On the weekend June 12-14th the 40th Annual Buffalo NY Celebration of Juneteenth culminated a week of activities with a large parade and festival at the Martin Luther King Park located in the city’s black community.
Buffalo holds the largest Juneteenth celebration in the state. This year over 30,000 people attended the street fair and parade. People come from all over: western NY, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey and New York City. Quite a few came from Canada as Buffalo is a border town.
The Buffalo Club along with the New York District of the Communist Party USA rented space and had a colorful information booth located near the main entrance to the park. That meant that thousands of people walked by and hundreds stopped to pick up our literature and talk to us about current issues and the party.
We had a 7 foot square canopy at the back end of which hung the party banner that we carried at last fall’s march against climate change. All of us wore red, white, and blue CP shirts and hanging from the edge of our front table was our “FORWARD” banner in the same colors. Two 6 foot tables and 3 chairs were loaned to us by a local church.
Thus equipped we spent an entire day engaging the Juneteenth crowd during which we gave out hundreds of party programs and sold party pamphlets and books. Hours of rich discussions and friendly debates ensued with the seven of us, which included one YCL’er. We where black and white male and female.
Almost everyone took the peoplesworld.org website cards. After several thousand we completely ran out. The cards were very effective way to make initial contact. When they would take a card we would have a few seconds to mention issues and invite them to the table. A good number picked up literature. brought books, buttons and talked. Some 60 of those who came up to the table agreed to sign our contact sheet so they could stay in touch.
Most impressive were the large number of young people who stopped and talked and signed our contact list. Also a number of very political minded people stopped by our booth to just talk. Many just wanted to know what the party was doing. “Where have you been?” they’d ask. We replied, “We’re rebuilding here in Buffalo, Can you help us”?
There were a lot of positive comments about our big “People and Nature Before Profits” banner. Many thanked us for being out there and encouraged us to be more visible.
One middle aged black women who talked with great passion about her difficult life struggle opened her mouth to show us missing teeth said, “I can’t afford to even fix my teeth”. “We need you guys”, she added. She then pointed to the festival stage about a ½ block away and asked us, “Why are you here at this table?”, “You need to be on that stage telling the people how to end this misery”. She was one of the 60 people who signed our contact sheet. .
Estevan our district organizer was invaluable in getting those 60 names. His highly developed organizing skills after many years building the YCL in Harlem and Washington Heights and organizing workers into unions across the country, made the difference in convincing dozens of people at Junteenth celebration to sign up and get involved.
We also meet a African American young man who had spotted one of our people wearing the Communist Party “T” shirt.. He said he was religious, and considered himself a Marxist. He had been looking for the Party for years, he said.
He wanted to talk more and agreed to meet with us later that night for coffee. To our surprise he showed up with a group of like-minded friends; all young workers, 4 black and one white. We had a great discussion with them on what’s going on in the current struggle against police violence, the general struggle against racism, the party and its immediate and strategic aims.
The next week he joined and lately has been International Publishers best customers especially on African American and labor history books. We also have another person from Buffalo who filled out the membership application on the back of the “Party Program”.
The task ahead is to build the party in Buffalo. The key is to activate the party in the critical struggles for a higher minimum wage and in the fight against racism and for peace. Buffalo is the second largest city in our state. Building a larger and more active club there is key to strengthening our party as a statewide political organization.
The Buffalo comrades are committed to growing their ranks. They now believe that they can grow.
The NY District leadership is very aware of the need to have much more contact with the Buffalo comrades. We are helping them to work with the 60 names and make sure we stay in touch and find the ways to involve as many as possible in activity of the movement and the Party.
The work at the 2015 Juneteenth Celebration in Buffalo was an important turning point in the work of the New York District of our Party.