Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable

“Building trusted relationships is foundational to the Racial Equity Roundtable’s work to achieve an expanded, inclusive economy. When you foster trust around a table, you open the doors to collaboration to create solutions, which can lead to true systems change in our community,” said Hon. Rose H. Sconiers, Chair of the Racial Equity Roundtable.

Collaboration, trust and partnership set the stage for the Roundtable’s long-term systems change work with its more than 350 community partners. By working in coordinated ways, the Roundtable, convened by the Community Foundation, is focused on a 10-point strategic agenda to close racial equity gaps in our community, intentionally focused on changing systems by changing policies, practices and procedures.

Below are highlights from some of the Roundtable’s initiatives. To read about all 10 initiatives, please visit

  • Business Leaders Task Force

    With a goal of creating more inclusive workplace practices, the Business Leaders Task Force (BLTF) includes 14 major local employers: Catholic Health, City of Buffalo, Erie County Medical Center, Highmark Western and Northeastern NY, Independent Health, Kaleida Health, KeyBank, M&T Bank, Moog, Rich Products, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, SUNY Buffalo State, University at Buffalo and Wegmans; it also includes three community partners: Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the Community Foundation and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

    The BLTF established the Buffalo Purchasing Initiative (BPI) to create a convening resource for sharing strategies around inclusive procurement practices and to increase contracts and purchase orders for businesses owned by people of color. Since it began four years ago, the spend with local businesses of color has increased by almost $60 million.

  • Juvenile Justice Works – “Relationships, relationships, relationships!” That is what

    Dina Thompson says is the key to restorative justice. “It’s about building, restoring, maintaining and healing relationships.”

    In her role as Executive Director of Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, Dina partners with the Roundtable’s Juvenile Justice Works (JJW), an initiative focused on reducing contact with and improving outcomes resulting from juvenile justice systems to advance equitable outcomes for young people.

    This coalition is comprised of 35 partners, including Buffalo Public Schools (BPS), the Erie County Probation Department and the Buffalo Police Department.

    In 2023, JJW completed a two-year pilot to implement restorative justice practices in BPS, which resulted in the development of positive relationships between students, parents and staff, and a decrease in short-term suspensions in the five pilot schools.

    Additionally, JJW began a three-part restorative justice series with the Erie County District Attorney’s office to find a solution to the dramatic increase in car thefts. It includes a restorative conversation in a circle format with the responsible youth, community members and police officers, and connecting youth with organizations, service providers and potential employment, based on their needs.

  • Narrative Change – For generations, people have been told what other communities

    were like, without having any lived, first-hand experience with diverse populations. Those teachings have often unfairly shaped negative perceptions of people of color and is something the Racial Equity Roundtable’s Narrative Change workgroup hopes to change.

    The Narrative Change workgroup is developing an accurate, authentic and just narrative to communicate the work of the Racial Equity Roundtable through all of the Roundtable’s initiatives.

    To illustrate this, in 2023, the workgroup invited all 350 partners together for the Racial Equity Roundtable Partner Event, held at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. This engaging evening showcased all of the Roundtable’s initiatives through interactive art activities and networking opportunities. The Roundtable’s new logo was also unveiled for the first time that evening.

  • Youth Employment Coalition – Unlocking the potential of our community’s aspiring young professionals is key to future economic growth in our region.

    The Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable’s Youth Employment Coalition (YEC) has worked tirelessly to find solutions that are grounded in data and rooted in collaboration to address the challenges these young people are facing.

    In 2023, the YEC launched Buffalo Futures, a collaborative and cross-sector initiative created to connect young people ages 16–24 with high-demand career pathways that offer family-sustaining wages and have low barriers to entry in the Greater Buffalo area. The focus of Buffalo Futures is to serve a previously unmet need in the region – the nearly 7,400 people in that age bracket that are disconnected, meaning not in school or working.

    “For some aspiring young professionals in our area, plans to finish high school or attend college were interrupted, many times by forces beyond their control. Buffalo Futures was designed to meet these bright, talented and creative young people where they are in life and help them find the right career pathway filled with opportunity for growth,” said Jerrell Mason, Senior Director, Buffalo Futures.

    The free Buffalo Futures online tool, at, is the first of its kind in the country, designed as a mobile-first platform to serve as a connection point for aspiring young professionals, local employers and local training providers. Job seekers can create a profile on the website and, through a skills and interest quiz, are matched to a career path with current job opportunities with employers in the Greater Buffalo area.

    They are then able to explore details about jobs in that pathway, like the salaries and training requirements needed to ensure eligibility for the jobs. Buffalo Futures encourages follow-up with virtual or in-person meetings at its physical site, located at 45 Oak Street at SUNY Erie’s downtown campus. The Buffalo Futures team assists with career assessments, coaching, mock interviews, networking, program referrals and more.

    Youth meet with peer mentors like Leah Strong, who gather information to pass along to the success coaches. “In my role, I bridge the gap between the disconnected youth, Buffalo Futures and all the surrounding organizations as well,” Leah said.

    A graduate of Niagara Falls High School who is currently studying at SUNY Erie to become a clinical lab tech, Leah immediately understood the need that Buffalo Futures is helping meet and cited an example of a youth that Buffalo Futures has successfully worked with. “A young man came in who had dropped out of the 12th grade and didn’t have his learner’s permit. We were able to connect him with the GED program and driving classes,” she said.

    “We know that investing in our young people is investing in our future, and we want to ensure the next generation of our city’s workforce has access to the right resources to succeed. That’s what Buffalo Futures was created to do,” said Jerrell.

    To learn more about Buffalo Futures, visit

We encourage you to visit to read more about all of the Roundtable’s initiatives.