Niagara Gazette — Civic leaders from across the Niagara region gathered Friday at Niagara Falls City Hall to participate in a nationwide event aimed at raising awareness on issues of racism.
Speakers touched on issues that continue to persist 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, but also highlighted instances of racial unity that help to make Niagara a better place.
Niagara Falls City Administrator Donna Owens read lyrics from the Curtis Mayfield song "To Be Invisible" when addressing the crowd, acknowledging challenges she has faced as an African American woman.
"As we stand together, not just to have a voice, but to have our voice heard, we need to look at ourselves individually where we can make that difference daily in how we interact with one another and embrace cultural differences," Owens said.
Owens said people need to continue to fight to make racism a thing of the past.
"We can do that in our own individual lives as well as doing it collectively," Owens said.
The city has participated in the event, organized by the YWCA, every year since 2008, one year after the event was founded in Princeton, N.J.
U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo and Niagara Falls, recounted the passage of the Civil Rights act in his address to the crowd.
"The anniversary, 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, is not a reminder of how far we've come, but also a reminder of how far we have to go," Higgins said.
Higgins had the opportunity to mark the anniversary of the freedom march that saw Congressman John Lewis end up with a fractured skull. Higgins said he joined Lewis on a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Lewis and many others were beaten by police in March of 1965.
Higgins said that America has demonstrated a "tradition of tolerance," but the country still has many issues it needs to confront.