Advancing racial equity in our community requires a unique balance of urgency and long-term commitment. Building trusted partnerships and coalitions to break down barriers and rewrite policies and practices takes the unwavering dedication of leaders from all sectors willing to lead change. In 2015, the Community Foundation convened the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable. Its 31 current members, along with more than 250 partners, are advancing a 10-point strategic agenda to close racial equity gaps in our community.
Here are a few initiatives of the Roundtable that are driving systems change in our community.
- Reentry Coalition – To address Erie County’s above average recidivism rate, the Reentry Coalition opened the Service Link Stop (SLS) in late 2020 to help individuals released from jail find accessible paths toward economic self-sufficiency and away from re-arrest. The SLS now has 14 partners on site that offer programs and services that help connect people to housing, employment opportunities, mental health services and more. In addition, the Reentry Coalition responded to the need to provide access to these services online and began working with 2-1-1 WNY to create a virtual SLS and to expand support beyond the physical location.
- Juvenile Justice Works – This coalition of more than 35 partners, including Buffalo Public Schools, Erie County Probation and Buffalo Police Department, completed an action plan in 2021 for our community with the W. Haywood Burns Institute to reduce contact with and improve outcomes resulting from the juvenile justice systems. Juvenile Justice Works also hosted focus groups with community leaders and youth. The overarching theme from the focus groups was that everyone must participate in order to strengthen community policing. Additionally, Juvenile Justice Works partnered with the principals of five Buffalo Public Schools to implement restorative justice programs in the district.
- Racial Equity Impact Analysis Training – The Roundtable continues to provide Racial Equity Impact Analysis training for leaders in our community. To date, 3,556 individuals representing 142 unduplicated businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations have participated, leading to important changes in policies and processes by employing a racial equity lens during decision-making that benefits thousands more.
- Business Leaders Task Force – Adding two new members in 2021, this group of 14 major local employers is committed to working together to increase purchasing power with businesses of color and building their capacity to grow. Through its Buffalo Purchasing Initiative, the member companies increased the number of businesses of color they worked with to 89. The number of working relationship increased 13 percent from 2020. Additionally, the group has formed new partnerships with community groups and increased trainings available to businesses to help strengthen vendor procurement policies and practices.
- Boys and Young Men of Color Alignment – The inspiring group of Breaking Barriers Youth Leadership Council members and graduates continues to grow stronger and more effective in advocating for social justice, racial equity and policy change in our community. In 2021, they began working with the Buffalo Public Schools and Dr. Fatima Morrell to create elective programming for all incoming male freshmen. Malik Stubbs, veteran Breaking Barriers member, was also a featured panelist at the launch of the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Forum series, which focused on the antidote to structural racism on May 27.
- Youth Employment Coalition – This coalition is working to ensure that all our youth have access to pathways to opportunity with a particular focus on youth who are disconnected from school and the workforce. Click here to read the full update.