BUFFALO, N.Y. — "Are we still a soft target? Absolutely, yes," said Franchelle Parker, executive director of OPEN Buffalo, while speaking at a conference Friday.
We're less than a month from the first remembrance of the racist attack at Tops on Jefferson Avenue last May, and some don't believe much has changed.
"May 14 did not just happen. There are deep-seeded, systemic issues that have been happening in our community for decades," Parker said.
That was just part of a deeper conversation that's being held over three days at Buffalo State.
Friday was the second day of a the "Pursuit of tRuth: 5/14 Remembrance, Recovery and Prevention" conference put on by Garnell and Raymond Whitfield, the sons of Ruth Whitfeld.
She was killed while purchasing seeds at Tops.
Zeneta Everhart, the mother of survivor Zaire Goodman, says she would like to see these conversations continue every year.
"This should be annual, and we should have more people here. You know who I would love to see next year? High school students. We need to make it younger and younger and younger because these are our leaders eventually," Everhart said.
Almost a year later, she says families are still mourning the loss of loved ones, the community is still grieving how a terrorist devastated their community and Goodman still has shrapnel in his body and continues therapy.
"These are daily things that these families are dealing with and the community at large is still dealing with so for us, we can't just not talk about it because it's a part of our daily lives," Everhart said.
Panelists say it's now up to the rest of the community to listen and act.
"I do believe that conversations like this are the cornerstone to changing our systems and our policies and our community conditions. it can't just be concentrated on a college campus, or a social justice organization. we need to bring this message out to the streets," Parker said.
The conference will continue on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. with a town hall debate on freedom of speech versus a free pass to incite hate.
Tickets are available for a donation based on the cost of your choosing.