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City of Buffalo Press Releases

Posted on: January 21, 2020

Mayor Brown Hosts Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Ceremony at Buffalo City Hall

MLK Day 2020

Mayor Byron W. Brown capped a fun-filled weekend of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. activities by hosting the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration and Recognition Ceremony at Buffalo City Hall – in celebration of the 25th anniversary of MLK, Jr. Day of Service. This year’s theme was called: 20/20 Vision, The Dream Seen Clearly. At the event, Mayor Brown recognized a number of influential members of our community that has helped realize Dr. King’s dream.

“While nearly 52 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 we continue to foster an inclusive, equitable and diverse city of Buffalo, I am proud of our reputation as a welcoming 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.”

Mayor Brown’s remarks also focused on Monday’s decision by the Executive Committee of Section VI to reverse a plan to exclude students from the City of Buffalo from competing against their neighbors and friends.

He stated, “Today’s ceremony comes one day after we marked the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by uniting as a community (and Region) to right a wrong. I am pleased that the Executive Committee of Section VI listened with open hearts and minds to the concerns of our community…. and recognize the importance of inclusive and equitable interscholastic athletics. In reversing its decision to exclude students from the City of Buffalo from competing against their neighbors and friends, Section VI affirms that which we all know too well: our strength rests in our diversity.”

Following his remarks, Mayor Brown introduced today’s keynote speaker, University at Buffalo Associate Professor and Former Chair of the Department of African American Studies Lillian S. Williams, PHD. Dr. Williams graduated from Niagara Falls High School in Niagara Falls, New York and earned her B.A. degree in history from the State University of New York at Buffalo. After working as a high school history teacher for several years, Williams went to earn her M.A. degree in history and her Ph.D. degree in urban history, both from the State University of New York at Buffalo. While there, Williams founded the African American Historical Society of the Niagara Frontier.

Williams worked as an assistant professor in the department of history at Howard University, when she became a visiting professor in the department of American Studies at the University of Buffalo. She also taught as an assistant professor of women’s studies and Africana Studies at the State University of New York at Albany, where she also served as the director for the Institute for Research on Women. In 1990, Williams wrote an article called “And Still   I Rise: Black Women and Reform, Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940,” which was published in the Afro-Americans in New York Life and History Journal. Then, in 1996, she published a monograph entitled A Bridge to the Future: The History of Diversity in Girl Scouting. She released her first book, Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African American Community, Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940 in 1999.

In addition to becoming a Rockefeller Foundation Minority Scholars Fellow, Williams has received numerous awards, including the Nuala McCann Dresher Award, and the University at Albany “Bread and Roses” Award for Distinguished University Service. In 2000, Williams was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Niagara County Black Achievers. She was selected as a fellow for the National African American Women’s Leadership Group in 2001. Williams was also a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She served on the board of directors for Albany’s NAACP, and was a member of the New York State Historic Records Advisory Board. Williams also served on the education committee of the Buffalo Urban League and the editorial board of the Journal of African American History.

Following Dr. William’s remarks, Mayor Brown presented a series of awards to outstanding local individuals, who have demonstrated the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.


Demonstrates a willingness to understand different points of views and foster dialogue; makes efforts to implement change through leadership transitions; has offered innovative working leadership strategies in their communities





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





Encourages Buffalo residents build connections locally and throughout the country; represents marginalized Buffalo community and serves as an advocate, helps mobilize Buffalo residents toward a continued spirit of service





Understands the complexity of barriers and is committed to working towards racial equity; works to empower individual’s awareness of biases and prejudice; works to improve the quality of life of Buffalo residents by upholding the values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



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