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Buffalo students share fears of violence, systemic racism

Lenny Lace via Facebook

Buffalo’s public school students are very aware of the societal problems around them and the racial tensions surrounding the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. A selected panel of students had a chance to talk about those issues Thursday.

The school district put on a two-hour town hall, moderated by Fatima Morrell, the associate superintendent of Culturally & Linguistically Responsive Initiatives.

The event took a dive into the issue of violence, both nationally and locally, and related issues like systemic racism. Locally, that included domestic violence like the weekend murder of an MST student, gun violence and Black-on-Black violence.

Buffalo’s young people expressed real worry about how dangerous it can be on city streets, mostly worrying about police violence.

Deborah Bellevue said young people feel they won’t come home alive.

"We can go out and not have to worry about coming back, potentially in a body bag. In these days, that’s what’s really happening, that’s the fear," Bellevue said. "Before, everyone was saying like they’re fearful about what might happen if they were to go out with friends. The fear is, to be very blunt, that you go out and that you come back in a body bag, that you don’t come back to see your family and your friends."

At the same time, one student mentioned his step-mom is a cop, saying that gives him a human view of policing.

Azhane Bridges said people have to treat each other better.

"I believe that change goes through action and protesting, and all of that is fine, but we need to show that we love each other through lowering the statistics down and lowering these data, the gun violence, just lower it," Bridges said. "I feel like we really need to respect each other and change."

Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said the topics reflect the district’s new Emancipation Curriculum.

"We intend for our Emancipation Curriculum to be truly liberating for all of our students, equipping them with a strength-based education that delivers them as globally competent, culturally proficient thinkers and active citizens prepared to lead in our 21st-century American democracy," Cash said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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