Zaneta Everhart's son Zaire Goodman was shot by a domestic terrorist on May 14th 2022 during the White supremacist attack at the Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
He survived, but has a bullet wound that went through his neck and out his back. Everhart has become an advocate for gun violence prevention since the shooting. She believes that the root causes of gun violence, such as poverty and lack of education, need to be addressed in order to prevent future shootings.
"I've always felt that I was a servant of the community and for the community, but now I know that service has been elevated, and I'm here to do the work, because what happened to Zaire is a unique situation." - Zeneta Everhart
She joins Pastor George Nicholas on episode 19 of Igniting Hope for Health Equity Podcast to discuss the following:
1. How easy it is for people to access guns in America
2. Staggering statistics showing how gun violence disproportionately affects Black men
3. The connection between gun violence and social economic factors
4. What policy changes can impact the root causes of gun violence
Listen to the full episode below or on your favorite podcast app.
Zeneta Everhart is the Director of Diversity & Inclusion for New York Senator Tim Kennedy's office; where her focus is on ensuring equity through legislation, community building, and the equitable distribution of resources. She is a passionate advocate for policy change to address the root causes of gun violence and help keep communities safe. After Zaire Goodman survived the Tops Markets massacre, he and his mother, Zeneta Everhart, started a book drive to gather children's books about racism and diversity. Zeneta & Zaire's Book Club collected close to 10,000 books donated from around the country. The books will be held at Villa Maria College and distributed to schools and community centers. Resources: Zeneta & Zaire's Book Club Wish List https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2QT7QPH0XGSS6 Book referenced by Pastor George - "The 2nd Amendment: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America by Caroyn Anderson Movie Michael Moore's documentary "Bowling for Columbine"
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Igniting Hope for Health Equity Episode 19 Transcript
My son was shot by a terrorist. He has a gunshot wound that went through his neck and out his back. And of seeing those wounds lets me know that he's here for a purpose. Greetings.
This is Pastor George Nicholas, chair of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, and you are tuned into Igniting Hope podcast. And so our guest today is Zaneta Everhardt. You know Zanetta from her role as working with Senator Tim Kennedy when her son was a victim of gun violence on May 14 in the Tops supermarket, she said, well, wait a second, I have to fight back. And that's what she has done.
I'm talking to a mother whose son had a bullet pass through his neck on entrance and exit it through his back, and was able to live and tell about it. And so we want to talk a little bit today about guns, gun violence, how to deal with tragic events that may happen in your family, what help and what support there is out there for you. As a mother, though, I'm going to talk to her as a mother and as a community leader.
Hello, everybody. This is Pastor George Nicholas and chair of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity and the African American Health Equity Task Force. And you're listening to Igniting Hope podcast. And please go to www.Buffalohealthequityorg. Buffalohealthequity.org and you'll be able to get all the information that we talk about health equity in western New York.
One of the things I want to point your attention to when you log on to Buffalohealthequity.org, it will direct you to our registration form for the Igniting Hope Conference. This will be our fifth annual conference that will be held at the Jacob School of Medicine on August 13. And also on August 12, we'll have a Community Day. We have the Johnny Wiley Pavilion, and we'll give you out more information about that, but just go on to our website and register for the Igniting Hope Conference 2022. We have some outstanding speakers and activities and events that are planned for you that day.
So we already have about 140 people that have registered for the conference. And we're really looking for just the entire community who is really interested and cares about the interests of our people as it relates to health and just quality of life. Please come out and join us for our Igniting Hope 2022. America, there's a lot of problems, but they have a very serious problem with guns. Every day in this country, 110 people, citizens, civilians, will be victims of gunshots.
There are 393,000,000 guns. 393,000,000 guns in this country. Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed by a gun than any other developed country in the world. Now, we're not talking about countries that are in the midst of civil wars. I'm talking about in civilian situations 25 times more likely to be killed by a gun than in any other developed country.
