Editorial by First Niagara Bank
They are lines that often divide, but on Saturday, May 17, at 11 a.m., Western New Yorkers will cross the lines of race, ethnicity and poverty to show that Buffalo stands for a more united future.
"Hands Across Buffalo" will bring together an estimated 7,000 people, hand in hand along East and West Ferry streets, linking our communities to celebrate our diversity and stand united against poverty. After the human chain is complete, there will be community presentations and workshops across the city, allowing participants to find ways to continue to support the "Hands Across Buffalo" mission in the future.
"Hands Across Buffalo" is inspired by "Hands Across America," which took place in 1986. The late Beverly Gray, a former councilmember-at-large, and former North District Councilmember Dale Zuchlewski spoke of attempting "Hands Across Buffalo" in the mid-1990s, but never found the time to organize it. Zuchlewski is now executive director of the Homeless Alliance of WNY. Along with the Ujima Theater and Partnership for Public Good, he submitted a successful community foundation grant to give "Hands Across Buffalo" the seed money to begin organizing this event along with other diversity and poverty awareness projects.
More than 80 partners are now involved, including First Niagara Bank, Rich Products, KeyBank, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Legislator Betty Jean Grant, Council President Darius Pridgen and councilmembers Joe Golombek, Michael LoCurto and Rasheed Wyatt.
"At First Niagara, we believe strong communities are places where all citizens have opportunities to learn, grow and achieve their dreams," said Buford Sears, First Niagara Buffalo market executive. "First Niagara is proud to present 'Hands Across Buffalo.' We encourage all Western New Yorkers to join us in celebrating our community's diversity."
West Ferry was chosen because it is one of the most diverse streets in Western New York, representing our ethnic, racial and economic diversity.
"All too often, negative voices dominate the conversations in Buffalo," Zuchlewski said. "Our growing number of partners want to change the message with a positive event that will give Buffalo, N.Y., positive national attention. We will send a message that our diversity will unite us as we, together, meet the challenges that face our community."
There is still time to participate. You can register as an individual at www.HandsAcrossBuffalo.com. You can participate with an organization. Groups can reserve a block, and help recruit the number of people needed to fill a block. Blocks will be assigned based on the number of people participating. There is no charge to participate.
"Hands Across Buffalo" is an event to raise awareness. It will happen rain or shine.