Celebration of a Century of Ethnic History

On October 16 and 17, SUNY Buffalo State organized “A Celebration of a Century of Ethnic History: Contributions of Ethnic Communities to Buffalo & WNY” conference hosted by the Monroe Fordham Regional History Center aimed at reaching out to students, historians, and community members, showcasing the rich contributions of various ethnic groups to the history of this region.

The event began on Friday evening with a two-hour long round table focusing on the academic work of Dr. Monroe Fordham, an important figure in the development of local history research nationally, and other local African American historical projects taking part in the community. After this presentation, a dinner with multiple types of ethnic foods was served. The menu was put together by students in the college’s Hospitality Department under the supervision of Professor Don Schmitter. The keynote speaker following dinner was Carol Kammen, currently Thompkins County Historian and author of the book “On Doing Local History.” She provided those in attendance with an interesting talk about the historiography of local history in New York State, what it means to our contemporary culture and projects that we can do to continue preservation.

Saturday’s activities included five panels over two sessions, with 16 presenters, including a number of Buffalo State students, faculty and community activists, such as Karibu News’ owner Rubens Mukunzi. The keynote speaker for Saturday was Chaplain Abdul-Rasheed Muhammed who traveled from Washington, D.C. to take part in the conference. He was also born and raised in Buffalo, and attended Lafayette High School. Some of his career accomplishments include that he was selected as the first Muslim Chaplain in the Department of Defense and U.S. Army in 1994.

Other presentations included local ethnic institutions such as the Nash House, Native American Community Services, and the Black Rock Historical Society. The event also saw a number of presentations on problems that are faced by those conducting local history research in our region such as the preservation of historic buildings and church closings, which are crucial to the fabric of the region’s rich history.

The ultimate goal of the conference was to bring people together from various groups and create a dialog in which they could work together in the future. The Monroe Fordham Regional History Center also wanted to showcase its collections, and rekindle community interest in local history as the city of Buffalo sees a new era of development.

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