African American men are 6% of the United States population. So six out of 100 Americans are African American men. But African American men make up 52% of those who are killed by guns, 6% of the population. But we are over half the victims of gun violence in this country. On May 14, in this country, in this city, we had the tragic murder, terrorist attack, and we lost ten of our citizens by gun violence.
And there were three others, I believe, that were wounded during this siege upon our community. And one of the young men was Zair. But by the grace of God, he survived that attack. But he's going to have to live with the events of that day. Sometimes when things happen to us, there's no fight or flight type of situation, and there's no shame on those who may be victimized by a traumatic event that they feel like they need to kind of retreat and regroup and take some time away.
But then there are others that say, well, hold on, wait a second. I have to speak up. I have to get engaged so that others don't fall victim like my son did. And one such person is Zanetta Everheart. You know Zanetta from her role as working with Senator Tim Kennedy.
She's the go to person. I call her first. Before I call Senator Kennedy, let me just invite and welcome San Antonio into this space. We just love you so much, and we stand with you. And first, how is that you're doing?
Thank you, Pastor Nicholas. Thank you. And I love you. You know that. You are one of my community heroes, so we'll talk more and gush over each other later.
But Zaya is doing well. Zaya is doing really well. I've said continuously that his presence on this earth is a miracle, and I stand by that. He was gravely injured.
He has a gunshot wound that went through his neck and out his back. And just seeing those wounds lets me know that he's here for a purpose. And not only is he here for a purpose, but now I have a greater purpose. Right. I've always felt that I was a servant of the community and for the community, but now I know that service has been elevated, and I'm here to do the work, because what happened to Zaire is a unique situation.
My son was shot by a terrorist. Not many people in the world have that story, but there are thousands of people who have been affected by gun violence. While it's a bittersweet moment for me, it hurts to have these conversations. And I tell people all the time, listen, I want to crawl up on my couch and watch Netflix and the ice cream, okay? Because this situation took me out.
This is hard. This is hard to not just lay on my couch. But I do know the power of now, and now is the moment that we need to be having these conversations. And so I'm here to do the work. I'm here to do to work.
So thank you passing Nicholas, for having me. So when you hear those statistics that I raised, and then you align them with their own life experiences, and even before May 14, we've all know people who have been shot, murdered. I have four sons and a daughter, and they all know someone who has been murdered by a gun.
What do you think about how many guns are out here in our community and the fact that there seems to be some real lethargy in addressing this issue? Yeah, listen, before, a few years ago, I had a nephew that was shot and killed in the city of Buffalo. So why are there so many guns? How whenever I think of these situations that continuously happen over and over again, those are the questions that I ask is how is it so easy for people to access a gun in this country? And why should we just have access to something like that?
I don't understand it. And I've also said over and over again that I believe in the right to bear arms in this country. I think people should absolutely be able to own a gun if that's their choice. But majority of the guns that are used out here on the streets are not legal guns. They don't have license for these guns.
So where are they coming from? Right. I'm not naive to the fact that this is America. This is the most powerful country in the world. Someone knows how those guns are getting into our streets.
Right? Somebody knows that. And so that's where we need to put our focus. That is where we need to start figuring out how. Why are these guns getting into communities like the east side of Buffalo?
Because it is not just the east side of Buffalo. There are east sides of Buffalo all across America. There are communities just like ours all over the country, and they too, have access to guns. Acting like there's a factory somewhere and these young kids are just making their own weapons. No, that's ridiculous.
These guns are coming from somewhere, and someone knows where they're coming from. So there's a great book out there called The Second Amendment. It's by Carol Anderson, and she's a black woman author. And the title of the book, the full title of the book is second Amendment race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. And so one of the things that we as African people living in America must understand that, and she really breaks it down, is the Second Amendment was not written for us, right?
So the notion of when the Second Amendment was written, it wasn't written in the context of people of African descent being full citizens and having full citizens' rights to bear arms. And there were a lot of class and racial implications around the right for citizens and land owning citizens to have access to a firearm. And certainly when you look at history, not only American and world history, the gun was probably one of the single most effective tools in colonialism and in the enslavement of people of color around the world. And so as we emerged as a country, a very heterogeneous country, and really following the emancipation of African people, there became a great fear in this country of retribution. And for a lot of Americans, because even in that 391,000,000 guns that we have in this country, the vast majority of those guns are owned by white males.
