This project consists of a set of three self-guided audio journeys through East Buffalo. The visual components of Redlining Buffalo will be anchored at 808 Main Street and at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, and will address just one topic affected by redlining: food equity. The photographic displays will be accompanied by a barcode link to this website, which includes a map, the audio journeys, and additional resources.
The actions of city planners, state and federal authorities, and the real estate industry have denied the residents of East Buffalo a standard of living equal to what one finds in other parts of the city and surrounding communities.
With its housing stocks deemed undesirable, parts of East Buffalo were redlined in the 1930’s, or excluded from home loans and economic investment. These red zones, where most African Americans lived, grew into a large segregated enclave for the city’s Black residents. Government and business policies stemmed the flow of capital to these neighborhoods, creating a segregated bubble characterized by undermaintained housing, low walkability, few real grocery stores, myriad vacant lots, and underperforming schools. Such tactics of discrimination were in use as recently as 2010, according to a lawsuit of Evans Banks by the State of New York.
According to a 2018 study by the Open Buffalo Innovation Lab, “Buffalo-Niagara is one of the most racially segregated metropolitan regions in the nation. While racial segregation has declined slightly in recent years, economic segregation has increased, resulting in neighborhood conditions growing worse – not better – for most people of color in the region.” The intersection of this segregation with the unequal impact of Covid-19 remains to be analyzed, but this year has laid bare the stark consequences of segregation on the lives of people of color, who are calling for change not only East of Main Street, but throughout the city and country.
The community marches forward. “We’d love a Wegmans,” says Tonya Myles-Day, a social work professor at Buffalo State and the narrator of our journeys, referring to the renowned supermarket chain.
Our project aims to take a step back to allow viewers and listeners to consider redlining through the embodied, personal experience of moving through a neighborhood while listening to the collective voices of people in the community and the activists and historians who work on these questions. The audio journeys respond to Covid-19 in that they allow viewers to have sociallydistant experiences of this artwork. At the same time, the project aims to address community and to reimagine the realities of the lingering redline. People who may not typically visit certain locations will have the opportunity to do so. And the collective voices, stories, and images of these places will travel across Buffalo through the people who have experienced them, furthering conversation.