Two state lawmakers, one from each house of the Legislature, are announcing funding that brings a long-desired memorial closer to reality on Buffalo's waterfront.
Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes and State Senator Chris Jacobs appeared Tuesday morning at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park to announce combined funds totalling $800,000 have been set for the construction of the African-American Veterans Memorial, which will be located in the park.
It would also be the first such monument in the nation, project leaders and elected officials said, to specifically honor African-Americans who served for the United States. The memorial, when finished, will feature 12 black pillars, each representing separate conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War.
Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who secured $600,000 from her legislative house, says many do not know African-Americans fought in the Revolution. She also noted that many don't know that Harriet Tubman, best known for her role in the Underground Railroad movement, was also a Civil War veteran.
"We think that once this monument is established, and it's a beautiful thing, people will come not just from Buffalo and Western New York but from all over the world, to honor the fact that veterans should be heralded at all costs," she said.
Jacobs, who was able to get $200,000 from the State Senate, says African-Americans continue to answer the nation's call but fully appreciating their past service is overdue.
"For too long, our history has not adequately captured their contribution and shared the stories and their sacrifices," he said. "That will change with the construction of this first-in-the-nation monument dedicated to African-American veterans who have served in every conflict in our history."
The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.4 million. The project was first conceived in 2014 and those leading it were hoping that ground would be broken by now and the monument finished in time for Veterans Day 2018. Now it's anticipated the groundbreaking will be held on November 11 and completion will be realized some time in the first half of 2019.
"Last year we had bid ideas. We thought we could do this thing within a year," said Warren Galloway, an Air Force veteran and chairman of the memorial project. We were working hard but when reality strikes, you've got to set back and accept reality."
But now, Galloway says, the funding is finally coming forward, not only from the government but also from private donors. Among the fundraisers conducted to earn more dollars is the sale of special bricks. For $250 per brick, donors have the opportunity to have the name of an African-American veteran engraved on each brick, which will then be laid down as part of the memorial.