So it's not like it's an even distribution. Well, one gun for every American. Right. And one of the main reasons when people talk about whether they need a gun to protect themselves now, you have to ask yourself, what are you protecting yourself from? So the notion of the reason why so many Americans feel they need to be armed and armed in such a way, there is an underlying racial undertone that if there is ever any kind of a racial uprising or race war, there's no confidence that the government would protect them.
So they want to protect themselves. And that's a real conversation. And it's not only me saying that. The film maker Michael Moore clearly documented that almost 20 years ago in the film Bowling for Columbine. Right.
And after the Columbine school shooting. Right. And explored this notion of why just the average citizen feels they need to have not only a gun, but several guns, or in addition, guns that are really designed to kill a lot of people in a very short period of time. So we're not talking about The Deer Hunter that has a rifle that he buys at Walmart or whatever. I'm talking about people who have military style weapons, like the person that did what he did on May 14.
It's a whole different scenario. Right. And it's bad, no question. But if he would have had a pistol or something like that or whatever, or single round rifle or something like that, the damage would have been diminished greatly. And when Officer Salter confronted him, he would have had a fair fight.
Right? Exactly. Right. So the fact that he was able to take officers shelter down was not based on his marksmanship or his ability to handle the weapon. Is the fact that he had such an overwhelmingly powerful weapon in his hand.
Exactly. We need to be really clear about that. And I have an understanding of those conversations because I think that's behind a lot of this reticence in our country to really have real, logical and reasonable conversations about gun violence. What's your thoughts? Absolutely.
You know what? When you were talking about the history of this country and guns, especially people like the terrorists who caused so much havoc in my community on May 14, one of the things about that is that slave owners and those so called bounty hunters, whatever they wanted to call themselves, who were out capturing slaves and things like that, use guns in that way. But for them, their brain was thinking, we're helping our government, right? We're helping our government. That is why, since I testified in front of Congress, a lot of people ask me about my comments about America being inherently violent.
That's exactly what I'm talking about. This country was built on violence. Our government supported vigilantes, as I'll call them, going out, lynching, shooting, capturing, killing my ancestors who didn't want to be enslaved them to just make it seem as if America is wonderful and great and it's all these things, and it's like, who is America great for? Who has America been great for? Even with 45 and is make America great again?
It's like, when was America great for black people? My people are still suffering. We have yet to see the greatness of this country realized for us. There has been great moments for us. Great things have happened for our people.
But when we think about all of that as a whole, we have to think about then we can't continue to act like what happened then is not dictating what's going to happen now, because it is it's literally manifesting itself right, in the terrorist manifesto that he published. Right? If you read through that, this man was highly educated in a cult. That didn't teach him the truth. And that is another problem.
In this country, we do not talk about the truth. And that's part of the problem. He thinks that he's helping his government. He thinks that he's helping the country. And he thinks that because they haven't told him the truth.
Guns and gun violence is a public health problem crisis. So I shared the data as it relates to black men being more likely to get 52% of the gun violence victims around 6% of the population. And another huge problem that we have as we talk about the violent nature of our culture is violence against women. We have a very serious problem with domestic violence, and there's a connection with these high access of guns and domestic violence. Women in this country are 21 times more likely to be killed by a gun in a domestic violent situation than women in other developed countries, right?
So, again, we're not comparing women who may live in war torn places and all that other stuff. We're not talking about. We're talking about the United States as a first world developed, high income country. And so that's where you have to compare apples to apples, right? So if you are a woman who live, let's say, in Canada, or if you're a woman that lived in France, or a woman that even lived in the country of Nigeria, right?
These are developed nations. The fact that you lived in the United States of America, you would be 21 times more likely to be killed by a gun in a domestic violent situation than if you lived in another developed country. Exactly. That's a public health crisis, right? That is a crisis.
