To the Buffalo food system of consumers, cooks, producers, shoppers, retailers, producers, distributors, and everyone in between:
We at the Syracuse-Onondaga Food Systems Alliance (SOFSA) send our care and love and condolences to the Buffalo community that lost family and friends to the mass attack on Saturday, May 14th. In Syracuse, we know what it is like to have segregated communities of color and a lack of basic services like grocery stores and fresh, quality food access. Attacks like what took place on Saturday represent an ongoing campaign of terror: not only do they tragically take lives, they also strategically remove resources and access from predominantly Black and Brown communities. Justice demands basic economic rights including the human right to food and nutrition, food access, and flourishing food economies. We recognize that the Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Street is, like many spaces in our food system, more than just a place where people buy food to eat. It is also a space where community gathers and is an important driver of the East Side of Buffalo’s economy. These spaces are targets in the violence of White supremacy as they represent the ways in which communities fight back and build a better future.
Beyond the everyday violence that de facto segregation has wrought on our cities which leads to pervasive food apartheid, this type of violence represents a continuation of a historical precedent of oppression. Countless examples throughout history of cutting off communities’ access to food and water have been devastating tactics of war. Sitting in the shadow of this tragedy, Syracuse, Onondaga County, and Onondaga Nation are highly aware that we too, could have been targets of this violence – and could still be in the future. Healing from these multiple types of ongoing violence will require more than just gun control or food access. It will require intentional collaboration between all community members, partners, and organizations to bridge the ways in which all forms of violence and oppression intersect.
To quote Jaime Swygert, a community activist and founder of the Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion included in a recent joint media advisory released by Buffalo-based food justice advocates and partners:
“The fact that this disgusting, terroristic, evil act of violence took place in a grocery store is no coincidence. Access to food has been weaponized throughout history. From early crop burning and well poisoning, to present day food apartheid. Black people have been vocalizing the fact that we are targets of white supremacists who view us as sub-humans, only to be told, racism no longer exists and we need to stop making color an issue. Yes, donations and food distributions are a helpful immediate response, but it is time to get to the root of the problem. We will continue our work to empower and educate folks in our community on food related issues as a vehicle to liberation. As the community begins the healing process, it is important to honor this loss of precious lives and not lose momentum. Racism exists. This must be acknowledged as fact and the indoctrination of hate must be eradicated.”
We, at SOFSA, believe in the resilience of Buffalo. We have learned from the dynamic work of groups like the Massachusetts Avenue Project, the African Heritage Food Cooperative, and the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at University of Buffalo. We stand in solidarity as a food systems partnership with the incredible Buffalo food systems organizations that have mobilized in response to this tragic event and subsequent closure of an important food access point. The Buffalo Community Fridge; Rooted In Love; Black Love Resists in the Rust; VOICE Buffalo; and others are all important organizations whose response highlights the resilience and strength of our communities. We stand in solidarity with our counterpart food policy councils: The Food Policy Council of Buffalo & Erie County and the Buffalo Food Equity Network. SOFSA, as a convener and movement builder, welcomes any invitation or direction from our sister city of Buffalo for how we might be able to assist in your time of need.
In love and solidarity,
The Syracuse-Onondaga Food Systems Alliance, a broad partnership of food-lovers and leaders working together to build a food system that works for all people in Syracuse, Onondaga County, and Onondaga Nation.