By Lonnie Barlow, Organizer, PUSH Buffalo
Do you know what you need where you live? If you do, what is it? Why? How can you get what you need where you live?
You don’t have to answer these questions right now, just let them marinate for a minute.
Sometime in 2005, almost a decade ago, a rag-tag group of neighborhood residents and a couple of supposed community organizers were going around the West Side of Buffalo. These people went seemingly from door-to-door attempting to have conversations with people. The conversation starter was, “What is the biggest issue facing Buffalo?”
Lack of employment opportunities, not enough help for struggling homeowners and tenants, and just neighborhood issues on many levels is what many of the people answered. Many people also said that these conversations have been had before, but unfortunately it must have been all empty talk, because nothing has changed.
The average interaction between these people went something like this:
Person at door: OK, suppose we were listening to you, what will be different this time?
PUSH organizer: Listen, I’m not promising you anything, and only the heavens know what lies ahead. All I’m saying is that if we stick together, and become as organized as we possibly can, we’ll have a shot at real community-based change. And, we’ll have pizza and wings at this meeting.
My grandfather has a saying that goes something like – and I am paraphrasing – “If you wish in one hand, and (something else, think waste products) in the other, which hand fills up the fastest?”
In other words real change takes close planning, commitment, and time. Rome was not built in a day.
Here in 2014, the rag-tag group of neighborhood residents now called People United for Sustainable Housing, aka PUSH Buffalo, numbers in the hundreds. The two supposed community organizers have become among the most sought-after voices in the country on issues of community-based planning and true community redevelopment.
We know from experience that true community-based work is not easy, and that change takes careful planning and time. We also can see that Buffalo still has many issues that have to be dealt with.
Inspired by recent regional conferences, our Organizing Team and Community Development Committee has led an effort to put together a Community Congress on Thursday, March 6th, from 6-8pm, at the Grant Street Neighborhood Center (271 Grant St., West Side). No matter what corner of the city you live in, we’re asking you to join us.
Now, do you know what you need where you live? If you do, what is it? Why? How can you get what you need where you live?