HAMILTON: Niagara Falls’ Underground Railroad Center is a Waste of Black Economic Capital

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By: Ken Hamilton

The official position of the Niagara Reporter has long been that the Underground Railroad Interpretation Center was a waste of money. I never agreed with their overall assumption; but I have come to believe that it has  at least become a waste of black economic capital.  Therefore, I have to ask, what in hell are you ‘black sheep’ doing?

Why do you allow the story of your history to be told by two white women at the city’s UGRRI Center at the Amtrak station?  As so many of my ‘bruthas’ and ‘sistas’ complain about our stations in life — being corralled into the pens of public projects and other low-income subsidized housing in the worst parts of town, draped behind the questionable images of the likes of Doris Jones and others — and led there by those Judas goats of public position that you have either elected by filling-in the black dots at the political polls, or by your overly-dressed black butts in the poorest of hand-me-down pews of too many churches; or by doing absolutely nothing more than using the tokens to ride the free merry-go-rounds that drop you off where you first got on.

 I don’t blame white women Ally Spongr and Chris Bacon for sumptuously dining from the fat of their economic table that you have prepared for them, and then they scrape the scraps from their porcelain plates onto the tin bowls on the floor from which you try to fill your bellies.  They can do it because YOU let them do it!

 But you wouldn’t know that, because most of you don’t even go there to see how your history is supposed to be presented – even though it is free to the locals – and see how it has been co-opted by and money made by those who look nothing like you! And you are fine with it as long as no one points it out – not even your local branch of the NAACP that you allowed to close your community center without a whimper.

 There’s a wall of pictures whereas many of them have nothing to do with the American Underground Railroad: a photo of Koreans in 1950 escaping across the bomb-ravaged rubbles of an iron bridge as the oncoming of Chinese troops are coming to capture or kill them on their way to their freedom – ironically – in the south of the Korean peninsula. I feel sorry for them, but if there’s a museum in Seoul South Korea that celebrates their struggle, I’d be damned if there are any images of Africans escaping north to Niagara for theirs. There are images of women struggles for the right to vote and having it even before blacks had cashed their aging checks that were written on the parchment of the 13th, 14th and 15th post-Civil War Amendments; and images of the struggles of the members of those fringe groups that celebrate an alternate form of lifestyles. Each has their place, but none has a place to water down the history of another.



 As a sailor, Christopher Columbus means a lot to me and my Italian friends, but I’d be damned if the Cristoforo Colombo Society have me to be a grand marshal in their parade – and I don’t blame them!

 Up until now, I have only highlighted the many flaws in those who were supposed to have been our so-called leaders – the group of 3 of the 6 ‘Ps in our peapod’ called preachers, politicians and public policymakers, who are supposed to be looking out for the other half of the group, the 3 -Ps in the peapod that I non-derisively called the “pimps, pushers and prostitutes.”  Though the latter group better understand the issues that they face, quite frankly, at times, I am having a hard time distinguishing between the two groups. Why does either allow this to happen?

 It all makes me wonder just who are those who are supposed to be Niagara Falls’ black people today?

 A nary-do-well, supposed black leader, in the supposed black community, approached me and said that I don’t ever write anything good about the black community. I have thanklessly written scores and scores of good things about the common black folk of our city’s neighborhoods and plan to write even more; but nothing much about him — and that was his problem.

 But why do I write negative things about the black community’s supposed leaders – especially leadership that is supposed to be Christian? Didn’t Paul write, “… for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” First to the Jew and then to the Gentile. To those most like yourself first (family, friends, etc.) and then to others.  And others write plenty about the failures of their so-called leaders already! 

 Now it comes time to chastise those who blindly follow — like sheep — their supposedly black leadership.

 A “community” isn’t defined by the color of people, it is defined by a way that people think about things – the religious community, scientific, medical, criminal, political, etc., all are communities. With a community being a way of common-thinking, especially by a group of people who all define themselves by the commonality of the color of their skins (skins that we cannot readily change), we then must begin to change the way that community thinks.

 Sadly, people like young Demetrius Nix will likely have more of an impact on what the future capitalization of the so-called black community becomes than those so-called black leaders of yesterday and today will have.

 And that’s a good thing.


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