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Transforming History: How Buffalo’s Latest Exhibit is Rewriting African American Legacies

A compelling new exhibit has taken residence at The Buffalo History Museum, weaving a rich tapestry of the city’s soul through the stories and legacies of its most venerable African American community elders. Titled “Say Their Names: Honor Their Legacies,” this exhibition, curated by the Uncrowned Queens Institute, is a profound homage to the senior architects of Buffalo’s communal identity. Featuring evocative portraits, intimate biographies, and oral history interviews, the exhibit unfurls the narratives of 12 pivotal figures, previously unsung, who have molded the community’s fabric with their resilience, wisdom, and indelible contributions.

The Uncrowned Queens Institute, revered for its dedication to preserving the narratives of African American women and men nationwide, has partnered with the museum to spotlight these stories within the Penfold Portico, inviting visitors to a shared space of remembrance and reverence until April 14. This initiative follows the success of last year’s exhibit, now gracing the Central Library, expanding the dialogue around the contributions of Buffalo’s African American citizens.

A glimpse into the collaborative spirit behind this exhibition reveals a significant backing from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo’s Racial Equity Roundtable. A $25,000 grant not only catalyzed this year’s exhibit but also spearheads the development of a groundbreaking curriculum within the Buffalo Public School system. This educational endeavor, in collaboration with the Buffalo Schools’ Social Studies Department, aims to enrich students’ understanding of their local heritage through the lens of African-American pioneers.

The narrative threads of these community builders, captured and shared, challenge the invisibility often cast over the activism, achievements, and lived experiences of people of color. Dr. Barbara Seals Nevergold, co-founder of the Uncrowned Queens Institute, underscores the exhibition’s urgency in preserving these narratives against the threat of oblivion. “Their biographies bear witness to concerted activism challenging the inequity and injustices experienced by people of color as well as their contributions and achievements,” she reflects, highlighting the educational and inspirational potency of these histories. “Furthermore, they represent a group that offers significant, instructive, and inspiring stories that are in jeopardy of being lost.”

Enriching the exhibit is the artistry of photographer/videographer Yves-Richard Blanc, whose lens and insight have captured the essence of these elders, making their stories accessible beyond the museum’s walls through a digital archive on the Uncrowned Queens YouTube Channel and the Uncrowned Community Builders webpage.

As Buffalo prepares to welcome guests to a public reception on February 25, the exhibit not only honors the legacies of its subjects but also ignites a broader conversation on racial equity, historical recognition, and the power of storytelling in shaping our understanding of the past and inspiring the future.

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