Buffalo, NY—Mayor Byron W. Brown announced his full support for establishing Buffalo’s “Black Lives Matter Way,” along Fillmore Avenue. He has directed Department of Public Works Commissioner Michael Finn to develop a plan to place the signage in an expedited manner so that residents can appreciate this historic moment as quickly as possible. On an average day, approximately 9,600 vehicles travel some portion of the 4.5 mile-long road which is located between Main and Smith Streets in the City of Buffalo and crosses portions of the Masten, Fillmore and Ellicott Council Districts. Because of that relatively high traffic volume, the “Black Lives Matter Way” signage will be one of the most visible set of street signs in the City of Buffalo.
Mayor Brown said, “As we re-examine the history of our nation through the lens of its impact on Black residents first as a result of slavery, then through the passage of segregationist Jim Crow laws, and now with recognition of the injustices that have been built into the criminal justice system; it is fitting that a street’s name honoring a prominent Buffalo figure changed in this way to reconcile his mixed legacy with our greater racial awareness. It is also appropriate that this street, which has played a vital role in the development and life of Buffalo’s Black community, be identified in a way that honors the contributions, struggles and impact Black residents have had on the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic life of our City.”
Mayor Brown extensively discussed this trailblazer signage initiative with Council President Darius Pridgen and Councilmember Ulysees Wingo prior to the adoption of this resolution. The Department of Public Works has begun to develop a plan that will enable them to quickly place the new signage along a length of Fillmore Avenue. The placement of new signage honoring the Black Lives Matter Movement is intended to draw attention to its goals while at the same time encouraging people to embrace its highest principles, be inspired to act in the best interests of the community, and highlight the need for a continuing dialogue in the community on matters of racial justice. Like every other public memorializing effort—from statues to street names—“Black Lives Matter Way” will become a part of our heritage that future generations can be educated and inspired by in their study of this critical moment in our local and national history.
“In response to the current and historical disparate treatment of African Americans, a nationwide movement has arisen that substantiates the assertion that Black Lives Matter,” said Council President Darius Pridgen. “My office was approached by a Buffalo Public School student who wanted to make an impact in the movement by merely painting ‘Black Lives Matter’ onto a city street. After speaking with 17-year old, Mekhi Edwards, I, along with community input, thought to do something more significant.”, Pridgen added. “This is a symbolic and historic moment in the is city’s history, to which we can designate an entire street, after a movement that reminds everyone of the continued work that needs to transpire.”
Councilmember Ulysees O. Wingo, Sr. said, “Black Lives Matter is not an attempt to engage in identity politics in order to advance an agenda or to appeal to any particular interest group. Black lives matter is a declarative statement that is resounding throughout this Nation, promulgating the fact that Black lives do matter and must matter- and anything in response to rebut this expression is to be considered the antithesis of equity and equality. ‘Black Lives Matter Way’ trailblazing signs on Fillmore Avenue will be a significant symbol of community as we all stand together in solidarity, serving as a constant reminder that we are united in the fight to save the soul of our great Nation from racism, bigotry, and hate.”
Councilmember Mitch Nowakowski said, “I am proud of the Council and grateful to the Administration for taking this important step to affirming that in the City of Buffalo, black lives do matter. This commemorative signage will remind us all that change is possible when elected leaders listen to, learn from, and collaborate with those at the forefront of social justice. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues to continue addressing systemic inequities through sensible policy proposals in the Council.”
Millard Fillmore rose from poverty to become a prominent Buffalo resident and later became the 13th President of the United States in 1850 following the death of President Zachary Taylor. Fillmore’s one term as President was widely seen as contributing to the collapse of the Whig Party because of his insistence that federal resources should be used to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, which was responsible for the forced relocation of thousands of Black residents to the South to become slaves. While Fillmore opposed slavery personally, his stance on the Act permanently tarnished his national public reputation and after failing to win re-election to the Presidency, he never held public office again.
Despite never holding an official public office again, Fillmore continued to be an active civic leader, noted philanthropist, and advocate for education in Buffalo. He served as the first president of the medical school that eventually became the University at Buffalo, founded the SPCA and was a critical supporter and patron of the Buffalo Historical Society. Fillmore died in 1874 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.