Racial equality discussion set for Doris Jones center in the Falls

Feb. 16—Niagara Falls residents are invited to join in an ongoing conversation about addressing racial equity concerns in the community.

The fourth in a series of recent public planning sessions organized by the Niagara Falls Entrepreneurial School of Thought and Niagara University will take place at 5 p.m. tonight in the auditorium at the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building, 3001 Ninth St., Niagara Falls.

The Entrepreneur School of Thought, located on 19th Street in the Falls, along with NU and other local partners are working to develop a local action plan to address issues involving racial disparity and equity.

Leading tonight's discussion will be Rolanda Ward, director of NU's Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equity and Mission.

Trent Hamilton, president of the Entrepreneur School of Thought, said tonight's event will focus on ways to implement strategies aimed at addressing racial equity issues that were discussed over the course of three previous public meetings.

"We are calling on leaders of every community organization and seeing what types of assets and what ideas people have," Hamilton said. "We want to see if we can start implementing some change."

The focus on racial equity in the Falls grew out of an understanding that the Falls is a challenged community in many areas, especially when it comes to equity in education and housing among minorities.

"We're below the state average in a lot these areas and we need to do something immediately to change that," Hamilton said.

Previous discussions have, according to Hamilton, produced a list of four core areas that those involved believe warrant attention, including education, employment, housing and food equity.

Hamilton said organizers are now focusing on action items, steps residents and community organizations can take to help address racial disparities. Hamilton longer-term concerns discussed during previous meetings including development of a new community center for area youth and efforts to bring a supermarket to the city's North End which is considered a "food dessert" due to lack of convenient food shopping options.

In the near term, Hamilton said organizers have discussed the possibility of what he called "lower-hanging fruit" action items such as mass voter registration drives and community cleanups.

"We have some things that linger from years and years of systemic and institutional issues that continue to plague Black and brown communities and people who come from a poverty level," Hamilton said. The thing is to address these things and try to get some change."

Tonight's event is open to the public free of charge.

While the discussion will be focused on racial equity, Hamilton said he's hopeful residents from all backgrounds will participate.

"It's not a thing for just Black and brown people and the poor to change," he said. "We need everybody to work together for change. Equity should be important to everybody. It is important for everyone to work together to help improve the quality of life for Niagara Falls residents. The people who are doing good need to get out and help. Our elected officials need to get out and help, too."

For more information about the workshop, contact the Entrepreneur School of Thought at 716-313-9899.