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Buffalo Co-Lab

skyline of Buffalo

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

Getting to Know Buffalo from New York City

View of individuals living different lives through apartment building windows.

Growing up in NYC, I've long had a hard time conceptualizing the fact that every window I see and person I pass on the street encapsulates a whole complex life with its own family, friends, school, work, etc. It always boggles my mind the more I think about it.

There’s a song called Underdog by Alicia Keys that I listen to when grappling with the idea of such vast humanity. I didn’t realize I did this until this week in which I’ve been playing it on repeat. See, I’ve never been to Buffalo. Nor had I given it a great deal of thought before starting the High Roads Fellowship. Now, all of a sudden, I’m tasked with work that is going to directly impact the lives of Buffalonians. Lives that, at the moment, are fairly abstract to me.

I’ll attach the lyrics below, and I recommend everyone give it a listen. The song lists a bunch of archetypes of people that would dwell in any working class environment, like single mothers, taxi drivers, or young teachers. She notes their families and their struggles and “the things that change us if we notice// When we look up, sometimes.” Essentially, it’s a song for the people. It says, ‘I notice you and your story is important.’

As a part of my project, I’ll be formulating a sort of knowledge base on the housing landscape in Buffalo currently and in a post Covid-19 world for Habitat for Humanity. My work is going to be used in Habitat’s strategic planning of home, community, and hope building. It was surprising to me how important my research and recommendations will be in this strategy formulation. In other words, I’ve learned this week how directly my work will be impacting people searching for affordable housing. How directly my work will be impacting people’s lives.

In all the glory of a first week in a new position, the work ahead feels a little daunting. This song has done a good job of reminding me what it's all about, who it's all for. I’m really excited to be working with Habitat and thrilled to be learning more about their organization. Their values, which lie in building people up and strengthening communities in ways that they personally wish to see growth, are ones that I consider really important and why I’m so interested in Habitat. Learning how much they do to involve the communities in which they build homes provides me with a lot of hope that they are attacking the issue of inaccessible housing in truly thoughtful ways.

I’m really looking forward to continuing to conceptualize Buffalo by interviewing people from all of these incredible non-profit organizations and community members themselves. I hope that I’m able to provide Habitat with the information that they need to create the best possible plan of action for the future. Lots of good things to come! (And the lyrics are just below).

 

 

Lyrics to Underdog by Alicia Keys:

She was walking in the street, looked up and noticed

He was nameless, he was homeless

She asked him his name and told him what hers was

He gave her a story 'bout a life

With a glint in his eye and a corner of a smile

One conversation, a simple moment

The things that change us if we notice

When we look up, sometimes

They said I would never make it

But I was built to break the mold

The only dream that I've been chasing is my own

So I sing a song for the hustlers trading at the bus stop

Single mothers waiting on a check to come

Young teachers, student doctors

Sons on the frontline knowing they don't get to run

This goes out to the underdog

Keep on keeping at what you love

You'll find that someday soon enough

You will rise up, rise up, yeah

 

She's riding in a taxi back to the kitchen

Talking to the driver 'bout his wife and his children

On the run from a country where they put you in prison

For being a woman and speaking your mind

She looked in his eyes in the mirror and he smiled

One conversation, a single moment

The things that change us if we notice

When we look up, sometimes

They said I would never make it

But I was built to break the mold

The only dream that I've been chasing is my own

 

So I sing a song for the hustlers trading at the bus stop

Single mothers waiting on a check to come

Young teachers, student doctors

Sons on the frontline knowing they don't get to run

This goes out to the underdog

Keep on keeping at what you love

You'll find that someday soon enough

You will rise up, rise up, yeah

Everybody rise up

You gonna rise up, ay

I sing a song for the hustlers trading at the bus stop

Single mothers waiting on a check to come

Young teachers, student doctors

Sons on the frontline knowing they don't get to run

This goes out to the underdog

Keep on keeping at what you love

You'll find that someday soon enough

You will rise up, rise up, yeah