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Food drive highlights Pastors in unlikely places

Thomas O'Neil-White

An East Buffalo church partnered with a Town of Amherst church Saturday for a food drive to help fill gaps in the various food deserts on Buffalo’s East Side. This partnership is led by two women, Pastor Kwame Pitts, an African American who leads the majority white Crossroads Lutheran in Snyder, and Miranda Hammer, a white Pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church and leader of the Community of Good Neighbors food pantry on Doat Street. 

Hammer said the problem of food scarcity has been amplified during the pandemic.

“If we were doing anything new in that area it would still need to focus on food,” she said about working on the East Side. “Because you can’t go to work, you can’t teach, you can’t clean your house if you’re starving. Obviously, we’re seeing food is even more difficult to get now in the pandemic, but the East Side is full of little pockets of food deserts. Where not only are there no grocery stores, but there’s not many pantries.”

For Pitts, making the transition from Chicago to Amherst to lead her largely white congregation, has been self-affirming.

“So, I’m here I think for me, as a woman of color,” She said. “As a woman of the African Diaspora to remind them that yes, my life is just as equal as yours and the propaganda that has been taught to you about my people, where I come from, my culture is absolutely wrong and erroneous.”

Pitts said she has received pushback from congregants regarding her espousal of problems relating to police brutality against African Americans in the United States, but said these issues are teachable moments for her and her congregation.

“No one wanted to hear about racism, or white supremacy or white nationalism,” she said. “No one wanted to heat that, they just wanted the ‘there’s so much stuff going on, our lives are being turned upside down, we just want to know that God loves us.’ Well yes God loves you, but at the same time, what are we called to do? We have to break those barriers, we have to be advocates, we have to be abolitionists if we claim we follow Jesus.”

Pitts and Hammer have a podcast called Opposite Ends: Two Pastors in Unlikely Spaces Fighting for Justice, which can be found on Spotify, Anchor and their Facebook page.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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