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Naval Park monument will be latest to showcase 'thriving' African American cultural community

African American Veterans Monument
The monument's concrete cylinders represent the candles families would put in windows when their soldiers went off to war.

A monument to African Americans who fought in America's wars is coming to the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park. Erie County is paying part of the cost because history can be good for tourism.

County officials say the Naval Park is an important contributor to the tourism industry in this area, attracting thousands of outside visitors. The goal for the $1.6 million monument project is to start construction in March and dedicate the addition to the waterfront museum in July.

County legislator Howard Johnson said it means those African Americans who wore the uniform will not be forgotten.

"It's important because it sets the remembrance of those who served of African American descent, at the time of war," he said.

Johnson served in the Army National Guard for 10 years and said other members of his family served in wars.

"I had uncles that were both veterans, an uncle that fought in the Korean War, an uncle who served in the Vietnam War, as well," he said.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said it is another piece of the array of cultural attractions in Western New York, showing how African Americans are part of the national mosaic.

"We certainly have a number of sites in this region," Poloncarz said. "If you think about the Colored Musicians Club, the Michigan Street Baptist Church and the Nash House, and to have in the African American Veterans Memorial added to that will be just another feather in this region's cap, to show how this region played an important role in African American history, but more importantly, how we also honor those who served our country."

"It's a topic that we can highlight and celebrate a little bit more," said Erie County Legislature Chair April Baskin. "I think we have a thriving African American cultural and arts community, that really, really highlights all of the history and successes of African Americans and their contribution to cultural arts here in the City of Buffalo."

Niagara Falls has the Underground Railroad Heritage Center and Fort Erie was the site of the first meeting of the Niagara Movement, which became the NAACP.

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.
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