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Billboards honor local residents for community contributions

Waverly Colville

Imagine sauntering down Niagara Street not far from City Hall and spotting your face smiling down from a giant billboard.

That's what recently happened to  Lorna Hill, the founder and artistic director of the Ujima Company. Her

professional theater teaches aspiring artists and performs educational plays celebrating African Americans.

Hill was surprised when she arrived at Niagara and West Mohawk streets to find her image prominently displayed on a billboard.  She is among people who are being honored for their local contributions by an initiative called the 100% Campaign. The display brands Hill as a "movement builder."

After Hill recovered from the initial surprise, she told WBFO she hopes the billboard initiative will continue to spread positive messages.

“Buffalo has tremendous potential,” Hill said. “There’s so much here and somehow we’re not mining these precious things so I’m hoping that something like this sign, because I’m a Buffalo booster, will be some encouragement. We’ve got it all going on. There’s not a single problem we can’t solve.”

At Ujima Co., professional actors work with beginning performers. Hill said the children she works with aren’t just getting an acting lesson. Hill hopes that they take the lessons from the plays and apply them to their lives.

Credit Waverly Colville

“You can teach kids how to be free, you can teach kids that loving is safe, you can teach kids what is in these systems that oppress them and try to encourage them to demand redress.”

Hill said she sees people's lives and self-images improve through Ujima.

“I do what I do because at the end of the day with all of my faults, I’m trying to live a life of conditional love for my fellow man,” Hill said. “Period, the end, it’s no deeper than that. And whatever I can participate in that contributes to love and peace and with a little luck some happiness, then I’m just going to do that.”

The 100% Campaign, which promotes renewable and affordable energy, honored two other local residents who spread positivity to the local area. High school student and Somali refugee Khadijah Hussein is improving health and wellness in Buffalo Public Schools. Aweso Lafayette mentors city children through the Grant Street Neighborhood Center.