By Cam Lareva, News Contributor
The Canisius ALANA center hosted Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown II on Wednesday for an event that celebrated the legacy and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The event was part of the Soup and Substance series; events that aim to provide a space at Canisius for students and staff to engage in productive discussion.
The event was opened with a prayer by Mike Hayes, Director of Campus Ministry, and a performance by Sydnie Perkins, alumna and Assistant Director of Communication, Virtual Engagement, and Data of the Alumni Engagement Office.
Morgan Morris, a current Canisius junior, introduced Mayor Brown and Sandy E. White, the moderator of the event. White is a distinguished alumni who is an award winning journalist, founding member of the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists, and owner of Mustard Seed World Consulting Group.
She asked Mayor Brown a series of questions regarding current Buffalo initiatives he’s leading, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s impact on Brown’s life, and his role in the civil rights initiatives in Buffalo. Following White’s questions for Brown, the audience was allowed to ask their own questions.
Mayor Brown spoke of how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. impacted his life since his childhood. His parents taught him about King‘s mission and work.
“He fought bias, bigotry, and discrimination. He wanted to bring people in this country together, and he wanted to bring them together so that race would no longer be an issue,” Brown said. “It wouldn’t be something that separated people, it wouldn’t be something that divided people, and that it would not be a barrier to people.”
Brown expressed the difficulties present today because of systematic racism, saying, “I will honestly say that there are still barriers every single day. One of the things that my parents taught us when I was growing up is that, as a person of color sometimes you have to work twice as hard, and be twice as good to be able to achieve things, because of the pressure of discrimination.”
Brown was elected in 2006, and was the first African American to be elected mayor of Buffalo. He is currently serving in his fourth term as mayor. Brown has helped to introduce over seven billion dollars in new economic development into the City of Buffalo.
He also instituted a diversity program for city workers, with the goal of promoting discussion and discovery of the power of diversity. The program has already been deployed within the Buffalo fire department, as it is one of largest city departments. It will eventually extend to all of the city government departments. The city of Buffalo has hired the most diverse workforce in the history of city government under Brown’s mayorship.
Brown also acknowledges King’s work as the reason he is able to serve as a politician, saying, “Without the work of Dr. King, it would not be possible for me to be in the position as mayor of Buffalo.”