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Mural of Civil Rights Icon John Lewis unveiled in Buffalo

John Lewis Mural 1
Thomas O'Neil-White
A mural of Civil Rights Activist John Lewis now adorns the side of the Matt Urban Hope Center in Buffalo.

A mural depicting Lewis was unveiled on the side of the Matt Urban Hope Center in Buffalo’s Fillmore District.

But the mural isn’t Lewis’ only connection to the city.

John Lewis Mural 2
Thomas O'Neil-White
Edreys Wajed (center) stands with (from L to R) Fillmore District Councilman Mitch Nowakowski, Congressman Brian Higgins, Matt Urban Hope Center Executive Director Ben Hilligas and Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson

It was a trip to Buffalo as child, said Lewis’ former colleague and friend Rep. Brian Higgins, which had a life-altering effect on him.

“John said he came to Buffalo and he saw black men and white men working together,” Higgins said. “In the flour mills, he saw black men and white men working together. At the steel mills. He played with white kids in what is now MLK Park. And in his biography he wrote that it was in the summer of 1951, at the age of 11 years old, that John would experience in Buffalo, inspired him to dedicate his life to desegregation. And he believed the desegregation of the South was possible based on what he saw in Buffalo, New York.”

He said Lewis’ legacy and the ideals he stood for are ideal building blocks to improve the community and region.

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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