The roots of African American Heritage run deep in Western New York.
The history here is rich, vibrant and alive. It can be found in the bold swing of pulsating music at the historic Colored Musicians Club where big bands jam the night away in the very spot where legends like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington once played. It’s also in the holy syncopated tambourine flying through the air at the historic Michigan Street Baptist Church.
You can find branches of this rich heritage blossoming in the most interesting places; on stage at the Paul Robeson and Ujima theaters, and in finger snapping poetry slams in warm and friendly local coffee shops. Under the beautiful tree branches in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park you can hear local storytellers pass on cultural heritage using the ‘griot’ oral tradition and during Kwanzaa festival celebrations in winter, the national Kwanzaa founder travels to our region.
Go back in time as you enter the Nash House Museum where you can see 20th century historical memorabilia and walk into the home of our region’s prolific religious leader, the Rev. J. Edward Nash.
If you are open to it you might also want to join the drummers at the African Culture Center where youthful dancers joyfully leap in celebration of culture and tradition. It is certainly on my bucket list this year! By far the most amazing example of the local African American community experience is sitting along the Juneteenth Festival parade route- kicking off the nation’s largest Juneteenth festival. The joy and celebration is contagious.
Breaking bread is another way to experience Buffalo’s African American culture; it can be the most delicious journey as you partake mouthwatering soul food dishes. After a bite of buttery cornbread the flavors take me home to my grandmother’s kitchen where cooking and traditions merged. The African American experience has a strong culinary tradition that was passed down from the continent of Africa and the Antebellum South.
Delicious, homemade dishes and desserts like baked sweet potato pie and coconut cakes make your mouth water in a neighborhood establishment like and Mattie’s. So, join us at the family table and local celebrations and experience what makes Western New York an incredible place to live and celebrate our roots!
— Sandy White