August 2016 Honoree
Executive Director, Open Buffalo
One of 10 children, Franchelle C. Hart was born and raised in Niagara Falls, N.Y. From a very early age, Hart credits her great-grandparents for instilling the importance of hard work, the love of God and the love of humanity in her. Hart attended Buffalo State College, where she majored in Political Science and African-American Studies. As Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Hart traveled the country presenting her research on connecting music and activism. She also presented research on mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws and community impact, and New York State Rockefeller Drug Laws, which led her to a fellowship with the Congressional Black Caucus on Capitol Hill. Hart attended the University at Albany for her graduate education, where she majored in Public Policy.
After she completed her education, Hart took her political and organizing skills to 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, where she would spend the next seven years managing the union’s communication, political and community outreach efforts. As the organization’s Western New York Communication Coordinator, Hart also traveled the country organizing for health care reform and dozens of political campaigns.
She is currently executive director of Open Buffalo, a civic initiative to make major, long-term improvements in justice and equity in the City of Buffalo. Open Buffalo collaborates with organizations such as People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH), Buffalo Peacemakers, Coalition for Economic Justice, Clean Air Coalition, among others, to bring neighborhood-based solutions to conflicts at designated “Peace Hubs” throughout the city of Buffalo; train residents as “Emerging Leaders to take on leadership roles in community, nonprofit, and government sectors; create an Innovation Lab to generate new ideas, do original research, draw more effectively on local and national best practices, share information more broadly, and draft new laws and policies; and to mobilize arts groups to aid in Mobile Democracy and Emerging Leaders projects, to contribute creativity to issue-based work, and to change the stories Buffalo tells itself and the world.
Hart has served as a board member for the Western New York Area Labor Federation, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and as President for the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (Buffalo Chapter). In her free time, Hart volunteers with the Buffalo Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where she is the chair of the social action committee and numerous other efforts to create pathways to college for African-American youth across Western New York.