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Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, Buffalo History Museum present 'The Underground Railroad: Then & Now'


Mon, Oct 8th 2018 02:05 pm
The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center and the Buffalo History Museum will present "The Underground Railroad: Then & Now" at 6 p.m. Wed., Oct. 10, at the latter and then at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at the former. The event is free to attend.
"The Underground Railroad: Then and Now" is a conversation about Western New York's history as one of the most important sites on the Underground Railroad, and its current role in contemporary refugee resettlement programs. Speakers include Saladin Allah, a descendant of freedom seeker Josiah Henson and a visitor experience specialist at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center; Rwandan refugee and Karibu News founder Rubens Mukunzi; and a local refugee aid organization. Inspired by a March 13, 2017, "Letter from Buffalo" in the New Yorker Magazine, "The Underground Railroad for Refugees," this program will feature the stories of historical and contemporary freedom seekers who have moved through or settled in Western New York.
Event organizers said, "The Buffalo History Museum and the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center are committed to helping our community understand the ways in which history remains relevant today. We believe a holistic understanding of the past that includes previously marginalized narratives is crucial to maintaining a society in which every individual has the ability to live in freedom, prosperity and security. To that end, the program will go beyond linking past to present - it will provide resources to turn that memory to action in the context of the current refugee crisis.
Allah said, "It's important to connect the stories of freedom seekers like my ancestor Josiah Henson to the stories of refugees, immigrants and others who seek freedom today. There is much we can learn from those who have overcome these obstacles. I am proud to share my ancestor's story alongside the story of Rubens Mukunzi - an inspiration today."
Mukunzi was born in Rwanda in Central Africa. For 15 years, he was a journalist and popular radio presenter, where he fought to inspire change after the Rwandan genocide in 1994. He founded the OASIS Gazette, a newspaper dedicated to education and distributed in high schools and universities around Rwanda. After a period of intimidation and harassment by government officials, Mukunzi fled to the United States as a refugee. He spent two years working small jobs and doing language interpretation, and realized language was one of the biggest barriers that immigrants and refugees face in Buffalo.
In July 2015, he started the Karibu News, a multilingual, immigrant and refugee-focused newspaper that is distributed throughout Buffalo. Mukunzi and his entrepreneurial work have received awards from WEDI, Rich Products Corp., 43North, The New York African Studies Association, the National Federation for Just Communities Inc., and West Side Community Services.
Allah is the great-great-great grandson of Underground Railroad forerunner Henson and a visitor experience specialist at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. He is a region six representative of the Five Percenters in WNY/Southern Ontario and founder of the Atlantis School For Gifted Youngsters, A.S.I.A., A.S.I.A. TV, Atlantis Build Talk Radio and Quanaah Publishing. In 2017, Saladin was nominated for the 21st Century Scholarship award at the 2nd Annual BP Awards in Atlanta. Saladin is a commissioner for the Human Rights Commission in the City of Niagara Falls, a preschool teacher for the NFHA universal pre-K program, visitor experience specialist at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, Black Pioneers of Niagara Falls board member, senior program facilitator for the STYA Program, public speaker and celebrity consultant.
The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is a new, experiential museum that reveals authentic stories of Underground Railroad freedom seekers and abolitionists in Niagara Falls, and aims to inspire visitors to recognize modern injustices that stem from slavery and take action toward an equitable society.
Open since May, the permanent exhibition "One More River to Cross" features the rich stories of the Underground Railroad in Niagara Falls, the crucial role played by its location and geography, and the actions of its residents - particularly its African-American residents. The Heritage Center's immersive exhibits and cutting-edge interpretation affirmatively align with the principles of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, whose mission is to connect the past to modern social justice issues - "to turn memory to action."
The Buffalo History Museum has been Western New York's premier historical organization since 1862. It is self-described "keepers of the authentic stories that make our community unique. Our collections, exhibits and programs tell the stories of the people, events and movements that demonstrate Western New York's essential place in shaping American history."

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