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Students honor victims in mass shooting, vow to fight racism

School officials asked the students how they could respond to the shooting.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Students at City Honors School in the Buffalo Public School district, have been dealing with the shock and grief of the mass shooting that happened less than a half-mile from their school. 

To honor the ten people who were killed, as well as the three people injured, at the Jefferson Avenue store on May 14, the students organized a school-wide walk.

School officials asked the students how they could respond to the shooting. 

"We wanted it to be an inclusive event where everybody can come and show support for the issues of the city. So, we can all come together in a peaceful way to show our unity as a whole," said student Xavier Mann, who helped organize the event. 

The students and staff, all dressed in black, did 10 laps in honor of the 10 people killed. Each lap was dedicated to one of the victims.

Standing in Unity

They were joined by students from Lancaster High School, who wanted to show their unity.  Together, they want people to know that this generation values Black lives and rejects racism.

"It's time to take a stand," said Janelle Stephens, a junior at City Honors. "I think that this is showing the people in this school we understand what happened, or at least we know the gravity of the situation. So, I think it's very important for us to show solidarity with the African American community right now, and the Jefferson community right now."

The students wanted to take action to help those who were impacted by the shooting and send a message that they will not tolerate hate and racism. 

"I think this walk is showing the people outside, that the people of this school are ready to do whatever it takes to make a difference in the community," Stephens said. "Since we're so close to the Tops here, I think that especially like the African American community in the school, we want to make a difference."

"We decided as our diverse group that we have at our school that we wanted to do something like this and really like show our awareness and that we care," said Kaylie Jackson, a student at Lancaster. "I think it's amazing to do we're doing something like this and getting to meet a ton of people, and I'm really happy and I'm glad that we did."

Get the Picture?

After they walked together (for what turned out to be more than three miles) students from both schools gathered on a lawn across the street from City Honors and stood to spell out the message, "Choose Love", visible to a drone photographer above.

As the event was being planned, it came to City Honor's attention that the head of buildings and grounds at Lancaster Central, Brian Koperski, is an accomplished lawn artist, versed in spatial techniques needed to pull off the mass photo.

Along with him, Lancaster sent two busloads of students to participate. 

There's already talk of making it an annual event with other schools participating as well.

In addition to the walk, the students have organized a collection of non-perishable foods, paper goods, as well as health and hygiene products to share with those in the Jefferson Avenue community that lost their grocery store. Students will be collecting items during their lunch periods on Monday and Tuesday. 

On Tuesday evening, the Buffalo Public School District will present ‘Honoring and Healing through the Arts: Our Response to Hate is Love’ at Martin Luther King, Jr Park from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. More information is available here.

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