One year after Buffalo mass shooting, son of victim Geraldine Talley manages trauma through writing, advocacy

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Mark Talley has a special, intimate connection to the bells that are ringing today to mark the one year anniversary of the mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market that saddened the world. . 

His mother, Geraldine Talley, was among the 10 Black people killed by the automatic rifle of avowed white supremacist Payton Gendron. Since the shooting, Talley is not shy about letting it be known he is a ways away from forgiveness and healing. He’s taken his anger and channeled it into a book that is being made available today. ”5/14: The Day The Devil Came To Buffalo” includes all of Talley’s raw emotion, not sanitized for your protection. 

Mark Talley, son of Tops shooting victim Geraldine Talley, poses on Thursday, July 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. Photo credit: Joshua Bessex, The Associated Press
Mark Talley, son of Tops shooting victim Geraldine Talley, poses on Thursday, July 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. Photo credit: Joshua Bessex, The Associated Press

Too often when tragedy strikes the Black community, there is a rushed expectancy to move the people left behind to a forgiveness that can be wrapped up in a neat little bow. Instead, Talley’s book takes us along his honest ride through hatred, confusion, loss and anger. You can read an excerpt here

Talley’s momentum, though, isn’t completely used up in indignation. Since the untimely death of his 63-year-old mother, Talley has kept himself going by starting a philanthropic organization. Through Agents For Advocacy, Talley has sponsored food drives, school supply giveaways, financial literacy classes, a basketball tournament, and fundraisers, all with the aim of shining a light on the needs of Buffalo’s Black residents and providing solutions.

BNV: A year later, how are you feeling? 

Talley: A year later, the pain of losing my mother in a racist terrorist attack still feels raw and overwhelming. I find myself struggling with feelings of numbness, detachment and becoming more cold emotionally as I try to process the trauma and come to terms with the reality of her absence.

BNV: What’s it like having media outlets chasing you down – again?

Talley: The media’s attention on the anniversary of my mother’s death can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it provides me with a platform to advocate for socioeconomic reform. On the other hand, it also means having to relive the painful details of my mother’s passing.

BNV: How has the shooting changed you one year later in ways you didn’t expect?

Talley: I’ve become more numb, detached and colder emotionally. I have less tolerance for stupidity and willful ignorance. And, of course, this shooting caused me to form my own socioeconomic nonprofit,

BNV: What is the prevailing message you want readers to get from your book?

Talley: The main message I want people to take away from my book is the impact of racism and hate crimes on individuals and families; the pain that happens due to gun violence when someone is unexpectedly taken away from you and the grieving process you go through.

BNV: What are your feelings, if any, on the big names descending on Buffalo this weekend, such as Al Sharpton, Ibram X. Kendi, and Melissa Harris-Perry, to mark the occasion of the anniversary?

Talley: I think it’s not a good idea to bring big names for the show. It could be a waste of resources and money, and it may not necessarily make the show better or more enjoyable. Plus, there could be local talent or up-and-coming [speakers] who are just as talented and deserve the opportunity to showcase their skills. Most importantly, exactly what are we celebrating? This should be a time for mourning and healing.

BNV: What do you think is the ultimate message for America about the Tops shooting and the attention that’s been brought to Buffalo’s Black neighborhoods?

Talley: The ultimate message for America is that being Black in this country can be a life-threatening experience. The fact that Black people are at risk of violence even while shopping, getting fast food, or being at home is unacceptable and must be addressed. The attention brought to the East Side is important, but without real change, it means nothing. It’s time for America to take a hard look at systemic racism and the injustices that have led to these tragic events and take meaningful action to address them.

BNV: What do you think people are missing about the Tops shooting and all the attention that’s been brought to Buffalo’s East Side?

Talley: I believe that people are missing the fact that the East Side of Buffalo was the same before the events of 5/14 as it is now. It is unfortunate that it often takes a horrific incident, like a terrorist attack and the loss of innocent lives, to bring attention to long-standing issues and injustices in marginalized communities. The people of the East Side have been living with these issues for far too long, and it is essential that their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed, not just in the aftermath of a tragedy, but as a matter of course.

BNV: What, if anything, have I not asked that you think is important and needs to be included in this piece I’m writing?

Talley:  Please follow Agents for Advocacy on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to stay updated with everything we’re doing. Lastly, “5/14-The Day the Devil Came to Buffalo” is on sale on Amazon. Paperback and hardcovers will be available 5/14. Please support and purchase your copy today

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