The mementos that have been left behind at the Tops on Jefferson – the site of the tragic massacre that took place this past May – have been collected and will be preserved. The effort by the Buffalo History Museum (BHM), the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, and concerned community members, was made in advance of the snow storm that is now underway. The flowers, cards, stuffed animals, posters, photos, candles, etc., will help to tell the story of the tragedy, so that future generations will better understand what took place on that fatal day.
After careful consideration, by the community and the families of the victims, the decision was made that the mementos must be preserved. Currently, they are being stored at the Buffalo History Museum’s Resource Center at 453 Forest Avenue.
The BHM and the Library System, along with the community members who have been maintaining the impromptu memorials, collected the mementos over the course of several weeks. The collection effort culminated with a small remembrance ceremony.
“The preservation of mementos left at the Jefferson Avenue site is the first step in a broader collecting initiative that will document the May 14 tragedy,” according to BHM Executive Director Melissa Brown.
Garnell Whitfield, son of Ruth Whitfield, who was killed in the attack said, “The exclusion and perversion of the history of our people in American History demands that we, in this moment, preserve and document as much as we can. Doing so will allow us to tell our story honestly, accurately and completely to the honor of those lost on 5/14, our ancestors and to the edification of those to come. For real change to occur, we must control our own narrative.
“We want to recognize the Buffalo History Museum, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and the committee for the formation of an African American Museum for guiding us through this painful and complicated undertaking, but especially our community, who thought it not robbery to build the memorial, maintain it and then collect it, that it might be preserved.”
The mementos will be just one aspect of documenting the tragedy. Ultimately it is of utmost importance to create a historical record of the massacre, by preserving as much as possible, from spoken accounts to media coverage. The mementos will offer a heartfelt perspective that will help to tell the story of a community that came together in the face of such a brutally sad and terrifying event.