Preservation Buffalo Niagara’s Statement in Response to Protests

Like so many of you, we here at PBN watched with heavy hearts the events that unfolded in Minneapolis last week. While it was horrifying to learn of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, it was not unfortunately a shocking event but rather the latest moment in our nation’s history of violence toward people of color. 

And of course, it was natural that Buffalo would join in on the protest. Buffalo has its own complicated racial history. We rightly celebrate our role in the journey to freedom and equality, from our Underground Railroad legacy, the founding of the Niagara Movement, and our African American community’s contributions to civil rights, art, literature, music, architecture, academia, and culture. But we must never lose sight of the darker side of our journey. Buffalo’s current reality is shaped – physically and culturally – by a deep history of racism and racial segregation. Today the legacy of racist government and banking policies and practice, of redlining, of racially motivated disinvestment, has resulted in vast inequalities in housing, education, and quality of life among our citizens. 

Of course, as preservationists, it is hard to watch images of destruction of historic property, but we remind our members that we care about the buildings because we care about the people. The people who built them, the people who occupy them, the people whose story they help to tell, and the people who will occupy them in the future. In that spirit, we remember that buildings can be repaired, while loss of life cannot be fixed.  

As we determine how to go forward from this moment, PBN believes that historic preservation has an important role to play in helping to bridge inequalities and build understanding within our community. We are committed to ensuring that our work reflects the full and complicated story of our entire community and all of those who have helped to build it. From helping to preserve the places that are the embodiment of specific important events and people, to helping to empower existing communities to tell their own stories and protect their own legacies, to continuing to educate people about the history that brought us to the current moment, we will continue our work, and we will redouble our efforts to ensure that our own work is intentionally committed to dismantling the racist systems we all find ourselves within.   




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