<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>


By Bill Bradberry

In the not-too-distant future we will look back on this week as the week that it all started. It will be remembered as the week when it all came together. The outrageously obvious started making sense as a way to make big dollars and a big difference at the same time. This will be the week that was.

Sovereign Immunity
Racial Discrimination
Fran Scarfone
District Swinging
Hanchette: Mt. Views
Staba: Citycide
Bradberry: Menagerie

After years of raking up one disastrous mistake after another, building piles of failed projects, and driving just about the whole community into clinical depression, the one single most obvious answer to the question we have been trying to answer ever since the bottom dropped out of our once-prosperous local economy was sitting right there in front of us all this time, but we were looking for luck in all the wrong places.

Some people kept pointing to it, but their simple plans were no match for the overpriced, grandiose, super-slick multi-media presentations the out-of-towners kept dazzling us with, hypnotizing our people with their sultry promises of riches and everlasting fountains of wealth. We were so naive, so gullible and greedy, we could not see it, no matter how many of our own neighbors kept telling us, "It's all right here."

Turns out they were right. The answer actually is hidden in plain sight, right under our noses. It's been here all this time.

It actually started when two men from two different worlds began a process several years ago that would lead them to this place this week. One man had made the decision to accept the presidency of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., the other took on the challenge of becoming the Director of Multicultural and International Student Affairs (MISA) at Niagara University.

They did not know at the time that their divergent paths would cross, but they did, and the rest will become history.

One man established himself as a tireless advocate for change. He dug in his heels and learned very quickly where all the bones were buried around here. There are a lot of them. Like his counterpart, he had a vision and, more importantly, a plan. He figured if he could somehow get the right people to sit down together in one room for just a little while, long enough to realize they have a lot more in common than not, something wonderful could happen. He was right!

The other man had a similar idea and approach. His center of operations, long isolated from the rest of the city, had a new president who wanted to change that by getting the university into the community, to work with the people in a practical, productive way. They did, and it is working.

Now, this week, the first man, David Rosenwasser, brought in people from all over the area, from both sides of the border, to listen to each other, to rediscover themselves and their common interests. He gathered the elected officials, the leadership of the convention and tourism industry, the Parks and Recreation representatives, historical societies, arts councils, and a virtual Who's Who of the movers and shakers who could make things happen here.

On the other side of town this weekend, the other man, David Blackburn, will be bringing together another set of players to the table. He will be launching the Fifth Annual Freedom Trail Festival at the foot of Main Street in Niagara Falls.

The Freedom Trail Festival, born from a collaborative effort between Niagara Falls' Main Street Business and Professional Association and Niagara University's Office of Multicultural and International Student Affairs, is a celebration of Niagara's role in the Underground Railroad.ĘThe festival takes place the third Saturday in September (Sept. 18 this year) on Main Street, between Ontario and Niagara avenues. Like David Rosenwasser, President and CEO of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., David Blackburn is working to promote awareness of Niagara Falls' incredible treasure trove of rich cultural history.

They both realize and understand that this city's future is tied directly to our historic multicultural and bi-national heritage.

Rosenwasser wants something specific to come of his work. His meeting at the Conference Center Monday afternoon was intended to be an information-sharing session for those people on both sides of the Niagara River who are presently involved in heritage-related development activity. The purpose of the meeting was to share information on heritage planning and tourism initiatives in the Niagara Region and Niagara and Erie counties and to explore potential partnership opportunities in order to benefit our communities.

One interesting outgrowth of the two men's initiatives is serious talk now about the possibility of renaming one of the international bridges after Harriet Tubman. So designating the Rainbow Bridge would go a long way toward establishing the cities of Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario, as serious players in the fresh move toward self-discovery as well as self-sufficiency.

As the rest of the country is rapidly learning, there is big money in the heritage tourism industry, and Niagara Falls can use every penny we can earn.

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 Sept. 14 2004