A chapter of SURJ in Buffalo and Erie County, NY.
Who We Are
SURJ Buffalo is a chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, a national network organizing white people against white supremacy. This chapter is a coalition of folks organizing across class lines in Buffalo, Erie County, and Western New York to undermine racist institutions through collective action.
The SURJ Buffalo chapter is one of over 200 SURJ chapters and affiliates nationwide and beyond. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multiracial majority for justice with passion and accountability.
SURJ Buffalo members participate in opportunities like chapter meetings, political education, skill development workshops, neighborhood canvases, social events, and community actions.
Organizing White People
Showing Up for Racial Justice is a national organization that brings hundreds of thousands of white people into fights for racial and economic justice. For too long, the Right has hoarded wealth and power by using strategic racism to convince white people that we have more in common with billionaires and corporate elites than with the people of color in our communities. At SURJ, we bring our folks in by offering a better alternative: a just, vibrant future where people of all races work together to win what we need. We do this work by building people power in multi-racial communities across our network — through campaigns, 200 chapters across the country, and deep local organizing projects.
SURJ’s values ground our work and have been developed and honed over more than a decade of organizing. We believe we must have an inclusive, openhearted approach to organizing— bringing more and more people into this work rather than creating barriers to participation— while maintaining clear commitments to justice.
Calling People In
Accountability Through Collective Action
Take Risks, Make Mistakes, Learn and Make Amends, and Keep Going
Organize Out of Mutual Interest
There is Enough for All
Growing is Good
SURJ Buffalo was formed in 2015. Early initiatives included canvassing in the Elmwood Village and at local coffee shops and the distribution of Black Lives Matter lawn signs throughout the Erie County community. In 2016, prior to the presidential election, chapter members protested at and rejected a Donald Trump campaign rally in downtown Buffalo.
In December 2016, businessperson and school board member Carl Paladino made hateful and racist comments in a local newspaper. SURJ Buffalo, along with multiple local councils, unions, and organizations called for the removal of Paladino from school board office and throughout the summer of 2017, chapter members protested at school board meetings. Paladino was removed from office in August 2017.
With a deep commitment to growth and bringing more people into the movement for racial justice, facilitating canvasses in Erie County has been a priority for SURJ Buffalo since the chapter was established. During warm weather seasons, Chapter members participate with a short training and visit communities in the City of Buffalo and surrounding suburbs. Short conversations with neighbors is the most meaningful way to establish connection and grow the chapter.
For sixteen years, Erie County’s jails were managed by Sheriff Tim Howard and and under his leadership, dozens of people, mostly folks of color, died in county custody. When Howard ran for what would be his final term in 2017, SURJ Buffalo turned out to ask the voters of Erie County to stand up against his violent, dangerous jails and “Fire Howard” by voting him out of office. A New York State Commission of Correction report deemed one inmate’s death to be homicide by medical neglect, noting that her treatment was ““so grossly incompetent and inadequate as to shock the conscience.” Although Howard won his election, he declined to seek another term, and SURJ Buffalo grew significantly as a result of the many conversations with voters during the campaign.
Show Up for Dignity and Safety
In 2021, SURJ Buffalo formed an IEC to support the candidacy of Kim Beaty for Erie County Sheriff. Grounded in our commitment to prison abolition as a vision and strategy, we recognized this campaign as a way to create urgently needed change in Erie County jails and believed that electing a new sheriff would be one step toward assuring the safety and dignity of incarcerated people and reducing the devastating impact of the local jails. Unfortunately, Beaty was defeated by Howard’s handpicked successor and deaths in the Erie County jails have continued at a similar rate to Howard’s terms in office. SURJ Buffalo’s campaign to support Beaty grew the chapter, increased awareness about county jail facilities, and initiated accountability conversations with county leadership. Learn More
No New Jail
At County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s State of the County address in April 2023, he announced the allocation of $2.5 million dollars for the beginning stages of constructing a new jail for Erie County. A diverse coalition of social change movement groups quickly formed in response to the opaque and back-room decision-making to invest in what is likely to exceed $200 million to build a new facility. Along with our accountability partners, Black Love Resists in the Rust, SURJ Buffalo became part of the No New Jail roundtable, which had some quick wins in regard to slowing the process for budget allocations and jail construction. As of summer 2023, the No New Jail Coalition has held several community forums, spoken at Erie County legislature meetings, and continued to strategize around our shared goal: to invest in community-based resources that provide for actual safety and dignity, not in a new jail facility that will continue to inflict the same dehumanizing violence on Western New York communities.
Already a SURJ Buffalo member and looking to get more engaged? A 1:1 conversation with a SURJ Buffalo chapter leader is an easy way to learn more about what you can contribute to movement work.
Giving to SURJ Buffalo supports the chapter and our accountability partner Black Love Resists in the Rust (BLRR). At most events, cash and check donations are accepted.
An online donation portal will be available soon.