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Celebrating & remembering the importance of MLK

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

While Martin Luther King Jr. has been dead since 1968, the effort continues to remember him and tell upcoming generations why he remains important.  WBFO's Mike Desmond was in Kleinhans Music Hall Sunday evening for the celebration. 

The Kleinhans stage was jammed with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the BPO Chorus and conductor Erin Freeman for the annual celebration of King's life.

This event this year year titled 'The Man, The Dream, The Legacy.'

Credit WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond
Celebrating MLK at Kleinhans.

This is a time when new generations who don't remember the Civil Rights leader are gradually supplanting those who heard him or saw him or marched with him. Event Director Bessie Patterson says her generation has to tell young people the lessons of history just as her generation was told about slavery.

"We have to learn our history. We have to be taught our history, through the book or through somebody to tell us that was here during that time. That's what we have to do with our young people, just insist that they learn it. Just like when I went to school, we had black history. We had it in books and things like that. But, now they don't have assists for that now so it's up to us to try to make sure that they learn that and know what Doctor King was all about," said Paterson.

Patterson said the lesson is the need for people to stand up for the right and not enough people are doing that. She reminds people the preacher was killed in Memphis while supporting garbage workers who were striking for a living wage.

Buffalo Common Council president Darius Pridgen attended Sunday night's celebration. Pridgen tells WBFO News the new generation has to learn what their parents and grandparents went through.

"They are far away from those days when from which there was segregated bathrooms and segregated counters at restaurants.  It's important that the recognize and understand the real sacrifice that has been made on their behalf," said Pridgen.

Buffalo Mayor Brown delivered the keynote speech. Brown said next generation has to be told what things were like before.

"We have to tell our children that Dr. King was part of a movement that changed life as we know it in this country," said Mayor Brown. 

Buffalo Schools Superintendent Pamela Brown said she occasionally tells young people of those old days, a time when she was forced to attend segregated schools in Mississippi before her family moved to California.  Brown said a celebration of Dr. King in City Honors School reminded young people of other people in other countries who don't have the same opportunities they do.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.