Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 28, 2013

HAMILTON: Lora Allen -- from human rights to elections commissioner

Niagara Gazette — In the early ’80s, Lora Allen and I served together on long-term Chairman Albert Rice’s Niagara Falls Human Rights Commission. Now, after all of those years, Allen has become Niagara County’s first black elections commissioner in a county that is only 7 percent black. It is something in which all Niagara County citizens should take pride.

Pride — not just because Allen has worked hard and has endured the difficulties that most people who become the ‘first of anything’ must endure. It is not just because it had to have been difficult in doing so as a black woman. But, especially because it was a unanimous decision by a 15-member county Legislature that is 93 percent white, representing the various parts of the county. That, in a sense, means that virtually all Niagara County residents supported Allen’s ascension from deputy commissioner to the top spot.

What is the significance of the event, especially during Black History Month?

Well, for those who say that Allen’s promotion should mean no more than those of Lucille Britt, Judy Cirifalco, Nancy Smith and Mary Ann Casamento, the other female elections commissioners, then surprise, I agree with you — there should not be. In fact, there should not be for any commissioner, based upon gender or race, and I’ll be one of the happiest people you’ll know, when that day comes.

But, despite the progress that African Americans, and all-Americans, have made in tearing down the bastions of bigotry and razing the roofs of racism that hides the dark hearts of people of all colors, not all bastions have been broken, not all roofs have been razed and that day has certainly not come.

If you now feel the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, then you’re probably not there yet, either.

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