Organizers hope telephones will be ringing off the hook Friday afternoon in support of Buffalo’s African-American history.
Radio station 1080 WUFO-AM and the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission will partner to host a radiothon from noon to 3 p.m. Proceeds will go toward the upkeep of the corridor’s historic sites – the Michigan Street Baptist Church, the Buffalo Colored Musicians Club, the Nash House Museum and the Langston Hughes Institute.
It marks the commission’s first public fundraiser. But those involved say the radiothon is about much more than raising money.
“I’m hoping that it gives all of us greater recognition,” said George Arthur, president of the board of the Nash House Museum and a former Common Council president. “This is a very important corridor, and this will help open people’s eyes to what we have, which is a great jewel.”
Clifford Bell, chairman of the heritage corridor’s outreach committee, said the neighborhood deserves more attention. The corridor stretches from the First Shiloh Baptist Church at Swan and Pine streets north to the Bethel AME Church at Michigan Avenue and Ferry Street, but the heart is at Michigan and Broadway.
The Michigan Street Baptist Church was a stop on the Underground Railroad, while other sites were important in the anti-slavery and civil rights movements.
“There hasn’t been a focus on Buffalo,” said Bell, a former Common Council member. “The potential is beyond imaginable and we feel we must protect and encourage people to support these local historical places because we haven’t given them their proper due. You hear about Buffalo being the fourth-poorest city, Buffalo this, Buffalo that. But Buffalo has one of the greatest African-American histories in all of the world.”
Sheila Brown, general manager of WUFO, wants to promote that history.
The gospel and local news talk station, which has been serving Buffalo’s African-American community since 1961, moved from its home of more than four decades on LaSalle Avenue to 143 Broadway in November.
“There was a major opportunity when Sheila Brown started coming to our commission meetings,” said Karen Stanley Flemming, Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission chair. “She heard our purpose and she could see that funding was part of what we need and she offered to host the radiothon. She was determined to be a great neighbor and a major partner to the commission.”
“The plan is to bring more awareness to Michigan and Broadway since we have the microphone,” Brown said. “We want to make it a tourist attraction so they start off at the Nash House Museum, go around corner to the Michigan Street Baptist Church, up to the Langston Hughes Institute, then over to the Colored Musicians Club and stop and see us at the radio station.”
She, too, believes the heritage corridor has potential for growth.
“I’d like to see it like how it is in New York City in Harlem ... because we’re right in the hub of downtown Buffalo,” Brown said. “This should be a stop to learn history of African-Americans, buy different garments, hear singing, drumming, live music and poetry.”
Flemming said the commission has a goal of raising $5,000 in the three-hour window but also has a stretched target of $20,000.
Brown said pledges can be made at the station or by calling 834-1080. The radiothon will feature several community speakers, including Mayor Byron W. Brown, and different playlists of music in between.