The media has left. The sidewalk memorials—piles of bouquets and flickering prayer candles left to honor the victims of another flurry of American gun violence—remain.
The work in the aftermath of May 14’s Tops supermarket shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., says Justine David, is just beginning.
“As a community, we cannot remain silent,” says David, a PR account supervisor at Mower. “But I think most importantly, it is now time to act.”
David joined the Buffalo 5/14 Survivors Fund in the wake of the shooting. The organization, a partnership forged between Tops and the National Compassion Fund, provides financial assistance to the families of the 10 deceased and others directly impacted by the violence.
As a member of the fund’s steering committee, David helps set the eligibility policies for fund distributions—ensuring that everyone affected receives compensation for their financial and emotional recovery. Being a Buffalo native, she says, adds another layer of emotion to the work. “I am honored to work with such a dedicated group of individuals who care deeply about the community and our city.”
But the community’s needs run deeper.
“First and foremost,” says David, “we need more than one grocery store and pharmacy in the community. Thriving communities benefit from access to necessities.”
The shooter targeted the only large supermarket on Buffalo’s East Side—a predominantly Black neighborhood that has long been plagued by the lack of city investment and the region’s deep-seated segregation. In the immediate aftermath of the violence, the neighborhood’s 40,000 residents relied on food banks and pop-up donation sites—a sharp contrast to the surrounding suburbs’ 20-odd available grocery stores.
The problem is twofold. The rise of white supremacy and radical racial ideologies, like those voiced by the shooter, perpetuate these hate crimes; the lack of funding and resources in underserved communities makes them particularly vulnerable.
“Where we live plays a huge role in our access to quality jobs, schools, housing, food and clean air, water and soil,” says David. “If we live in areas where there is greater access to these necessities, we are living in areas of opportunity. Ensuring all our communities within the city live in opportunity areas is imperative.”
In the months since the shooting, the Tops supermarket has undergone extensive renovations, expanded its inventory and reopened to the public. A memorial to the 10 victims flanks the entrance wall. But changes beyond the store, says David, still need to be made.
“Years of disinvestment have really harmed generations in the community. There continues to be a lack of access to quality healthcare, food and sufficient housing,” she says. The region needs intentional, city-led investments. “That will enhance the quality of life and health and safety of all of our neighbors.”
For a current list of resources for those impacted by this tragedy and for ways to support/donate to immediate and long-term relief efforts, please visit the Partnership for the Public Good.