The past 24 hours have truly been both unprecedented and unnerving.
We lament what our nation has outwardly, visibly become, knowing that this is a revealing moment, where each one of us needs to understand that Trump, the pandemic, the events of the past year are a reflection of who we have always been as a society.
As we begin to digest these events and attempt to understand how they impact our daily lives, as well as those of our neighbors, we have decided to take a conscious step back; to pause, to breathe, and try to more fully understand the vast differences between the events of this year that brought us to this moment.
From the Black Lives Matter protests stemming from the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans, to the efforts of people like Stacy Abrams to get out every vote. Contrasted with the unprecedented efforts to suppress votes, leading to the insurrection and mob encouraged by our president. Including a reflection on the terrorists that breached our Capitol, and the starkly different ways police and our political leaders engage with Black and White Americans.
We aren’t ready to heal as a nation. A nation that is so deeply divided and entrenched in its individual beliefs, spurred on by partisan media and social media. Any sense of coming together as a nation today feels too raw and too soon. Instead, we sit in our discomfort, our anger, hurt, and disappointment.
In the coming months and years, necessary conversations need to be had. We need to not look away at the pain and suffering that exists in America and to realize that it was hubris to call ourselves and our nation “great.”
It is in this moment of reflection that we turn to voices in our own community. It is our sincerest hope that you will pause to take a moment from your day to listen and reflect.
KARYS BELGER | reporter, WGRZ – Channel 2, Buffalo
Belger was inspired to be a journalist from a young age by her parents, who always watched the news with her. While attending Spelman College, Belger completed internships and worked for student publications, and from there, she attended Northwestern University, where she was on the journalistic front line in Washington, D.C. after the 2016 election.
Belger joined the WGRZ team in October of 2018, and currently helps with the morning show, the dayside shift and evening coverage.
When reporters began covering stories revolving around COVID-19, Belger was a pioneer in her newsroom for suggesting they research how the pandemic would affect people of color who have less access to medical care.
We should remember that people of color are dealing with disproportionate effects of COVID and racism so let’s keep that in mind.
Belger also draws from her own experiences. As someone with sickle cell disease which mainly impacts people of color, she knows what it’s like to have a pre-existing condition – and how people with those conditions are more susceptible to the coronavirus. She continued covering this issue as much as possible, and spoke with doctors to provide updated information to viewers. She wanted to tell her viewers about available options and doctor recommendations. “I wanted people in communities of color to be armed with as much information as possible to come out on the other side of this, whenever that may be.”
ROD WATSON | columnist and urban affairs editor, The Buffalo News | past president of Buffalo Association of Black Journalists
“Well, of course, I don’t always write about race,” Watson said. “But to the degree that I do, it’s because race-based inequity continues to exist here in Western New York and across the nation. Not to deal with that would be a betrayal of all those people who stood in front of fire hoses and had police dogs sicked on them and took batons up beside the head, and even gave their lives so that people like me could be in positions like this, and have this platform. Because diversity is not just checking a box on an EEO form; it’s incorporating and valuing the perspectives and insights that come with being black in America so that the media can present a more accurate and comprehensive portrayal of society, and that society is still filled with racial inequity no matter what metric you look at – whether it’s the wealth gap, the income gap, the poverty gap, the education gap, or the health care gap – which we’ve seen play out recently in the disparate impact of COVID-19 on people of color.
“To the complainers, I have one answer: spend less time complaining and more time dealing with these issues of inequity so that we can take them off the table as issues. And then, and only then, will I stop writing about race.”
Since the 1990s, Watson has written about police reform – including the need for a strong civilian review board. As a columnist, he’s been able to freely write about these types of issues, without waiting for specific incidents of police abuse and the Black Lives Matter movement to ignite such coverage.
In his other role as an assistant city editor, with the intent to make positive change, the News’ City Hall reporter reviewed reforms proposed for Buffalo including the civilian review board and stop receipts that have worked in other cities. This type of review is what Watson focuses on, and keeps the public abreast of issues of police abuse on people of color, so that it remains a focal point. Watson follows the maxim to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” with his coverage, and ensures that equitable coverage is presented, for issues affecting African Americans.
“That, to me, is what equitable coverage means,” Watson said. “It doesn’t mean covering everything equally; it means shining the spotlight where it’s needed most. And in our society, that means shining it on the problems disproportionately faced by people of color. Police abuse and the impact of Covid-19 are just two examples of that.”
