A photographer reflects on the Black communities that have shaped his life in Buffalo, New York

By Derrick Carr

Buffalo is the second largest city in New York State. It’s the home of the Bills, it’s where the best pizza and wings are found, and it’s where Lake Effect snow hits hard. In 2020, the FBI listed Buffalo as the most dangerous city in New York State. This city is also home to me and more than  ninety-three thousand others who share my skin. These images represent my point of view, and the environment I’m immersed in on a regular basis.

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Buffalo has a long history of redlining. When mapped out, it’s divided by racial and ethnic groups. Though violence is within arm’s reach of the inner city, Black people find outlets, and we thrive within the spaces we have created for ourselves.

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Summer brings event gatherings to keep youth off of the streets and out of trouble. Kids forget their problems by retreating to MLK Splash Pad. The Free Smoke Crew hosts cookouts and car meet ups for the grown folks. On Sunday afternoons at Masten Park, Buffalo’s former top high school players hoop like they still have something to prove.

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Black musicians like Billie Essco, pictured at the pool during a video shoot (above), lead the next wave of hip-hop for the town. Local clothing brand owners are household names, too. Keron Briggs, basketball star and owner of “Real and Rare,” is pictured inside his store (below). He survived five gunshot wounds there, three months prior. Still, barbershops are safe places for Black men of all ages to be themselves, get a cut, and take a break from the pressures of the outside world.

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I’ve said in the past there was not much to shoot around my small city. Now I see the issue was with me. I was overlooking the wealth that is my culture, and the strength of the communities all around me. This city helped shape me. There’s really no place like home.

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Derrick Carr is a Western New York artist known for his attention to detail, authentic feel, vivid colors, and exceptional monochrome captures. You can find more of his work at djcarrr.com.
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