Buffalo State University is honoring its recent past and making way for its future with a Social Justice Walk Groundbreaking and Farewell Reception on Thursday, May 4, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. in the Science and Mathematics Complex.
The groundbreaking will celebrate the creation of the upcoming Social Justice Walk, located on part of Bengal Walk, that will serve as a lasting reminder of the university’s dedication to social justice and highlight the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Buffalo State. The farewell reception will recognize the many accomplishments of Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner, who is retiring at the end of May. Conway-Turner has been at the helm of Buffalo State for the past nine years and has spent 43 years in higher education leadership.
Conway-Turner will speak at the groundbreaking, along with New York State Senator Sean Ryan and Tayllor Clark, president of Buffalo State’s United Students Government (USG).
“The Social Justice Walk is intended to serve as a source of inspiration as well as a chance to look back on past accomplishments.”
At the farewell reception, a select group of faculty, staff, students, and community members will address the audience. They include Kimberly Kline, professor of higher education administration and chair of the Buffalo State Senate; Abdollah Hajikandi, assistant director for academic services in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and chair of the Professional Staff Caucus; Celestine Simmons, administrative assistant for the Muriel A. Howard Honors Program; Rene Petties-Jones, president of the National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York; and Sencere Trust Jones, the first recipient of Buffalo State’s George Floyd Memorial Scholarship in fall 2020.
“Buffalo State students continue to champion the raising up of diverse voices and commitment to social justice,” said Timothy Gordon, vice president for student affairs at Buffalo State. “Considering all that this generation has experienced in recent years, the Social Justice Walk will provide a reflection on the importance of individuals who have led the call for a socially just world and serve as a beacon to the future.”
The Social Justice Walk is the latest initiative in Buffalo State’s ongoing response to national conversations on justice and equality that erupted following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others.
Bengal Walk is the main pedestrian spine that extends from the center of campus west toward Grant Street. The university is currently accepting bids for a full reconstruction of the walkway; construction is slated to begin in June 2024. Improvements will include repaving, new lighting and seating, drainage, and site features such as engraved installations that inform visitors about individuals and events that reflect Buffalo State’s commitment to social justice.
“The idea is to use this heavily traveled walk as a way to tell stories about social justice on the Buffalo State campus and in the broader community,” said Lisa Morrison-Fronckowiak, interim chief diversity officer and director of equity and campus diversity. “We may start with some historical events and add content that captures events of the present day.”
She added that the initial installations will not line the entire length of Bengal Walk.
“We are leaving space for future stories of social justice at Buffalo State,” Morrison-Fronckowiak said. “The Social Justice Walk is intended to serve as a source of inspiration as well as a chance to look back on past accomplishments.”
Gordon noted that since the groundbreaking is closely tied to Conway-Turner’s retirement, he hopes students who have engaged in her many social justice projects will attend.
“I also believe that our students will be able see hints of themselves in the historic figures who will be featured on the upcoming walk,” Gordon said, “and will be inspired to continue this work in their lives at Buffalo State and after graduation.”
Top: Artist's Social Justice Walk concept rendering.