Buffalo Food Pantry Reclaims Neighborhood After Shooting Massacre in Community Concert

BUFFALO, N.Y. – August 4, 2023 – A Buffalo food pantry hosted hundreds of community members at an outdoor gathering only blocks away from the site of a tragic shooting massacre by a white supremacist that killed ten supermarket shoppers in a historic black neighborhood last May.

The event, called Buffalo Still Standing, was organized by the Upper Room Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Food Pantry in partnership with Canisius College and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York. Buffalo Still Standing is a high-energy outdoor community activation in the Canisius College Spillman Lot, directly across the street from the church. Attendees experience positive affirmations, dance performances, and inspirational music by local and national acts. The event began last year and promotes joy, healing, and resilience on Buffalo’s eastside.

“It was a terrible thing that happened to our community on May 14, 2022,” stated City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. “The mass shooting by a white supremacist devastated many individuals and families who were already struggling with challenges. We know it’s going to take our entire community working together to continue to recover and heal. I want to thank the Upper Room Church of God in Christ Food Pantry for hosting the second annual Buffalo Still Standing outdoor community concert. The City of Buffalo is among the sponsors of this inspirational event that brings people together in a special way, just as we came together after 5/14. The way we supported each other then has become a model for the entire nation. With that same spirit, let’s unite again for Buffalo Still Standing and show the world we are a resilient, loving, and peaceful community.”

Guests who attended affirmed victory in their communities and heard songs like “The Best is Yet to Come!” by Kurt Carr. They left in high spirits with a free food bag from the pantry, home and health insurance literature, and balloon animals. Buffalo Still Standing promotes strength and togetherness while sending a message to the world that Buffalo’s eastside exists beyond tragedy and is filled with growing families, budding businesses, and lively worship centers. The Upper Room COGIC Food Pantry plans to continue this program to inform Buffalo and the rest of the world that even after a horrific tragedy, Buffalo is still standing.

“The Upper Room Church of God in Christ is a ministry that has lived in the Jefferson Avenue community for more than 50 years,” said Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Benning of Upper Room Church of God in Christ. “We are compelled to feed the souls of the people we encounter. We do this through community outreach initiatives such as Community Day, Movie Night in the Spillman Parking Lot, outdoor worship services, and basketball tournaments. Our food pantry, which is led by Cynthia Benning, is an extension of our ministry’s outreach, and it allows us to feed the physical body. The Upper Room Church of God in Christ is committed to continuing the work we do in this neighborhood for community-building and spiritual restoration.”

This year’s concert featured local gospel and inspirational artists Julian Groom, Jaimier Hennegan, Rachel McCarley, Pastor Tracy Foye-Greene, Vibrant Strings, and Caprice Butts. In addition, attendees enjoyed performances by local celebrities like DaMarka Wheeler, most known for being a finalist on Season 7 of BET’s Sunday Best gospel singing competition, and Moe Badger, one-half of Buffalo’s viral singing cop duo. The headliner was GRAMMY, Dove, and Stellar Award-nominated artist Tim Bowman Jr. and Faith City.

“Canisius is proud to partner with the Upper Room Church of God in Christ Food Pantry to present the Buffalo Still Standing concert,” said Canisius College President Steve Stoute. “This event provides an opportunity for our community to come together and express our collective strength and resilience through music and fellowship. Canisius will continue to embrace opportunities to collaborate with organizations in support of our local community, and one example is our long partnership with the Upper Room Church of God in Christ, thanks to the leadership of Rev. Dr. Daniel and Cynthia Benning.”

Following last year’s shooting massacre at Tops Friendly Market, the food pantry increased operating days and hours to accommodate the overwhelming need for nutritious foods for families and community members affected by the closing of the only supermarket for miles. After weeks of collective anguish, the food pantry staff members created Buffalo Still Standing to encourage their community.

“As our community continues to heal, we look forward to a day of unity and expression,” said Maureen Hanagan, Community Affairs Manager, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York. “Highmark is proud to support the Buffalo Still Standing event, and our 1,400 local team members remain committed to standing with our community as we move forward together.”

The Upper Room COGIC Food Pantry is in the church’s fellowship hall at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Florida Street, less than one mile from Tops Friendly Markets. The organization is one of the oldest food pantries on Buffalo’s eastside, servicing hundreds of families along Jefferson Avenue and throughout the neighborhood annually.

The 2023 Buffalo Still Standing Concert was sponsored by Upper Room Church of God in Christ, Canisius College, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of WNY, Councilman Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. and Masten District, City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Ari Parson PR, M&T Bank, Cricket Wireless and Senator Tim Kennedy.

To learn more about Buffalo Still Standing, visit buffalostillstanding.org.