Harper Bishop

Director of Equitable Development, Open Buffalo

Buffalo, NY

Prioritize Equity, Share Ownership  |  Advocacy, Community Economic Development, Worker Ownership

Harper mobilizes workers to achieve economic security through cooperative business ownership.

Harper Bishop has nearly a decade’s worth of experience in training grassroots leaders, advocating for progressive policies, and organizing for economic and social justice in his hometown, most recently as the Economic Climate and Justice Coordinator for Open Buffalo. In this position he has worked with residents of Buffalo’s Fruit Belt, a historically African-American/Black neighborhood, to establish the first community land trust in the region. He has also organized against gentrification and the displacement of communities of color, working class, and low-income folks at the city level. Bishop is a co-coordinator of the Crossroads Collective, a collaboration of 10 organizations working to build a just transition from an extractive to regenerative economy.

As the executive director of Buffalo First, a non-profit organization that supports local and independent businesses as a vehicle for social change, he helped to negotiate a statement of “High Road” principles (similar to those found in a community benefits agreement) between the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and the community for Buffalo’s historic waterfront. He also was one of the driving forces behind the passage of Benefit Corporation in the state of New York and he bid to bring the 2013 Business Alliance for a Local Living Economy to Buffalo. Bishop is a BALLE Local Economy Fellow for their work as a champion for Rust Belt localism.

As Legislative Assistant to Delaware District Council Member Michael J. LoCurto, Bishop joined with community-based organizations and Buffalo residents to successfully allocate and implement the first-ever participatory budgeting process in the city of Buffalo.

Bishop also helped to co-found Cooperation Buffalo. Cooperation Buffalo provides comprehensive worker cooperative development services. The goal is provide living-wage jobs, generate community wealth and cultivate leadership in Buffalo’s low-income communities.

In addition to this work, Bishop has spent the better half of their adult life fighting for LGBTQ rights. They have served on the board of the Pride Center of Western New York, co-founded Queers for Racial Justice, frequently speaks to and mentors LGBTQ youth in Buffalo and Western New York, and was a recipient of embraceWNY’s community service award in 2017.

Bishop is a proud trans man who wholeheartedly believes that none of us are free until we are all free. He lives with his wife on Buffalo’s West Side and couldn’t imagine not doing this work.

Impact

  • Board Member, New Economy Coalition
  • Championed significant alterations to the trajectory of redevelopment at Buffalo’s historic waterfront to favor locally owned businesses.
  • Advocated for the successful passage of Benefit Corporation legislation in New York State.
  • Facilitated transfer of over $100,000 in community assets into local credit unions and banks in a single day.
  • Successfully advocated for governmental accountability and transparency, a living wage for part-time and full-time workers, and other high-road economic development principles at the Webster Block.
  • Significantly altered the shopping habits of community members during the holiday season and year-round.
  • Sits on the Private Sector Council of One Region Forward, a cross-sector partnership of public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders in an initiative to increase coordination, collaboration, and sustainable growth across Western New York.

Media