‘It’s still so fresh’: Community health center chief speaks in Buffalo at White House summit on hate-fueled tragedies | Local News

Dr. LaVonne Ansari hasn’t painted a rosy picture of Buffalo’s turnaround since the May 14 racially motivated mass shooting at Jefferson’s Tops.

Speaking at the United We Stand summit at the White House shortly before President Biden, she did not mention buffalo togetherthe fund she co-chairs with Thomas Beauford Jr. which has already distributed millions of dollars in grants to black-led organizations.

Invited to speak on the “Local Solutions for Unity and Healing” panel, Ansari highlighted areas such as racial justice, empowerment and interdependence that Buffalo must focus on to rebuild and prevent another tragedy.

His voice cracked several times, but picked itself up several times and propelled a speech of about five minutes.

“Every time I regurgitate it, I get emotional,” Ansari told The Buffalo News in an interview less than an hour after his panel ended. “It’s still so fresh. We haven’t left yet. We’re still working there.”

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The president agreed to convene the summit after lawyers requested it after Tops’ shooting.

Ansari, CEO and Executive Director of Buffalo Community Health Center, said his organization provided health care to Tops Markets employees in the grocery store when a gunman killed 10 black people and injured three others. Ansari said the work was so intertwined that a Tops representative gave one of his nurses a tag with the store’s name.

The Buffalo Together Fund’s mission is to meet long-term community needs. But fund executives also believed it was important to “get the money out as quickly as possible” and support organizations working on the front lines since the May 14 massacre at the Tops store on Jefferson Avenue.

In his White House speech, Ansari’s central message was how ill-prepared Buffalo was for the May 14 massacre. She briefly described how, the day after the attack, she assembled a “crisis team” of doctors, nurses and counselors which was set up. in action on May 16 to help Tops workers deal with “complex trauma.” Ansari explained to the audience how Buffalo should react rather than prevent.

“When I spoke to the employees, to the patients, to our community, their instinct told them that this shooter who had been coming for months, that there was something wrong,” she said. . “We didn’t have the knowledge to know what domestic terrorism was, so we missed all the signs, we ignored the signs. It was hiding in plain sight. We went to war with an enemy that we couldn’t see.”

She explained an acronym she developed – PRIME – which cemented where Buffalo’s attention needs to be drawn for unity and healing. Preparedness, racist justice, interdependence, role model community and empowerment were his top five priorities. She told The News the interconnection was most poignant when it came to the summit, which brought together panelists to share ideas and reflect on how their communities have responded to the recent tragedy.

The Ansari panel also included Phi Nguyen, who responded to hate-fueled deaths of Asian Americans in Atlanta; Idalhi Huizar-Mendoza of El Paso, Texas, the site of the Walmart mass shooting; and Maggie Feinstein, who actively helped Pittsburgh heal from a mass synagogue shooting.

“She checked in with each family and just talked to us and saw how we were doing and how we’re doing,” said Zeneta Everhart, whose son survived the deadly rampage. “She wanted to tell us that the White House, the administration, is working for us right now.”

Asked at the end of the panel to describe one thing her community did well, Ansari pointed to the grassroots initiative “Put the Neighbor in the Hood,” which worked with residents to clean up, build a playground and reward members of the Fillmore-Neighborhood Ferry-Utica over the past 25 years.

The summit opened with remarks from Vice President Kamala Harris, who visited Buffalo on Wednesday. Harris spoke about the Cut Inflation Act at the University at Buffalo and kept his word by meeting privately with families of the victims beginning May 14.

Mayor Byron W. Brown attended the summit but did not speak. He then explained why the bipartisan nature of the summit was crucial.

LaVonne Ansari: Breaking down barriers is key to building a stronger future

“This pandemic has hit the whole world,” said Ansari, CEO and executive director of the Community Health Center of Buffalo.

“It is important that these messages and this information be shared with people across the country and with people of different partisan affiliations, which is critically important in educating people across the country on ways to prevent mass violence and hate violence to occur in the future,” Brown said.

Given the spotlight to speak less than an hour before the president, Ansari was relieved when the panel concluded but knew the platform — in sharing Buffalo’s message with a national audience — was meaningful.

“I’m glad it’s over,” she said, “but I’m grateful that we can represent Buffalo and people from other parts of the country who have experienced tragedy.”

Zeneta Everhart, whose son was injured and survived the shooting, attended the summit, calling it “an incredible day filled with hope”.

“It was amazing to hear Vice President Kamala Harris talk about where this administration is going and then, of course, President Biden himself, who talked to us for a while about just moving the country forward and solve the problems of the past,” Everhart said.

During his remarks, Biden announced a White House initiative to address hate-motivated violence across the country.

The initiative will include training for local law enforcement, workplaces and places of worship, partnering with schools to address bullying and harassment, and a “new era of national service “, said Biden.

“We will use all available federal resources to help communities address hate-fueled violence, build resilience, and foster greater national unity,” Biden said.

In his remarks, Biden described the initiative, but offered few details.

The president said he wanted to “hold social media platforms accountable for spreading hate” and fueling violence. He said he wants Congress to “get rid of the special immunity ‘given to social media companies’ and impose stricter transparency requirements on all of them.”

Ben Tsujimoto can be reached at btsujimoto@buffnews.com, (716) 849-6927 or on Twitter at @Tsuj10.

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