June 6, 2023

BUFFALO, NY (AP) — It’s hard for Jamari Shaw, 16, to have fun in the park with his younger brothers in their East Buffalo neighborhood. He’s too busy looking for danger, an aftereffect of an attack by a gunman who killed 10 black people at a local grocery store.

Sometimes 17-year-old Alanna Littleton stays in the car when her family drives from their house down the street to that grocery store.

“It’s such a tension,” Alanna said.

As the city marks a year since the racist carnage on Sunday, many young black people in Buffalo struggle with a shocked sense of personal safety and complicated feelings about how their community was targeted.

While the white supremacist received a life sentence for the murders, others await a lifelong cure.

“I’m definitely going to carry this with me,” Jamari said after school last week.

On May 14, 2022, an 18-year-old got out of his car and started shooting people at the Tops Family Market, aiming to kill as many black people as possible. Wearing body armor, he livestreamed shooting at customers and workers, killing 10 and wounding three.

The killer from Conklin, New York, a small town about 200 miles from Buffalo, wrote online that his motivation was to maintain white power in the US, and he chose to target Buffalo’s East Side because a large percentage of black residents lived.

Since the mass shooting, Jamari sees empty basketball courts in his neighborhood. People seem to be staying indoors more. He feels hesitant to go to Tops now to get water or Gatorade before exercising like he used to – a nagging sense of danger, anywhere, from anyone.

“The fact that he (the shooter) wasn’t much older really took its toll,” says Jamari, who feels especially protective of his four siblings, the youngest of whom is five. what are you going to do?’ It could be your best friend. You just never know.”

17-year-old Abia Johnson thinks about it as he walks near the store.

“I get the feeling of, ‘What am I doing here? Didn’t 10 people die here of my skin color because of a racist?” he said at a recent conference organized by the family of shooting victim Ruth Whitfield, who was 86.

Whitfield, the oldest of the dead, died buying seeds for her garden after spending time with her husband in a nursing home. Among the other victims was a man who received a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son, a church deacon who helped people get home with their groceries, a popular community activist, and a retired Buffalo police officer who worked as a security guard.

“It was really hard to see my family grieving like this, also to understand that black people everywhere are under constant threat. It’s so sad,” Whitfield’s great-granddaughter, Nia Funderburg, 19, said at the conference. “I hate to bear this pain for us.”

Wayne Jones’ mother, Celestine Chaney, was among the dead. As a youth football coach, he said the discussions Black families often have with their sons about how to deal with law enforcement have broadened.

“That conversation you have with young black men about the police? Now, it’s watching everyone,” he said, describing how even grocery shopping, an activity he enjoyed with his mother, puts him on edge .

Jamari hopes the community’s lingering pain will eventually ease, but he can never understand what motivated the shooter.

“We get together, we rejoice, we party together, all that,” he said. And then to have someone — it doesn’t matter that he’s white — he just did it out of spite.

“It’s bigger than race,” Jamari said, “it’s more of a mindset.”

As for the feelings of trauma people in the community experienced from the attack, these can last for many years, ready to surface on birthdays or when a similar mass shooting is in the news.

“Often it subsides over time, but these triggers can last a lifetime,” says Dr. Anita Everett, director of the Center for Mental Health Services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The agency has provided the city with a grant to address the trauma.

“One way or another,” she said, “it affects almost everyone who is in and around a community.”