Going All in on Random Acts of Kindness With the Peace Dots Project

How an artist and activist is helping change the narrative surrounding Buffalo

With the advent of the internet, and later, social media, we saw the birth of a new kind of cultural phenomenon: virality. And while content that goes viral is usually a mix of cat videos, choreographed dances, and funny moments, the masses have also shown an appetite for more wholesome content in the form of random acts of kindness

From handing over a homerun ball to a young fan to paying for a stranger’s drive-thru order, these small, thoughtful gestures regularly take over local news and social media feeds, inspiring others to do good. One Buffalo artist is trying to take that potential for inspiration and amplify it.

When Saira Siddiqui felt that Buffalo’s reputation as “the City of Good Neighbors” was being overshadowed by the very real issues of poverty, segregation, and gun violence, she set out to change the narrative. The resulting Peace Dots Project is a community-led interactive map designed to emphasize the good and highlight random acts of kindness that take place around the city.

In collaboration with Stitch Buffalo, Siddiqui erected a simple piece of plywood on Niagara Street. The board was blank save for a map and a note inviting passersby to place a dot at the site of an act of kindness or thoughtfulness they’ve experienced. In this way, the Siddiqui and members of the surrounding community are able to flip the idea of crime dots by highlighting community goodwill and the collective impact individual acts can have through “peace dots.”

The relationship with Rich’s was a key factor in that process, as Stitch rents their space from them for just $10 a year. In turn, the organization is able to give community artists and activists the platform they need to be heard and make a difference.

“I have noticed that people think about art and community development through a different lens after engaging with this project. I can’t thank Rich’s enough for being a supportive community partner! It’s been such a pleasure to work with the Rich’s team and Stitch Buffalo. I’m looking forward to many collaborations ahead.”
—Saira Siddiqqui, Artist, Activist, and Peace Dots Creator

By participating in the public art project, community members are challenged to help define their neighborhood’s narrative through a simple question, How do we identify ourselves as a community?”

While practicing random acts of kindness isn’t a new philosophy, the social movement around it is largely attributed to Anne Herbert who, at a restaurant in 1982, wrote the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat. Today, more than ever, these are small ways to make a big difference by creating warm feelings and connecting strangers—something Siddiqui has full faith in to change perceptions of Buffalo while uplifting the community.