“As I Reminisce Over You, My God!”

My Roots in Black Buffalo

It has taken me some time to begin to write about the white supremacist terrorist attack that occurred not only in my home town of Buffalo, but also less than a mile away from my family’s neighborhood.  Ever since my great grandparents, Adam and Elease Griffin Lidge, settled down on the east side of Buffalo in the 1920’s, it has been a staple of our family gatherings for decades.  Jefferson Avenue was like our 125th street in Harlem.  Beginning in the 1930’s, all of the Black-owned businesses stood prominently on the strip that spanned all the way from the Fruit Belt neighborhood through Cold Spring.  It was the epicenter of the city.  All of the latest acts came to Jefferson Avenue and played in the dance clubs and bars along the strip.

After the uprising of 1967, some refer to it as the riots; many of the white-owned businesses left the area and moved out to the suburbs.  Although, there are still Black businesses there to this day, there are significantly less than its hey day. 

As a child born in the 70’s, my earliest childhood memories occurred on that very street.  I was too young to know what a Black-owned business was at that time, but they were still a big part of my young, impressionable life.  I frequented them almost every day and always greeted the owners when passing by.  Not only did they know me by name, but they also knew everyone in my entire family and usually just referred to me by my family’s last name, Burgos.  When I did get the opportunity to actually stop in and make a purchase it felt like the best thing that could ever happen.  I would buy penny-candy, popsicles, and candy bars and it was always a Black person from the community, my community, who would ring me up.  I always left there feeling like the happiest girl in the whole world!

Sometimes, the adults would send us kids to the corner store to buy a small grocery item or two when they ran out of an essential staple in their pantry.  However, it was every Saturday, that my grandfather, Carlos Gonzalez Burgos, would drive my grandmother, Elizabeth Lidge Burgos aka Nana, out of the neighborhood to do big grocery shopping.  Thanks to the modern supermarket concept taking off in the 1960’s, she didn’t have to go to separate locations for the butcher, the baker, the deli, the farmers market, the fish market, and a small grocery store like her parents.

When Granddad and Nana arrived back home from the supermarket, they would pull up to the house with the back of the station wagon loaded with brown paper bags, several 8 pack cases of 16 ounce bottles of Pepsi, Team, and Orange Crush.  The kids were usually watching the Love Boat, Mr. T, or Solid Gold when Nana would push open the door with her arms full of groceries and say, “Come help bring in the groceries!”  Everyone in the house would immediately spring to their feet, run to the car, and pitch in with unloading the wagon and carrying the bags to the kitchen table.  It was a family affair.  She would then open up a pack of Oreo cookies and allow everyone to snack before dinner.  Saturday dinner was usually submarine sandwiches, steak sandwiches, or BOCCES pizza.  We didn’t have much but I always felt rich.  The table was always filled with food.  I was often forced to finish eating all of my food because someone in Africa is starving.

By the time I was in high school, the neighborhood corner stores were no longer Black-owned.   A few Arabs started moving into the neighborhood and setting up businesses.  The A&P grocery store that stood on Jefferson Avenue in the 1960’s was long gone.  Then in 1981, a Black man by the name of Douglas Goggins, Jr. opened a supermarket called FIGMOS on 1511 Jefferson Avenue.  It is an acronym for Finally I Got My Own Supermarket.  However, by this time, huge supermarket chains dominated the area; they were Super Duper, Bells, Tops, and later Wegmans, all strategically located far away from Jefferson Avenue the once epicenter of the city.  The Black community had many choices and FIGMOS was failing and would soon have to close despite having received a $10,000 donation from Buffalo’s own Rick James.

It would be 22 years before another full service supermarket would service the now aging community remaining in the Fruit Belt and the Cold Spring area.  In 2001, I returned back home to Buffalo after starting my educational career at Stuart Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia.  My only remaining grandparent at the time was Nana.  She was driving herself around now since losing my grandfather to cancer in 1996.   Although her children were grown and gone, she still cooked big dinners at least three times a week, spaghetti, chicken and rice, and Spanish food such as empanadas, banana cakes, and Spanish rice.  Occasionally, she would drive over to Tops on Jefferson to grab a few items.  She even sent me there a few times to grab a couple items for her meals.

One day, in 2014 as she was preparing her annual Christmas brunch, she stopped at Tops to grab some pancake mix, vanilla flavoring, and eggs.

Later that night she passed away in her sleep.  It was Christmas Eve.

Had she still been living on that fateful day in May 2022 when a white supremacist decided to massacre poor, innocent, elderly Black citizens still living in the old neighborhood, it could have been her.  I thank God Almighty that everyone else in my family is safe and sound, family and friends who still shop at the last remaining supermarket on Jefferson Ave.

Uncivilized Acts in a Peaceful Community

In what is considered to be the most civilized place in the world, Western civilization has failed us on so many levels.   The root word of civilized is civil; but why does civility need to be legislated for Black people in this country?   I suppose that white males are considered to be the most civil type of human on earth, even though they carry out the most uncivilized acts imaginable.  Out of fear of becoming the oppressed minority, they operate on the lowest emotions: racism, bigotry, persecution, and stereotypes: The bottom of the barrel.

I grew up in a community of people of African descent, who migrated from the southern part of the United States in search of peace, after years of being oppressed and manipulated by the civilized white man.

To learn more about Black Buffalo’s history, click on the links below.




6 thoughts on ““As I Reminisce Over You, My God!””

  1. I am a person that love history. I love the way you acknowledge your family beginnings from the south and Margrated to the north for a better way of life. Throughout the years life was good and prosperous. This was so beautifully written. To the city of Buffalo, when you hurt we all hurt.

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. The Great Migration is such a huge part of our story. There’s so much there to research and inspect. How we all came together in Black neighborhoods is filled with pros and cons, villains and heroes!

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