Save the date: May 17, 2014.
Community organizers are recruiting 7,000 people to stand along East and West Ferry streets – from the Niagara River to Bailey Avenue – in a “human chain” as part of a celebration of Buffalo’s wide diversity.
The event, called “Hands Across Buffalo,” is being organized by a variety of nonprofit agencies in cooperation with the City of Buffalo, Erie County and other entities.
“People are going to remember this for a generation,” said Dale Zuchlewski, executive director of the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, one of the lead sponsoring agencies of “Hands Across Buffalo.”
Zuchlewski was joined Thursday morning in Niagara Square by Mayor Byron W. Brown and Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz in announcing the initiative.
The event is inspired by Hands Across America in 1986, when an estimated 6.5 million people linked hands across the country at the same time to fight hunger and homelessness.
Buffalo was not included in Hands Across America.
But the city’s incredible diversity makes it a perfect place for a similar event on a smaller scale, said Zuchlewski.
Organizers selected East and West Ferry streets as the best site because it “is one of the most diverse streets in the city,” he said. It also crosses through nearly the entire width of the center of Buffalo, and features the broadest spectrum of socioeconomic scenarios in the city.
West Ferry between Grant and Niagara streets, for example, is home to a large number of newer immigrants from places like Somalia and Sudan. Closer to Elmwood and Delaware avenues, West Ferry meanders through some of the highest-income earning neighborhoods in the entire city.
Closer to Bailey Avenue, though, East Ferry runs through some of the city’s most impoverished areas.
“You have that divide of the expressway, and you get to some of the more challenging neighborhoods,” Zuchlewski said.
An estimated 7,000 people will be needed to link hands and arms across the 4.5-mile stretch.
The ultimate aim is “acceptance of diversity and maybe finally addressing poverty, instead of stereotyping people,” he said.
Brown said the city will be highly involved in the effort, and he assigned Deputy Mayor Ellen Grant to the “Hands Across Buffalo” steering committee.
“We’ll bring together any resources that are needed,” he said.
Other leading agencies included the Partnership for the Public Good and Ujima Theater. The event is being aided by a grant form the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.
Zuchlewski said he did not want to leave out any people or groups interested in participating in the event, and encouraged anyone to register at HandsAcrossBuffalo.org.
“We need people to reach out to us. We’re small. We’re on a shoe-string budget,” he said.