To the everyday Buffalo News reader not familiar with nonprofits and social justice work in Buffalo, this article must be so confusing – it provides almost no facts! Instead, Sommer dismisses us as hateful hackers from the “political left” while perpetuating the gaslighting lies that PUSH has been spewing to staff, members, community residents, coalition partners, funders, celebrities, and anyone else who will listen for years.
The first thing we want to point out is that the photograph paired with this article is a headshot of PUSH’s Executive Director Rahwa Ghirmatzion in a PUSH hoodie in front of a white background. The Buffalo News has used this photo in articles about PUSH more than once now. Are there any current photographs of PUSH Buffalo doing the work they say they do in the community that isn’t a staged photoshoot? Guess not!
Here is a paragraph that means nothing: “Ghirmatzion reaffirmed the West Side organization’s commitment to advance racial, economic and environmental justice.” If Sommer read anything on our website, he would know that the information that we are sharing, based on our experiences as PUSH Buffalo workers, is that this organization does not do what it says that it does, and its attempts at racial, economic, and environmental justice are fake. Rather than investigate whether or not what we are saying is true by interviewing community members, workers, and people who have actually experienced PUSH Buffalo on the ground, he called up the leader of the lie factory and re-posted her talking points without question.
One true thing that Rahwa says in the article is that “some now former staff members didn’t want to adapt to the changes the organization was going through.” This could be seen as a thinly veiled ageist dig at elder activist and renowned tenant advocate Aminah Johnson, whose firing case against PUSH is currently under review at the National Labor Relations Board. Clearly though, she is so right! By our count, over 80 people have been fired or left PUSH Buffalo on bad terms throughout its history, and at least 37 of those workers have exited since summer 2018, which is when PUSH moved its headquarters to School 77 and changed executive directors from Aaron Bartley to Rahwa Ghirmatzion. We plan on talking more about the transition from Aaron to Rahwa in future posts because it is much more complicated than someone being a good or bad ED. Long story short, Aaron started the organization and left other people (including at least two Black women) to clean up his mess while he went off to play used bookstore owner, real estate investor, and part time Cornell professor.
In the end, this isn’t about good and bad journalism – it’s about an organization that started with good intentions, but has turned into a social justice front where a small group of ego-centric people generate money and power from white guilt. PUSH Buffalo is a problem, and it’s inability to face the harm it has caused and continues to cause should be a red flag for everyone. It’s time for PUSH Buffalo leadership to own the harm they have caused individual people and the entire community, not deny them with lies in a public newspaper.
This is a good time to re-post something that a PULL Buffalo reader recently said about PUSH Buffalo’s response to us calling them out:
But [PUSH Buffalo’s] response strikes me as out of sync with their stated values. PUSH’s public statements claim they want a restorative approach and to have “deeper conversations and not hide behind social media.” But really, couching their feelings in veiled threats of legal action and describing statements made by former employees as “hateful” is an utterly tone-deaf way to express a desire for healing or to restore any kind of civil relationship. If that is how you respond when someone is expressing pain, it seems 1) reasonable to expect said someone to “hide” and use anonymous means to express that pain, and 2) that you really don’t want to work on repairing anything other than the scuff on your boot that donors might see.