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Restore Our Community Coalition Remembers the Female Advocates of the Movement

by Jennifer J. Parker – PR Consultant

ROCC Remembers the History and Honors the Early Leaders of the Campaign to Protect and Restore Humboldt Parkway

On Saturday, April 18, 2015, the Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC) will honor the ladies of the early movement to protect and restore the Humboldt Parkway neighborhoods. The decision to destroy one of America’s tree lined Olmsted parkways and replace it with an expressway was introduced over 60 years ago. This planning decision has resulted in decades of decay, an economically disconnected community and decline of a once vibrant, clean, green, and beautiful neighborhood.

Why ROCC Legacy Tea? Women History Month was the inspiration. The Committee reflected on the long journey to seek answers and social justice for the community destruction. The ROCC Committee wanted to begin a tradition of honoring the legacy of the female advocates of the movement during Women History Month.

“These ladies are the connection from our past to our future”, stated Karen Stanley-Fleming, the Executive Director of ROCC.

As spoken word artist Common and musical artist John Legend recited in their award winning song, Glory, “No one can win the war individually. It takes the wisdom of the elders and the young people’s energy.”

ROCC is now seeing this transition. The ROCC Committee includes leaders of the early ROCC movement and emerging leaders that have stepped up to take the baton to assist in building a reconnected community. Realizing that the vision is much larger than one group, ROCC has expanded the mission and reached out to other community environmental and social justice groups. Justin Booth, the Executive Director of GObike, explained the power of collaboration the best, “There is a need to build a coalition of coalitions.”

ROCC would like the dedicated community advocates to know that their work have not been forgotten.

“We remember the passion and work to restore the Olmsted vision of a vibrant, green community space and to remediate the devastation caused by the construction of Route 33. The new Buffalo should include a restored and reconnected community”, stated Stephanie Barber Geter, Chair of ROCC.

The 2015 Honorees include:

Ms. Alice A. Hill (deceased) worked as a residential tax assessor and real estate broker, becoming the first Black female in Buffalo of either trade. Mrs. Hill’s passion for community activism became a model for the present-day Hamlin Park Taxpayers’ Association.

Mrs. Willie Mae Johnson – Mrs. Johnson was born in a Louisiana family of eight children 92 years ago. A registered nurse and alumnus of the University at Buffalo, having earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, she worked at Women and Children’s Hospital and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Mrs. Johnson  has demonstrated  true  faith  in  her  community  by  speaking  out  on  such  issues  as  the devastation caused by the construction of the Kensington Expressway.

Mrs. Edna Gayles Kee – Ms. Kee is a Buffalo-born native and long term resident of the Hamlin Park Community. She has had major success as a distinguished professor at ECC, songwriter, composer and producer. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University at Buffalo.  Mrs. Kee is a true community servant leader, and brings the beauty of music to the movement.

Mrs. Mamie Kirkland, at age 106 is one of the longest-living residents of the Buffalo community.  Born in Mississippi, she has experienced many cultural changes throughout the 20th Century. When Mrs. Kirkland was only 6 years old her family escaped from their home in Mississippi fearing that her father would be lynched. Today, Mrs. Kirkland continues to exercise her rights by casting a vote every single year, cherishing the hard-won results of the civil rights movement.

Dr. Lydia T. Wright (deceased) became the first black member of Buffalo’s Board of Education, serving as a major advocate for the public school integration of the time. She was also the first Black female pediatrician, having studied medicine at Meharry College in Nashville, TN.  Among her key recognitions was the 2000 renaming of PS #89 as the Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence.

About Restore our Community Coalition (ROCC)

Restore Our Community Coalition is a group of citizens, organizations, businesses and institutions with a vision to remediate the devastation and civic injustice caused by the construction of the Kensington Expressway (NY Route 33).  We envision a beautiful, green parkway that will serve as a gateway connecting the historic Humboldt Parkway community to downtown and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.  At the same time, a green parkway and promenade will serve as a vibrant community gathering place that is an attraction within a neighborhood. Find out more about ROCC at www.roccbuffalo.org  or at https://www.facebook.com/bflorocc.

THE “I REMEMBER” CAMPAIGN:  Thousands of Buffalo residents remember Humboldt Parkway when it was beautiful.  Like Bidwell or Lincoln Parkway, it was once a tree lined avenue providing a refreshing respite from the busy city life.  Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as a primary component of America’s first Parkway system, Humboldt Parkway is also the only Olmsted masterpiece in America that was destroyed.  By supporting the “I Remember” campaign Buffalonians will elevate the issue until the dream of a green Humboldt Parkway is again a reality.



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