Bringing positive change to a community is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job. This notion is universally embraced by all 35 members of the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, who are committed to advancing racial equity in our community. By partnering with more than 250 local organizations, the Roundtable looks to create opportunities for all to reach their full potential, recognizing this work requires a collaborative community effort.
In late 2016, the Roundtable released a report entitled The Racial Equity Dividend: Buffalo’s Great Opportunity. The report documents how systemic disparities in the Greater Buffalo region create differential outcomes by race and quantifies how our entire region will grow when we achieve racial equity. With leadership from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the Roundtable set forth an eight-point agenda to begin addressing racial equity disparities.
A few highlights of the Roundtable’s 2020 work
- For young men of color, 2020 was an extremely important year to lift their collective voice to advocate for better life outcomes. The Breaking Barriers Youth Leadership Council, a group of young men committed to becoming leaders in our community, was active and engaged. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, the young men started meeting daily on Zoom to talk about the challenges they were facing and take action together. They gathered safely with masks to collectively call for social justice change in our community and assist with needs. You can learn more about Breaking Barriers here.
- The newest initiative of the Roundtable is made up of 30 organizations working together to create a strengthened, more coordinated youth employment system that effectively connects 16- to 24-year-old youth to career pathway opportunities in Buffalo.
- Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, the Reentry Coalition’s 80 partners took an important step forward to reduce the high number of individuals who are rearrested aft er their release from jail with the opening of the Service Link Stop. This one-stop shop, located just steps away from the Erie County Holding Center, provides reentering individuals easy access to programs and services from more than 20 on-site partners that can assist with everything from housing and basic needs to job training and mental health services.
- Changing the narrative by increasing an understanding of the disparities in our community has been a focus of the Roundtable’s Community Engagement and Awareness workgroup. An ongoing partnership with WBFO has led to the creation of the Racial Equity news desk and the hiring of a full-time reporter of color. During 2020, journalist Thomas O’Neil-White was embedded in the community, telling stories of how the COVID-19 crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color. These stories illuminated how leaders in our community in the same industry have had very different lived experiences based on their race. You listen to these stories here.
While everyone recognizes we have a long way to go, the work of the Racial Equity Roundtable is attracting significant local and national support in recognition of its progress.
For example, in July of 2017, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced a major investment in Buffalo to advance racial equity through the Community Foundation. The investment was awarded in two parts. The first is a $1 million grant that will help fund the work of the Roundtable over the next five years. The second part of the investment is a $1 million endowment match to create a sustainable stream of funding for racial equity work. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is matching private contributions dollar for dollar up to $1 million. This truly transformative, collaborative work happening right now in our community will accelerate shared prosperity for all of us for generations to come.