Buffalo Niagara will be an equitable community when all people – regardless of how they look, who they know or who they love, what language they speak, what they believe, whatever their level of means or ability, when or where they were born, where they live, where they go to school or why or how long they’ve called this place home – have the opportunity, resources and tools needed to achieve their potential, to lead healthy and fulfilling lives with rewarding work, and to access, experience, and participate in all our region has to offer while ensuring others – now and in future generations – can do the same.
Buffalo Niagara just completed its first regional plan in decades, and as the name implies the plan has pulled innumerable stakeholders together to create a singular vision: One Region Forward.
Though the effort may be united, that should and does not imply a vision of homogeneity.
In fact, amidst unprecedented demographic change, the plan takes an explicit and intentional look at the unequal conditions between racial and ethnic groups and how geographic inequity has reinforced disparities over decades.
The necessary legal structures and protections of equity have developed a complex and jargonistic language, one that is not only hard to understand on its face, but also has become weighted through decades of ideological battles on the right and left. Words like ‘protected classes’ may resonate with those steeped in the struggle to ensure civil rights are upheld on a daily basis. However, this is not the language that average Buffalonians — whether white or people of color — use to define or to talk about their own experiences.
The equity stakeholders committee, with decades of experience in community, non-profit, government and business turned away from language that has the potential to divide.
The collective vision of an equitable community aimed, instead, at the heart of the equity issue in terms that everyone can understand and relate to: all people should have the opportunity, resources and tools needed to achieve their potential, now and in future generations.
With an straightforward, common sense approach to talking about those opportunities we want for our own families and our neighbors, the next step was then able to dive deeper into the the conditions on the ground to see if Buffalo Niagara is living up to this vision.
Unfortunately, the research shows that there are large gaps in opportunity, influenced by how people look, where they were born and where they live.
The team at One Region Forward is united, though, around the belief that this should not be the case, and future posts will unpack how we got to where we are and what we can collectively to do live into the vision of an equitable community.