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By Bill Bradberry

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Well, for what it's worth, it's Black History Month again, but this year might signal the start of something good, if not big, here in our beloved Niagara Falls on both sides of our international border.

As I have opined time and time again on these hallowed pages, there is far too much rich African-American and African-Canadian history in this international Niagara Frontier to keep ignoring the realities.

To begin with, we all need to realize that our history is what it is -- the good, the bad, as well as the ugly. Historians who'd rather leave out the ugly do us no favor, for it is true that "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it," in the often misquoted words of Santayana.

There are faint, hopeful signs that we indeed might be finally moving in the right direction. I learned a few days ago that our favorite son, state Sen. George Maziarz, together with Ted Salci, the new mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont., are presenting a joint proclamation to name Feb. 7, 2004, R. Nathaniel Dett Day in both countries.

Eva Nicklas, artistic director of the Lewiston Council on the Arts and director of the acclaimed play, "The Marble Orchard: Deeper in Dett," which will be presented on LCTV on Feb. 7 and 8, says, "Our dreams are coming true -- to have R. Nathaniel Dett a household name locally and beyond and to have his beautiful music recognized by so many more people excites me to no end."

Nicklas admits, "Both countries have bragging rights over Dett, but there is plenty of him and many, many others to celebrate."

Ontario celebrates Black History Month on a much larger scale than does New York at this time, but there are growing signs that we are all moving in a better direction, toward the truth, the whole truth.

The proclamation is a significant step in the right direction. It reads, in part:

"RESOLVED, That this Legislative Body pause in its deliberations to memorialize Governor George E. Pataki to proclaim February 7, 2004 as Nathaniel Dett Day in New York State." With those few solemn words, a new day has dawned on the Niagara Frontier on both sides of the border.

I had the honor and the privilege over the past few weeks to speak with state Sen. Byron Brown, a good friend, with Assemblywoman Francine Del Monte and with state Sen. Maziarz to implore them to make sure that New York will find as many ways as possible to discover, preserve and present the entire history of all of the people who have contributed to the growth and development of the Niagara Frontier.

Maziarz agreed to do all he could to make sure that our history, long ignored and nearly forgotten, will be an integral part of the planned Niagara Experience Center. Maziarz says he is very interested in the concept, and that he will do all he can to make sure that the center represents everybody.

The former head of the Niagara Falls Equal Opportunity Coalition, Bill Bradberry is Associate Editor of the Palm Beach Gazette, a black weekly newspaper in Florida. You may e-mail him at ghana1@bellsouth.net.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com February 3 2004