““Freedom, Justice and Equality for All, Love of God and Our Fellow Man; Doing All the Good We Can for Our Community," Andrew J. Smitherman (1883-1961). The Purpose of the Buffalo Empire Star is to keep the African-American community informed about past, current and future events to continue onward in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality in the spirt of the underground railroad pioneers.

Victims speak up! “pouring salt into a wound still open…”

Over 1000 members of the African-Community in buffalo gathered at the True Bethel Baptist church to share their feelings with the Editor of the Buffalo News & VP Margaret Sullivan who sat in front of the podium as they spoke about their loved ones and what they viewed as racist and insensitive reporting when the Buffalo News paper published on August 22, the criminal records of  the victims massacred August, 14, 2010 at the City Grill Restaurant downtown Buffalo  in one of the worst massacres in Buffalo’s history.

One by one the victims of the families addressed Margaret Sullivan who sat motionless as they spoke about their outrage at the article they published August 22, just as the last victim buried. Cheryl Steven,  Mother-in-law of Danyell Mackin one of four victims murdered in cold-blood told the audience, “pouring salt into a wound just opened.

I’m mad. …an apology is due, but don’t think it’s going to help, it’s accepted. But you painted a picture they deserved this…” as the crowd sympathized with her, applauding as she spoke. Stevens continued, ” I truly feel had that been in another community it wouldn’t have happened. It was wrong, inconsiderate, rude, mean. An apology is due,” she said as the audience stood up applauding again.

And mother of Shawn Tia McNeil, another victim shot down followed Steven saying, ” I ‘m too appalled at Buffalo News for publishing the article about their background. What did it have to do with them being shot down and killed? And worse,  the article published on the day Shawn-Tia  should have been celebrating her 28th birthday.”

And “… the whole community needs an apology. What you should have been doing is using your ink to write an article pleading to community on turning in the person  who did the act…instead of publishing anything about our children’s background…”

Yet, the most poignant words of the evening came from the father of Tiffany Wilhite, 33, another shooting victim who highly critical of the media stance “the public has a right to know.”  Perhaps he referred to Sullivan’s editorial that “Despite pain, community should know the truth,” appearing on August 29.

When he saw the article about the victims, he said,  “I knew it was going to be a media event…” and “it doesn’t surprise me one bit…”

“The public right to know is that she was a human being, she was my child, that I loved her. I didn’t judge her.”  He continued, the public right to know, the right thing.  As long as I breathe, I’ll be the voice fo the victims, ” as the audience stood up applauding his speech.

Mrs. Sullivan listened attentively as she sat with her entourage who accompanied her to the forum, three African-American staff members. And columnist Rod Watson who  later  stood-up before  the  angry crowd hardly able to keep his hand steady as he nervously spoke into the microphone telling them in his  over 20-year-old career at the Buffalo News hardly any members of the African-American community ever came down to speak to the editorial board.

He said he can count the number of times in his hand while other groups met with them. Another African-American staff member a female part of the editorial staff mentioned hardly any blacks  editorial writers in the country and  how Margaret Sullivan provided her an opportunity for the first time in her career to be one at the News. And Harold McNeil, African-American moved around in the audience talking with them as he jotted down information for a story the Buffalo News published the next day.

More videos with Sullivan, George K. Arthur,  Rev. Matthew Brown and Murray Holman of Stop the Violence coalition to be uploaded for sharing on this blog.

I’m just one blogger taken on an awesome responsibility and when I rushed down to the event, I though about Bro. Simba Mlee, continuing what he would have done and wanted me to do as the community in one of his other adage, “spoke truth to power” and power listened.

This blogger would have made clearer video clips but members of True Bethel part of the security staff ushered me to the back where the corporate media  stationed. I would have preferred up front on the side,  facing the audience as opposed to their backs, as well as, to capture Mrs. Sullivan, her reactions, and her staff.

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