MADISON CARTER | news anchor and reporter, WKBW 7 Eyewitness News
Carter, also president of Buffalo Association of Black Journalists (BABJ) and a member of the national association, has been at WKBW since summer of 2018, after attending Syracuse University where she earned her degree in broadcast journalism and policy studies.
She’s always wanted “to tell stories about Black people without them being ‘Black stories,’” Carter said. “I don’t know if that’s possible right now. But let me be clear about this: racism may not affect everyone, but it does impact everyone – my job lately has been to show people how.”
Carter remembers being the only Black reporter covering the first night of protests on May 30 and an interaction with another reporter excited about the action they saw.
I realized in that moment how privileged that individual was to be excited about a moment where I was terrified my friends might not make it home that night,” Carter said. “…To many others who don’t spend time in communities with people who don’t look like them – they weren’t people. They were just exciting stories to possibly tell later.
“The media landscape has long reflected this community’s issue with segregation. There’s no reason I should have been the only Black woman in my entire building for the first 8 months on the job. There are no main anchors that are Black. Most Black anchors are given the weekend shows.”
Carter concludes, “We are slowly making change and I really credit our chapter of the BABJ for helping our newsrooms with this endeavor. It’s a big reason I ran for president. I wanted to be a leader in this movement for change. I’m proud of the work we’ve done and I’m very pleased with the response from every newsroom — print, television, and radio. Everyone is receptive, leadership is not pretending we don’t have a diversity problem in media, and they’re all working with us to change this.”
ZENETA EVERHART | Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Office of NYS Senator Timothy Kennedy
DAVE GROSSKOPF | president, Buffalo/WNY District of the National Association of Letter Carriers
The Postal Service employs more than 97,000 military veterans and is one of the largest employers of veterans in the country. So for today, Veterans Day, we asked Dave Grosskopf, President of the Buffalo/Western New York District of the National Association of Letter Carriers about the importance of the United States Postal Service.
“The amazing story is, every single day we move 40% of the world’s mail and I think a lot of people take the postal service, unfortunately, for granted…we are the most trusted federal agency. You know the motto: ‘rain, sleet, snow, nothing stays us from our appointed rounds…’ And sometimes we’re out there ten, twelve, thirteen hours to make sure that we can get those goods and those products to our customers – plain and simple.”
YASMIN YOUNG | brand manager and “2 To 6 Takeover” host on Power 93.7 WBLK:
For Young, covering stories surrounding discrimination, police brutality and inequity is continuous, as these issues have been affecting people of color for decades. However, she notes that now, more people are starting to pay attention to these issues.
She believes nuance and having multiple perspectives, especially the perspectives of community members experiencing such issues, are beneficial when covering culture, race and injustice
“I certainly feel we are responsible for covering the effect on Black and Brown communities,” Young said. “In addition to just providing facts, for me, I strive to provide real resources, also. I conducted interviews with health professionals, testing sites, community organizations, social services, mental health experts, government officials and others that could provide additional resources and information to help people.”
THOMAS O’NEIL-WHITE | reporter and producer, WBFO News
O’Neil-White is a reporter and producer for WBFO News, and is a Buffalo transplant from Louisville, KY.
Growing up, O’Neil-White had been an avid reader, and read The Washington Post every morning as a child. He then began reading hip hop and sports magazines, and his fate was sealed. He knew he wanted to be a writer, and earning a degree in communication studies from Buffalo State College helped him achieve his end goal.
His focus at WBFO is racial equity in the areas of criminal justice reform, law enforcement reform, and socio-economic and racial disparities – conditions which led to situations like the killing of George Floyd.
“I don’t believe what is happening now has affected the stories which I cover, it’s been the other way around,” O’Neil-White said. “The stories I have been doing prepared me for this moment.”
Regarding Buffalo’s renaissance, O’Neil-White heard from a community leader: it’s not a renaissance unless everyone benefits from it. Most of the capital-intensive projects are centered downtown, and money in such a large scale doesn’t reach other parts of the city as quickly, if at all.
“I think one thing the coronavirus has done is really laid bare the disparities black people on Buffalo’s East Side are dealing with.”
SEAN THOMPSON | Barber, Educator and Owner of House of Masters and H.O.M. Grooming Lounge
ADRI V THE GO GETTA | local broadcaster, “Edutainer”, and motivator
In this first Still Talking, we asked ADRI.V, local broadcaster, “Edutainer,” and motivator: “How do we move forward?”