For our special blizzard-impacted issue, we asked the community for wide-ranging responses to a general question: “Where is Buffalo now?” Below is one such submission.
Where is Buffalo now? This is a fascinating question. I believe that Buffalo is an amazing and special place because of the hearty folks who live here and make it so. I believe that Buffalo is an amazing and special place because of its position as a border town and that our closeness to Canada has shaped much more of our history and much more of “Buffalo Culture” that most people think that it does. I believe that Buffalo is an amazing and special place because it has always been a place where immigrants come and settle. French, Dutch, English, German, Irish, Polish, African-American, Italian, Puerto Rican, Burmese, Eritrean, Lao, Vietnamese, Somali, South Sudanese, Sierra Leone, Chinese, Japanese, Yemeni, Lebanese, and many other folks have come here to settle and make lives for themselves since the city was first chartered. Buffalo is an amazing and special place because of the Native American presence and Native History that has shaped much of Western New York and the Region. Buffalo is an amazing and special place because of the working-class ethos that reigns in immigrant border towns that lie on great bodies of water and act as transportation hubs. Buffalo is an amazing and special place because when we refer to “Buffalo” we mean all of the space that is Western New York and parts of Canada too. Buffalo is an amazing and special place because we experience all four seasons and we don’t let a few feet of snow dampen our spirits; instead we revel in and celebrate the snow globe that this city can become in an instant. This is the state of Buffalo in my mind.
The state of Buffalo today is a precarious one. We have seen the beginnings of a renaissance but that new growth is fragile and it has not moved quickly enough into all neighborhoods and to all people. We still have vast differences in income equality and access to education and resources on a block to block basis in the city and on a neighborhood to neighborhood basis in the burbs. We still need more well-paying jobs and the costs of gentrification have priced many working class and poor folks out of the housing market. There are still far too many politicians and “leaders” who use the wonderful diversity in our community to instill fear among many other folks for their own gain. Economic and political power is far too concentrated in too few hands. Finally, there are too many potholes!
All of our citizens need to realize the power that they have and work in a coordinated manner to make Buffalo the best place that it can be. We must strive to live under our original national motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” while rejecting the rhetoric of division, fear, and hatred. We must demand more form our elected leaders regarding jobs and development that benefits everyone in the region and not just the few who are already well-off. We must demand that our other leaders call for unity. We must realize that our strength comes from the way that most of the ordinary folks who live here show our love for each other and this place that we call home. We must fix some of those potholes.
Go out on the snow day today and take a photo. Tell the rest of the world how days like today draw us together and how we all help to dig each other out of two feet of snow without even thinking about it. Finally, hold on to that feeling and do the same thing whether our streets are filled with snow or it is sunny and 85 degrees outside. Buffalo is an amazing and special place because of us. Let’s share that love with each other and with the world.
—Roy W. Bakos, 48, bartender, teacher, guy who likes to wear shorts all year round
If you’d like to submit an answer to our question to our readers—”Where is Buffalo now?”—email your response, in whatever form it might take, to firstname.lastname@example.org.