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Western New York civil rights leader talks about 50th anniversary of Selma

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Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” When the marches were happening, NAACP Buffalo Branch President, Frank Mesiah, was active in civil rights in Buffalo.While he doesn’t discount the efforts of marchers in Selma half a century ago, he believes that the racism that existed then has lived on.

“That stuff didn’t disappear after some people marched across a bridge. The people who were acting that way – those people who are racially motivated – all they did was find different ways of getting to the point and exploring their racism,” Mesiah said.

Many cite the marches as a turning point in the civil rights movement, but Mesiah says the use of television was what made it defining moment for people across the country.

NAACP Buffalo Branch President Frank Mesiah

“They then saw black folks being killed, black folks being bitten by dogs, being beat up by police officers, and that had a strong effect on what happened in civil rights because the country could no longer hide behind the myth of freedom,” said Mesiah.

Mesiah says because of television the media was also able to share imagery of the civil rights movement with nations around the world during the cold war. He says this dispelling a portrayal of the U.S. as the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Mesiah says Ferguson, Missouri is a key example of the racism that still exists today. He says the key to the fight is to ensure people are registered to vote so that they have a say in who is elected to office.

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.