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'I carry this heavy on my chest,' says Tesla worker who came to Tops memorial with fellow employees

Men and women discuss the realities of being Black
Posted at 1:45 PM, May 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 14:14:24-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — "It was planned," said Jamarius Cooper when he was speaking to 7 News anchor Ed Drantch, about the deadly shooting at Tops on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo.

He was one of about a dozen Tesla employees who gathered at the memorial, outside the market, to show solidarity with the victims' families. They also came to express frustration and anger.

"Everything that's part of our culture and our family, helping one another hand in hand, that's what this neighborhood is," Cooper said. "We're here for ourselves as Black people, fighting for what we need to fight for because we also had to fight to leave Tesla to come out here without worrying about [repercussions] of leaving a job that supports something like this."

The idea of different communities and different views in each, was part of a lengthy conversation on Tuesday morning.

"If I came to this store and I didn't have enough money . . . if I didn't have a couple dollars, someone in the back of the line would say 'don't worry about it, get it,'" Dean Lewis said. "But if I was out in Williamsville, South Buffalo, I'm being watched. I'm being followed through the store as if I'm going to take something."

Lewis said, "it's hell and it's degrading."

The whole conversation was part of the discussion leaders suggest we have as a community, about race relations and how to overcome racism.

"It's something we're born into," one man said. "We didn't ask to be Black. We're just born that way. So why do you hate us?"

"What has to come out of this is we have to stop being turned into the monsters," Lewis said. "We have got to stop being vilified. We are people."

A representative from Tesla says the company fully supports its employees through the grieving process and has offered counseling for staff members on every shift this week.