It’s been one week since an armed gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, and almost three weeks since a white supremacist killed 10 people at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York. In the aftermath of the tragedies, advocates from their communities continue to organize to provide needed resources for survivors and the communities that are still processing trauma and grief.
Phylicia Brown, the executive director of Black Love Resists in the Rust, has been canvassing three times a week in Buffalo, knocking on people’s doors in the community to check in and see how they are doing, so they can refer them to the proper resources. Black Love Resists in the Rust has been at the forefront of advocating for robust and fully funded culturally competent mental health and counseling services for the predominantly Black neighborhood, in addition to fundraising and accepting nonperishable and catered food donations. Three weeks after the tragedy, Brown said there is still a community of folks who say they are afraid to come out of their homes.
“Unless someone is knocking on their door and checking in on them, they may not even be able to take advantage of resources that have been offered,” Brown said.
While mental health resources have been welcomed and needed, Brown said it is important to recognize the decades of divestment from the Buffalo community. Brown reports that community members need rental and mortgage assistance, expanded access to public transportation, access to affordable child care, and access to get basic health needs met. Tops, which has been indefinitely closed, was the closest walkable grocery store in the neighborhood. The next closest grocery store is two miles away, and for many, Tops was not just a grocery store, but a place to refill prescriptions and cash checks as well.
“I think ultimately what we need right now is to truly support us through this moment,” Brown said. “And make sure that all the needs that our community has will be met long term.”
Brown has been advocating for these resources for years, and now she is working on a comprehensive plan with other organizations to move forward and hopefully make Buffalo a safer community for its residents.
“We firmly believe that the safest communities are the most resourced communities,” Brown said. “When we are knocking doors, and I hold this same sentiment, people ask why did it take for this egregious act to happen for people to want to do something? When this is something that has been going on again for decades and nothing has been done, it took something like this for people to say we need to put better resources in the community. And I agree with that.”
In Uvalde, Texas, after details surrounding police negligence emerged in the days after the massacre, the Department of Justice announced plans to investigate the delayed police response at the request of the city’s mayor. Police officers waited for about an hour outside the classrooms where the gunman was shooting students and teachers, allegedly because a commander on the scene incorrectly thought no lives were at risk. During the attack, children repeatedly called 911 for help, while parents outside the school waited desperately and pleaded with police to enter the school themselves.
The massacre in Uvalde was the 27th school shooting and the 213th mass shooting in 2022, which occurred just 10 days after the shooting in Buffalo. According to CBS News, on Thursday the House Judiciary Committee will consider eight pieces of gun control legislation packaged as the “Protecting Our Kids Act” and will be voted on the House floor next week. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said she will try to ban people under 21 from buying AR-15-style rifles, which were used in both the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings.
“Guns cannot be more important than our children, than our communities, than our loved ones,” Brown said. “We need our legislators to get automatic weapons off of our streets and to ensure that they are really moving with their constituents in mind, really moving in a way that is going to keep their communities that they represent safe.”
The Community Council of South Central Texas, which provides services for low-income families in Texas, is giving out $200 HEB grocery store cards to families who lost a child in the shooting or who had a family member in the school, as well as providing rental assistance and hotel vouchers for immediate family members who are traveling to Uvalde to support their families. The services will last at a minimum until the end of the week. According to Bobby Deike, the executive director for Community Council of South Central Texas, at least 120 cards have been distributed so far.
“This is an emergency, it’s a crisis, a situation that families are not prepared for,” Deike said. “The families that we serve on an ongoing basis are low-income families below 200% of poverty. So this puts even a greater need for these families at this time. The Community Council of South Central Texas will be there on an ongoing basis to serve families as needed.”