He is a social worker by day and spends each night volunteering at the Riverside Boys and Girls Club Teen Center. His life motto is “Reach one, teach one”.
“If nobody else reaches out to that next generation then that next generation will be lost.”
He says he is seeing a spark in the generation and hearing them speak up more.
“It creates a forum, opportunity and a think tank,” said Webb. “And that’s all it takes.”
Open Buffalo is holding a Justice and Opportunity Week starting July 17 through 23. Different topics including advocacy, solidarity and peacemaking will be discussed. If you’d like more information, reach out to organizers here.