Celebrating MLK: The man and his movement

Apr 5, 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have completely understood. First church and then a march, with many wearing signs proclaiming, "I Am A Man."

George K. Arthur remembers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s last visit to Buffalo.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Katrina Hunley-Jarrett was in Antioch Baptist Church to remember the church in which the civil rights leader grew up, preached in, was buried in and some of his children preach today. King was killed 50 years ago, the day after his famed "Mountaintop" speech.

Former Common Council President and civic leader George K. Arthur remembered a more relaxed time, when a local group waited with King at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in November 1967 after a speech at Kleinhans Music Hall.

"They were targeting him, but hopefully, I think at that time for a few moments we changed the spirit," Arthur said, "because we wouldn't talk about the events of the day. We were talking about him and laughing and joking with him to try to make him feel at ease. Little did we know, at that time, that seven months later, he would have been assassinated."

Arthur said King was fascinated to hear about two pioneer black churches here that had gone to court in 1868 seeking to force integration of city schools. They lost, but in 1872, what is now School 32 became integrated.

Participants marched from Antioch Baptist Church to MLK Park.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Buffalo Urban League Executive Director Brenda McDuffie said the civil rights leader would have recognized the leadership of young people in the March for Our Lives, especially the young people she took to Washington, DC for the national march against gun violence.

"I was moved," McDuffie said, "because when I looked  back at the pictures and my knowledge and understanding of the Civil Rights Movement, it was in fact young people who took a stand and said, [pounding the podium] 'enough is enough.'"

Other speakers spoke of the similarities between today and 1968, of the religious connections and how much has changed or not changed.

Participants then marched to Buffalo's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park to observe a moment of silence at 6:01 p.m., when King was killed in Memphis by a sniper 50 years ago.