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Buffalo Co-Lab

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Buffalo Co-Lab advances an equitable economy and democratic community, collaboratively integrating scholarly and practical understanding to strengthen civic action.

Being Tied to Buffalo’s Single Garment of Destiny

Overlapping hands of different colors

“All . . . are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny . . . I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality.”  –Martin Luther King, Jr.

Reflecting on this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I interpret his words to mean that society is as well and as good as the welfare of its most vulnerable members. Our individual welfare is tied to our collective welfare and everyone benefits when the most vulnerable are uplifted. Everyone has a right to thrive and when we all thrive, we can best support each other. This movement of “mutuality” isn’t just taking place in Buffalo; it is taking place in other cities around the country as well, where “business-as-usual” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Social inequality persists and economic inequality has been rising in recent decades. Everyday people must unite under a common goal of collective progress and rely on each other to demand the change they want to see.

In this sense, I believe the work my fellow High Road peers and I are doing for our individual organizations is a part of a continuing movement in Buffalo to revitalize the city from declining industrialism to a modern, thriving economy that is predicated on equality, social wellbeing, and compassion for our planet and our neighbors - as epitomized by Dr. King’s “interrelated structure of reality.” As part of my work at the Buffalo Niagara Community Reinvestment Coalition (BNCRC), I am conducting comprehensive research on and advocating for the creation of public banks in the Buffalo-Niagara region as well as across New York State. Public banks have the potential to fundamentally transform how projects in our society are financed. Public banks remove the profit motive that private banks are designed to possess, in favor of a public-service purpose. This framework can help financial institutions invest in the communities most marginalized by our current systems in government, banking, and commerce. Finally, public banks can reverse decades of inequitable policies and racism, such as the extreme racial segregation of Buffalo’s East-West side and the divestment from city’s Fruit Belt after the construction of Kensington Expressway displaced Black residents. Public banks serve as an institution of mutual aid, and when properly run, could help lift a whole community from years of decline and injustice. 

I see how MLK’s characterization of society as an “inescapable network of mutuality” materializes through my work at the BNCRC. While I am working for the BNCRC as part of the Western NY Law Center, the coalition itself, with its 13 partner organizations, demonstrates how these organizations are all tied together by shared problems, but also by a shared solution in public banking. In a meeting with New York State Senator Jon Rivera, I saw how the other partner organizations came to lend their support and attested to public banking’s potential to further their own organizations’ work. The partner organizations understood not only the individual benefits of public banking to their organizations, but also the collective benefits to the coalition and Buffalo as a whole. Their testimonials and presence helped to successfully persuade Sen. Rivera to sign onto our cause. I also see the “network of mutuality” appear in the coalition’s efforts with other organizations outside of Western New York. The BNCRC has been receiving extensive help and guidance from the New York City chapter and the Capital region chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), as well as support from the New Economy Project. Their aid has been instrumental in my research and in informing my team’s work on public banking advocacy. It just goes to show how, even between cities and areas hundreds of miles away, we are all connected and our success in this “structure of reality” is linked. 

Finally, MLK’s words show up within our High Road cohort itself. Each one of us is placed within an organization that has, more likely than not, worked with each other at one point in time. We, along with our respective organizations, are connected to the Partnership for Public Good for support. And we are encouraged to reach out to our peers or their organizations if they can help our own individual efforts. Indeed, we as fellows are ourselves connected with each other for mutual aid during this program. In this way, we are all part of Dr. King’s “inescapable network of mutuality.”