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March to focus on racial inequality in region

Charley Fisher

Organizers are hoping a unique event will thrust a spotlight on the need for racial equality.

A rally, march and motorcade will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday to honor famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the date of her death. Tubman was an escaped slave who helped other slaves reach freedom in Canada through the Underground Railroad.

Activists will gather at the intersection of Main Street and East Utica. They will proceed to the Frank E. Merriweather, Jr. Library on Jefferson Avenue. Participants are being encouraged to dress in pre-Civil War-period clothing, or red, black or green colors to signal liberation. Organizers are also asking people to bring African drums, flags, posters and banners.

The event, which is being held on Harriet Tubman Day, aims to highlight racial inequality and the need to increase employment opportunities for minorities, said long-time activist Charley Fisher, who is president of B.U.I.L.D. of Buffalo. He said disparities have been well-documented.

“One report (released) yesterday said that Buffalo ranks, with the dubious distinction, fourth in the country in disparity of income between black and white (residents),” Fisher told WBFO.

He said the implementation of a plan to hire more minorities in building trade jobs through apprenticeship programs would be a major step in the right direction.

“The inequality has to be done first with jobs and income. And then there are many other areas that we have to work on,” he said. “But our first and beginning is more black and brown people participating in Buffalo’s workforce to bring our unemployment rate down.”

Fisher claimed state labor officials have been “lax” in enforcing equal opportunities at the apprenticeship level.  A graduate from one of the region’s vocational schools, Fisher said, should be able to sign up for an apprenticeship job.

“One of the things that’s not happening is connecting our resources. Our apprenticeship program should be monitored by the New York State Department of Labor, but there is only one person in the Buffalo office now. That’s unacceptable.”

But Fisher added that even with glaring problems, he remains optimistic, insisting that “Buffalo is better than this.”

“Buffalo is on the move, and for Buffalo to be fully on the move, it’s got to engage all of its citizens,” he concluded.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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