And so we have to follow the data and make policy decisions. So what would you say, Zaneta? It would be some of the policy decisions. And let's be clear, Zanetta at this point is speaking for herself, right? So I don't need nobody calling.
Senator Kennedy said your staff said X, Y and Z. Well, that's not what we're talking about. I'm talking to a mother whose son had a bullet passed through his neck on entrance and exit it through his back and was able to live and tell about it. And so that makes her an expert on this topic, if you ask me. What are some of the things that you would like for us as a community to begin to do in response to this crisis of gun violence?
We've had these conversations, Pastor George, many times. But for me, it's about root causes, right? Gun violence isn't just something that's just happening. It's not just, oh, someone was shot today. There's a reason, there's lots of reasons why gun violence happens.
And it starts with the root causes, right? It starts with the lack of resources in communities of color. It starts with the lack of education of those people in those communities of color. It starts with bad eating and bad health care. And it's all those things, poverty, lack of jobs, and all those things turn into gun violence because it turns into survival of the fittest.
If I have a gun and you have something I want, then I can shoot you and take it, right? Right. If our government is intentional about curbing gun violence, they will work to curb root causes, and they will show up in our communities, in my community, the east side of Buffalo, I live here, I was born here, I live here. I raised my son here. We're still here.
So this is also my community. So I'm not a transplant or somebody that lives outside of the community. I live here too. And so if our government is intentional and really want to help black people in the country, and like I said, there's east sides of Buffalo all over the country, if they want to help all of these communities, they will go in and figure out the real problem. Yes, gun violence is a problem, but the real problem is there's lack of housing on the east side of Buffalo.
And then in those housing, the houses are outdated. Right? These homes need to be updated. The schools need to be updated. The curriculum of the schools need to be updated.
The streets need to be paved, right? We need sidewalks and we need trees, and we need flowers, and we need plants, and we need grocery stores with real food in them, right? Those are the reasons for gun violence in communities of color. There's so much nuance in this issue, right? And Brother Dobbins, before he left us, always would talk about handgun to where I think he lost two of his sons by hand gun violence, right?
And we have the ability to do both, right? So we have to work for legislation to get the assault weapons out of the hands of people, out of everybody. I mean, there's no reason for a civilian there are reasons why we don't drive tanks in urban areas, right? So be very clear that these AK 47s, AR Seventeen S, or whatever the heck they are, these weapons are designed specifically for military use, and their sole purpose is to be the ability to kill a lot of human beings in a very short right. So there's no civilized purpose for a citizen in a civilian environment to have such a weapon.
To me, there's just no argument there. But then there's the secondary issue, or not secondary in terms of hierarchy, but then there's the additional issue of in urban settings, the weapon of choice in those kinds of situation is not necessarily a military style weapon, but a pistol, a handgun, right? And so the fact that we can absolutely push for legislation, and I believe we should, to get assault weapons out of the hands of citizens, but that will have a minimal impact on the day to day homicides that we see in the urban terrain and in black communities. Because most of these murders that you see in the black community are not a result of these high powered weapons, but of handguns. One, because of economics, these assault weapons are very expensive and the handgun is very cheap, and it's just easier to get one on the secondary market.
Right? And so we have to make sure that whatever gun legislation and initiatives that we have to reduce gun violence not only is only concentrated on assault weapons, but if we're really concerned about what puts our people at most risk, it's the handgun. And as you also clearly incorrectly point out, Zanetta, that there's this volatility that is in our community as a result of social economic neglect that makes it more likely for people to reach for their gun and to resolve conflict. So we have to kind of create a healthy we always talk about creating a community of care, and in that community of care, there would be less of this violence. So what's next for you, Zanetta?
And how do we continue to support you and Zaire and other families who have been victims of gun violence? For me, what we can do as a community before I go into what's next, what we can do as a community is we can continue doing what we were doing the week following May 14. There was so much love on Jefferson, right, in the days following. And I wasn't personally out there just because it took me weeks before I could go back over there, but I watched some of the news reports of just the amazing outpouring of love support, but also resources. It was like, where were these resources prior to May 14?
