BUFFALO, N.Y. — Tuesday marks two years since Buffalo was left shattered and shocked. At the time of the shooting, an 18-year-old drove from Conklin, where he’s from, three and a half hours away, to a prominently Black community on the east side of the city. As we later learned from his manifesto, he targeted the area, and its only grocery store, because of that.

When Spectrum News 1 was following what happened at Tops, there were food giveaways, diaper drives and elected officials all the way from the White House in the community offering support. Those who call the area home expected everyone was going to leave and forget them. Were they right?

What You Need To Know

  •  Candid conversations with East Side residents show there's still a lack of money flowing into the community

  •  Some wish investment would be made in the future

  • $3.2M was announced to redevelop parts of Jefferson Avenue

On the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Utica Street sits Golden Cup Coffee. It's the place to go on the East Side. Spectrum News 1 anchor/reporter Breanna Fuss invited anyone who walked in, to take a sit and talk about how life on the East Side. Has it changed? Were any of the promises made later kept?

Pastor Ronald Benning of King Solomon’s Church was the first to start a conversation. 

“It's always something that whether it's said or not, it's always something that's put above it,” Benning said.

The "it" Benning is referring to is investment. Time and time again, money is funneled into other parts of the city, leaving them with one question.

“Why not here?” Benning asked.

Benning says the investment comes down to safety.

“Be in our community and love each other and trust each other and don't have to look, you know, over our shoulders and wonder if someone's trying to rip us off,” Benning said.

It was recently announced that $3.2 million has been earmarked for a section of Jefferson Avenue. Part of the development includes a new health care space, a mixed-use building with affordable housing and headquarters for Buffalo Urban League. The league’s mission is to empower disadvantaged populations.

The reaction to the announcement is that it's a drop in the bucket.

“I am appreciative of the effort; I think $3.2 million is not enough for the greater development of East Buffalo,” Zaid B. Islam said.

Islam calls himself a "Buffalo Booster." He's also a counselor at Niagara County Correctional Facility and serves in the community with Group Ministry. Islam says money needs to be invested in people.

“We have infrastructure issues, streets, housing, OK,” Islam listed. “We have lighting issues; we have quality-of-life issues we are looking at; and correct police enforcement.”

He says it also needs to be invested in education and the future.

“I'm looking at more community centers in terms of the places why, you know, not just places [that] have a good balance of basketball, faces of education after school,” Islam said.

He’s calling for honesty and being community-minded about true business.

“We pay tax dollars and our tax dollars [are] being used in other parts of the city,” Islam said.

Derrick Parson, the executive director at Exchange at Beverly Gray, an incubator and coworking space serving BIPOC entrepreneurs, shed some light on that. He says they’re working with established businesses like Golden Cup to bring business back.

“These organizations right now are trying to bolster awareness of the resources that are here for them, galvanize all the entrepreneurs and say, 'hey, we're here,' ” Parson said. “We're trying to make sure we're doing something, and we need you as a voice.”

Parson says it will take time, but he’s excited for the future.

“People say they want to get Jefferson Avenue back to its heyday,” Parson said. “I think that's beautiful, right? But Jefferson is so much more, and I can’t wait to see what it's going to be.”

Richard Cummings, the president of the Black Chamber of Commerce, is cautiously optimistic. He too says things are changing, but not fast enough.

“There has a lot of talk, a lot of funds raised, but the progression of I'm not sure has been healthy in terms of making the progress that we need," Cummings said.

He added that the barrier is "very complicated." He wants the community to get involved. He says everyone’s life experience is valuable.

“Keep up the hope; roll up your sleeves,” Cummings said. “Don't expect it to be easy. It will be hard work, but when we do it, we will be proud.”

“Let’s talk about infrastructure,” said George Johnson, president of Buffalo United Front, a community group that helps reduce violence. "You ride around the neighborhood, how many vacant lots they got on the other side of Main Street?”

Johnson says there’s power in the people.

“If they're going to help, listen to the people that know it. Give the resources that's necessary,” Johnson said.

Johnson also points to investing in community centers and kids, and making sure they have life experiences. He says removing festivals from the city and relocating them to the suburbs, and even keeping the Bills stadium in Orchard Park, is excluding people. The same goes, he said, for funding big projects.

“A lot of the organizations, they know what's best for our community, but they don't have the resources to make things happen,” Johnson said.

Sitting next to him is Mark Talley. His mother Geraldine was one of the 10 people murdered on May 14, 2022.

“I think she would more be mad that people [are], you know, pimping her name off of 5/14,” Talley said when asked how she would feel about the lack of progress. “And like the people who need the money, aren’t getting the money.”

That wasn’t the first time someone said that. There’s something else that hasn’t changed over the past two years: The community is resilient.

“But we live, we survive, and we fight again,” Benning said.