Today, September 13, from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM and tomorrow, Saturday, September 14, from 2:00 PM -4:00 PM, Mrs. Lillion Batchelor and the Buffalo Quarters Historical Society will commemorate the Underground Railroad in a special event themed “Crossing to Freedom Together, Honoring Our Ancestors.” In years past, Mrs. Batchelor was known for staging re-enactments of African-Americans crossing the Niagara River to gain freedom in Canada. This weekend, the commemoration will also serve to re-dedicate Broderick Park in its newly built amphitheater and refurbished Riverwalk.
According to event director Mary E. Craig, “This event is not so much a ‘celebration’ as it is a sacred commemoration and a blessing of the renovated grounds. We will invoke the spirit of the ancestors as they courageously crossed the Niagara River to Freedom. We believe this spirit of fearlessness and a drive toward the future is needed in our community today, particularly for many of our misdirected youth who are disconnected to their past and seem to have no future.”
The program on Friday will feature African American Cultural Center Drummers, a Blessing of the Grounds by several faith leaders, as well as story-telling and singing of Negro Spirituals by the Underground Railroad Memorial Choir, led by Mrs. Bessie Patterson. On Saturday, September 14, the program will include a Call by the Daughters of Creative Sound, remarks by Mayor Byron W. Brown and Mrs. Batchelor, as well as creative historical presentations through storytelling and song. In addition, the planning committee will salute the efforts of the City of Buffalo to secure local and federal funding to make the Broderick Park improvements.
Additional support was provided by Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeeper, which is facilitating the Broderick Park Master Plan, and the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor. Karen Stanley Fleming, Chair of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission, Inc., said, “we are happy to partner with the Underground Railroad Commemorative Weekend Planning Committee by providing technical assistance in marketing and public relations. We are in the business of highlighting the contributions of African Americans to Buffalo and to the world, and certainly the historic Underground Railroad, led by iconic conductor Harriet Tubman, is a primary theme of African-American History in Buffalo. Fugitives from cruel slavemasters in southern states found refuge in safehouses along the Niagara River. Congregations like the Michigan Street Baptist Church, led by founding Pastor Davis, as well as abolitionists like William Wells Brown, supported the fugitives and aided their flight to freedom.”
Mrs. Lillion Batchelor
Mrs. Lillion Batchelor founded Buffalo Quarters Historical Society in 1995, to increase awareness of the significant role of Buffalo in the Underground Railroad movement. The Society has presented annual recreations of historical events through drama and music. Prior to tightened border security, this included a re-staging of the Niagara River crossing into Fort Erie, Ontario.
Mrs. Batchelor has worked to bring about a sense of hope, pride, and recognition to Western New York by presenting historical truths, honoring unsung heroes, expanding historical research, increasing international awareness of Buffalo’s role in the Underground Railroad, and sharing this rich history in drama, music, and literature. Check here for more information.
Buffalo Rising has been cheering for this “little park that could” for some time. Longtime Buffalo Rising readers know how bad conditions once were at Broderick Park, and not so long ago. In just the last few years, significant dollars have been committed to significant capital improvements.
This year, ground was broken for the first phase of those improvements, and let me tell you that if you haven’t been to the park this summer, the project is an utter transformation. An important element of the current round of improvements is the creation of the amphitheater area, which will be part of “programming” the park – holding events and activities to supplement the ongoing uses of fishing, walking, and biking.
Don’t miss your chance this weekend to be part of the re-launch of a renewed, re-mixed, and rediscovered Broderick Park!