City of Buffalo Park Improvements highlighted through creative interpretation of Freedom Crossings
(Buffalo, New York) On Friday, September 13, 2013 from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM and Saturday, September 14, 2013 from 2:00 PM -4:00 PM, Mrs. Lillion Batchelor and Buffalo Quarters will commemorate the Underground Railroad in a special event themed “Crossing to Freedom Together, Honoring Our Ancestors.” In years past, Mrs. Batchelor was known for staging re-enactments of African-Americans crossing the Niagara River to gain freedom in Canada. This weekend, the commemoration will also serve to re-dedicate Broderick Park in its newly built amphitheatre and refurbished riverwalk.
Says event director Mary E. Craig, “This event is not so much a “celebration” as it is a sacred commemoration and a blessing of the renovated grounds. We will invoke the spirit of the ancestors as they courageously crossed the Niagara River to Freedom. We believe this spirit of fearlessness and a drive toward the future is needed in our community today, particularly for many of our mis-directed youth who are disconnected to their past and seem to have no future.”
The program on Friday, September 13 will feature African American Cultural Center Drummers, a Blessing of the Grounds by several faith leaders, as well as story-telling and singing of Negro Spirituals by the Underground Railroad Memorial Choir, led by Mrs. Bessie Patterson. On Saturday, September 14, the program will include a Call by the Daughters of Creative Sound, remarks by Mayor Byron W. Brown and Mrs. Batchelor as well as creative historical presentations through storytelling and song. In addition, the planning committee will salute the efforts of the City of Buffalo and the administration of Mayor Byron W. Brown and Department of Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak for securing local and federal funding to make the Broderick Park improvements. The planning committee, spearheaded by Ms. Mary E. Craig, was made up of local volunteers and they partnered with like-minded organizations.
Additional support was provided by Buffalo RiverKeeper, which, in partnership with the City of Buffalo, is facilitating the Broderick Park Master Plan which will both improve Niagara River shoreline as well as celebrate the international significance of the Underground Railroad. Says Karen Stanley Fleming, Chair, Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission, Inc., “We are happy to partner with the Underground Railroad Commemorative Weekend Planning Committee by providing technical assistance in marketing and public relations. We are in the business of highlighting the contributions of African Americans to Buffalo and to the world, and certainly the historic Underground Railroad, led by iconic conductor Harriet Tubman, is a primary theme of African-American History in Buffalo. Fugitives from cruel slavemasters in southern states found refuge in safehouses along the Niagara River. Congregations like the Michigan Street Baptist Church, led by Founding Pastor Davis, as well as abolitionists like William Wells Brown, supported the fugitives and aided their flight to freedom.”
About Buffalo Quarters
Mrs. Lillion Batchelor founded Buffalo Quarters Historical Society in 1995. Her purpose was to increase National and International awareness of the significant role of Buffalo in the Underground Railroad movement. The Society presents annual recreations of historical events through drama and music culminating in the Niagara River Crossing into Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada.
Mrs. Batchelor has worked to bring about a sense of hope, pride, and recognition to Western New York by presenting historical truths, honoring unsung heroes, expanding historical research, increasing international awareness of Buffalo’s role in the Underground Railroad, and sharing this rich history in drama, music, and literature. For more information, please visit www.undergroundrailroadatbroderickpark.org.
About the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission, Inc.
The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor serves as the focal point of residents’ and visitors’ experience for learning about Buffalo’s rich African American history. Although the heart of the corridor is at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Broadway, the Corridor extends along Michigan Avenue from Ferry Street on the North, past the Medical Campus, Broadway Street continuing to South Division Street; and the Corridor connects to points of interest all over the City of Buffalo, such as the Underground Railroad connection at Broderick Park, where courageous freedom seekers escaping from southern slave states crossed the Niagara River to freedom in Canada. For more information, please visit www.michiganstreetbuffalo.org.
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