Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 28, 2013

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

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — It is not easy for someone to have to bear the cross of being the first, but it is necessary so that those who follow may not have to do so. Like all successes, it takes work and dedication; and Allen employed both of those virtues.

I remember both Allen’s and my first day on the Human Rights Commission. Rice looked to the right of the circle of tables and asked each new member to rise, to introduce our self and to tell the other members what we wanted to accomplish during of our term. Because I was sitting directly left of Rice, I was the last to rise.

During a virtuous one-minute stump speech, I said, “I want to work so hard on this mission that the day will come that we will no longer even need a human rights commission.”

The room remained surprisingly quiet, and I sat back down beside Rice. In a very fatherly way, he reached out and firmly squeezed my forearm, gently saying, “Brother Hamilton, we’re always going to need a human rights commission.”

Though my body and mind would work hard during my commission, by the time that Rice had released his grip, I knew that my heart was no longer in what some believed an unattainable mission, though I understood the sifting of his views through the filter of his southern experiences, for I have experienced the same, even here. I would have to find other ways to that end.

And there were other ways. My way to that virtuous end is writing about it. Allen found another one.

Rice died in 1998, God rest his soul. He did get to see former Comptroller H. Carl McCall become the first black New Yorker elected statewide; Arthur Ray, Sr., Bloneva Bond and Robert Bradley elected to the Niagara Falls Board of Education; and Joseph Profit, Cecil Perkins and Renae Kimble elected to the Niagara County Legislature – a body that would one day place Lora Allen as its Democratic Elections Commissioner.

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