Like, really? And so the efforts that people are doing is amazing over in my community, and I love to see it. I remember one day, weeks after I drove out Jefferson, and I was stopping at a store. There was nowhere to park. Since when is there nowhere to park on Jefferson?
But it's amazing, right? But it should always be that way, right? This is an amazing community. We have a lot of empty buildings and empty old businesses. I want to see an effort to bring those businesses back.
Right? Because Jefferson should always look like that. All of our main thoroughfares on the east side of Buffalo should always look like that. There should always be life and people and resources on these business trips because there are amazing people who live in this community right around them. So for me, I feel like that's what I want to see next for our community.
I want the community built up, built back up and going into what's next for me, I have no idea, possibly.
But I know that I am a servant of people, right? And I know that I know what my calling is, and it's to help people and to help them navigate these spaces of figuring out how to make themselves better, how to make their lives better. And so I just want to amplify that now. That's what's next for me. And making sure that Dyer is good.
He will have to have surgery coming up. The shrapnel that is in his back, some of it is starting to raise up. And so that's going to be a new level of trauma, a new level of healing for him and me. But once we get past that, I'm going to continue this work. I'm going to amplify what I've already been doing by speaking about gun violence and domestic terrorism.
Right? That's a conversation that we also don't like to talk about in this country. And for me, that should be at the forefront of these conversations because that's what happened to Zaire. He was shot by a domestic terrorist. And I'm going to make sure that I do everything in my power, not only as a mom, but also as someone who works in the government political space, to see that we get some sort of action and movement on domestic terrorism in this country.
And then education, of course. Right. So following the shooting, xiao and I started a book club, zanet Zaya's Book club. And it is all about giving kids books on diversity. Just books that have black people in them, right?
Kids should see stuff like that. They should be able to see themselves depicted in books everywhere they go. That just should be the normal, because it's important. But not only for black kids, but for white kids, too. I want white kids to have a window into our lives.
For black kids, it's a mirror, right? They see themselves in these books. They see themselves as amazing people and doing amazing things. And then for white kids, it's looking at their neighbors, right, and learning about them. And it's okay to learn about your neighbor.
We don't all need to look alike, but we can still be friends. And it starts with kids. It starts with kids because racism is taught. It is not something that they are born with. And so kids, as kids, just want to be kids.
They want to play with the kids next to them. They're not concerned about what color they are, right? That comes from families. That comes from communities.
Our mission right now is to get these books out into the communities, to make sure kids have these books in hand. And so it's going to be amazing. We've partnered with Villa Maria College, who has given us a space there to sort of books, and we're going to sort them through, and we're getting some stickers and BOOKMARKS made up for the kids, and we're going to start getting those books out into the community because education is extremely important. I don't want to see any more kids growing up not reading books with black kids in them. It's just ridiculous that that's even a thing.
And my hope is that this book club turns into someone's job, right? I want to see it turned into a 501 C three. And someone's job is just to give out books on diversity. I think that's an amazing job, and it should be someone's job because it's definitely needed. I think that this is a short term solution for a long term problem.
I would rather see the curriculum in this country, in schools, change to include African American history. But while they're working on that, and while I'm hoping to work on that, I'm going to get these books out to kids in the community. And that's important to me and as I am right now. So, yeah, that's it. Senator, we're going to have you back on some point when Xiao feels like it's time for his voice to be heard, we'll have him on to just share what's on his heart.
And as we think about this, I know we talked a lot about gun violence, but let's be very clear that what happened on May 14 was a racist attack and the gun was a tool, right? So as we frame this conversation, the central thing that happened on May 14 was the racist terrorist attack, but the tool to carry it out was not a lynching rope, but it was an AK 447 or whatever the heck kind of thing he had. And so one thing we have to do is, when we refer to the May 14 event, to not let it get totally tied up in the gun violence conversation. It's about both racism and the racist terrorist attack by this individual who used this high powered weapon that he should have never had access to