I was in a coffee shop on Buffalo’s West Side when I read the first issue of No Boundaries, a bi-annual social justice oriented publication created by Rise Collaborative. My perspective on Buffalo had always been a positive one, as it was impossible to ignore the life that was seeping back into a weary city.
I still see Buffalo through rose-colored glasses, but No Boundaries brought critical issues like outdated and ineffective city planning, concentrated poverty and homelessness to my attention. In the white, middle-class spaces I frequented, it was easy to ignore or not even see the problems in our community. That’s not to say all the news No Boundaries had was negative – the publication did and has continued to do an excellent job highlighting what needs to be changed as well as what’s already being done to move all of Buffalo forward
The second issue of No Boundaries was distributed throughout the Buffalo-Niagara region on April 22 – and is available to read online here – so I sat down with Kevin Heffernan, Rise Collaborative’s Executive Director, to understand No Boundaries’ mission. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How do No Boundaries and Rise Collaborative work together?
“No Boundaries is under the Rise ‘umbrella,’ so the two share everything. We talk about it like it’s two separate things, but it’s all just three people working together on both publications.
“We had a bit of a branding issue – we’d promote a fun event on Rise and then write something later on social justice, and people had a hard time putting the two together. So it was easier to split the two. They may ‘step on the others toes’ every so often by which I mean, people don’t want to read about heavy issues all the time so there are a few less serious articles in No Boundaries, but that’s fine.
Where did the idea for the publication come from?
“We’d realized that our social media was only seen on Buffalo’s West side, and important issues relevant to other neighborhoods were completely ignored. Saying Buffalo is on the rise when you’re ignoring 3/5 of the city isn’t accurate. But we didn’t have connections in the neighborhoods we wanted to cover, so we had to start building those bridges.
“Paper media is still relevant and important in 2017 partly because it removes online algorithms, so everyone can read it. It’s also a way to reach people in specific areas that need to know about the issues we address. We’re acknowledging that Buffalo cannot keep moving forward and calling it progress while ignoring the impoverished.”
What do you hope No Boundaries accomplishes?
“Cultivates empathy. We don’t need to entirely change people’s opinions, but if we can tell in-depth, under reported stories about refugees and the homeless (and how they became that way), we’ll create empathy for the subject.
“Instead of feeding people negative news about what’s coming out of The White House, for example, we’re creating counter-narratives. We’re not creating content that says “look at how outrageous this is,” but content that shows our response. Articles like that may cause people to talk to someone outside of their comfort zone, or change where they spend their money and who they vote for, etc.”
It’s been six months since the first issue. What’s the response been? Have you seen any actual positive change?
“I think that we’ve seen readership rise – our second issue has flown off the shelves – and that’s the first thing we can hope for. Other effects may be long-term when our goal is to get people to think differently.”
What do you think Buffalo’s biggest problem is?
“We’re all paddling in different directions. There’s a lot of internal battling, whether it’s school vs. school or town against town and that’s the worst thing we could be doing.
“As the third-poorest city in the country, one block “coming back” every five years is not progress. Are we going to wait for the State to create jobs, or be the kind of community that makes jobs for themselves? We need to be willing to work together. That’s actually the reason behind the name ‘No Boundaries.’ How does the region move forward as a collective team?
Any idea on what will be in October’s issue?
“We have to get in touch with writers and publishing partners, but I know we’d like to go back and look at some of the issues we covered in the first issue, and give updates on those people and organizations.
“Another goal between now and then is to keep our blog updated so that we have a steady stream of content, and the biannual publication to undercut algorithims.
“We’d also like to collaborate with Pittsburgh, Rochester, Detroit and Cleveland because they have a similar story to Buffalo’s. But we also don’t want to become a “Rust Belt” publication – we just want to write about universal issues so that there are no boundaries not only in Western New York, but everywhere.”