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City of Buffalo Press Releases

Posted on: January 18, 2019

Mayor Brown Hosts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Ceremony

MLK awards2019

BUFFALO – Mayor Byron W. Brown and the Division of Citizen Services kicked off the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend celebrations by hosting the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration and Recognition Ceremony at Buffalo City Hall.

“While nearly 51 years have passed since Dr. King’s tragic death, it is more important than ever to pay tribute to his legacy,” said Mayor Brown. “As Mayor of this great and diverse city of Buffalo, I am proud of our reputation as a welcoming and equitable city that offers opportunity for all – a place where no one is left out or left behind. I thank today’s awardees for their continued hard work and dedication to Buffalo and elevating our community by following Dr. King’s message of peace, unity and service.”

Dr. Kush K. Bhardwaj, a distinguished educator, delivered today’s keynote address. Dr. Bhardwaj is the Assistant Director of Admissions at Medaille College. “Dr. B”, as he is affectionately called, is a three time winner of the Milton Plesur Distinguished Teaching Award (at University at Buffalo), was named the top African American Studies professor in the nation by the national student website [out of 8,000 in the national database], and delivered a TED talk (October 2016) titled, “Does African American Studies Matter?”

Mayor Brown presented a series of awards to outstanding local individuals.


Committed to sharing Buffalo’s spirit of service to a national audience; helps local residents build connections throughout the country, and represents Buffalo’s voice in the national dialogue on community service.


Democratic Assembly Member Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes has faithfully served New York State’s 141st Assembly District since 2003. An advocate with clear and principled service, she has always put policy before politics. Peoples-Stokes continues to fearlessly fight for diversity, specifically in making sure Minority and Women Owned Businesses have a fair chance to obtain state contracts.

Her hard work earned her a spot on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise Team Task Force, established in 2011. She also previously served as the Chair of the Assembly’s MWBE Task Force and currently as Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises. Peoples-Stokes was recently sworn in as the Majority Leader in the New York State Assembly.

A graduate of Buffalo Public Schools, Peoples-Stokes also earned a Master’s Degree in Student Personnel Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at SUNY Buffalo State. She attributes her achievements to her strong faith and family. She is a member of True Bethel Baptist Church and currently resides in Buffalo, New York with her husband.


Develops and promotes relationships across barriers of race, religion, gender, political affiliation, geography and socio-economic status; demonstrates a willingness to understand different points of views and foster dialogue; and makes efforts to deeply appreciate other cultures and ethnicities.


Glen Jackson is currently the Chief Diversity Officer at M&T Bank. He stepped into the role after serving as Chief Operating Officer and Senior Director of Programs of Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, a comprehensive school-based initiative led by M&T Bank to reverse the cycle of generational poverty on the East Side of Buffalo, N.Y. In this role, he oversaw the comprehensive development of a second Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Children’s Academy, set to open later this month.

A graduate of Harvard University, Jackson joined M&T in 1999 as a participant in the company’s Management Development Program. He held positions in the company’s Finance, Treasury and Retail divisions before joining Buffalo Promise Neighborhood in 2016. Committed to supporting the community, Jackson chairs the board of the National Federation for Just Communities, is chair-elect of Teach for America and is a board member of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and Project Play WNY.

Jackson resides in Lancaster, N.Y. with his wife, Amy, and two daughters.


Understands the complexity of barriers to racial equity; committed to working towards racial equity;

and works to empower.


Michael Martin is an Onondaga of the Beaver Clan from the Six Nations of the Grand River territory in Southern Ontario, but was born and raised in Buffalo. In February of 2004, he was named the Executive Director of Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties. He earned his BS in Economics from SUNY Buffalo State and MS in Accounting from Babson College. Martin is a board member of the Workforce Investment Board of Niagara County and the National Federation for Just Communities of WNY.

Prior to joining NACS, Martin had started his own company, XLerent Services, which focused on consulting, personal coaching and organizational development to help individuals and companies to excel, transform and perform. In his earlier career, he held senior financial and business management positions with such companies as AT&T, Lucent Technologies and Praxair. In 2013, he gave a TEDxBuffalo talk entitled: Creating a “Good Mind”: The Power of Giving Thanks. He is the proud father of his son, Dawit.


Offers time and talents to the greater Buffalo community; tackles difficult social problems such as poverty, equity and hunger; motivated by a desire to drive social change; and fosters a non-violent environment in engaging and including others.


Wilmer Olivencia is an individual who has made significant contributions to the Buffalo community, both professionally and personally. He oversees Mayor Byron W. Brown’s Impact Team, the Mayor’s Anti-Graffiti Team and the Mayor’s Board - Up Team. He also works very closely with the city of Buffalo’s Housing Inspectors, Buffalo

Police and Block Clubs. His teams work throughout the city of Buffalo and are known for doing an outstanding job.

In addition to his responsibilities at work, he is very active within his community. Olivencia volunteers his time as the President of the Agustin “Pucho” Olivencia Community Center. He is the Chairman of the Annual Grease Pole Festival, which is the Oldest Ethnic Festival celebrated in the city of Buffalo, and he is very active in maintaining the Hispanic Culture within Western NY, which is alive and well. He recently organized a Three Kings Day celebration at the Pucho Olivencia Community Center which serves over 350 people. He recently received a Community Leader Award by the National Federation for Just Communities of WNY for exemplifying the NFJC core mission of promoting goodwill, understanding, respect, and trust.


Michelle Barron is the Executive Director of Dress for Success Buffalo, a role she has served since 2016. Dress for Success, a global not-for-profit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, has helped nearly one million women work towards self - sufficiency. Dress for Success Buffalo launched in 2015 and currently collaborates with Mayor Byron W. Brown’s Summer Youth Employment and Internship Program, providing workshops to over 2,000 youth annually regarding the power of

creating their personal brand. To date, Dress for Success Buffalo has provided professional attire and resources to over 500 women in the City of Buffalo to assist them with re-entering the workforce. Additionally, DFS Buffalo has collaborative partnerships with Yahoo, Best Buy, HSBC Bank, Merrill Lynch, and Bank of America. Barron began her career in a City Economic Development Agency, where she managed a number of economic development programs that assisted small businesses and helped to revitalize commercial districts. She is the Founder of Women In the Spotlight Goinglobal (WITSGG), a digital networking empowerment community on Facebook for women created in 2010 with over 2600 members of women from across the country.


Buffalo resident Kendra Brim is the President of the Buffalo Urban League Young Professionals (BULYP). She graduated from Colgate University in 2011 where she played on the women’s basketball team. Since then, she has earned her MBA from the University at Buffalo - School of Management. BULYP was founded seven years ago as an affiliate of Buffalo Urban League. The group, which has 65 active members, is geared toward individuals, ages 21 to 40, and focuses on economic empowerment, civic and political engagement, education and community service. Brim joined BULYP in 2015. This year, under her leadership, the group put together Black Restaurant Weekend, which highlighted the region’s minority-owned restaurants. Next year, it will be extended to a weeklong event. The group also has a podcast titled “Empowerment Agenda” and runs an annual education conference in Buffalo. It hosts two to three events a month that run the gamut from health and wellness activities to financial literacy. Through BULYP, she plans to start a business mentoring program that connects members to local business people and wants to increase membership to 80. Brim also is honing in on the gap that persists when it comes to access – funding and otherwise – for minority and disadvantaged populations.

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