Skip to Main Content

MBK Freedom Collage

Tuesday, February 5, 2019Sunday, February 24, 2019

MBK Freedom Collage

Education Exhibition Hallway

In a creative learning expedition designed to honor Western New York’s unique Underground Railroad heritage and to coincide with the 2019 Black History Month theme “Black Migrations,” more than 100 seventh- and eighth-grade scholars from Buffalo Public Schools’ My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) program, working in collaboration with their teachers, created the original and symbolic MBK Freedom Collage. To inspire their work, they met with local history experts and completed on-location research during fieldwork expeditions to Buffalo’s Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor and the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center.

The MBK Freedom Collage reinforces the value of gaining deeper knowledge regarding Western New York’s Underground Railroad heritage while adding another layer of creative experiences to the portfolios of the young men in the My Brother’s Keeper program. It also provides a personalized gift to honor our local Black History and Underground Railroad heritage while reflecting MBK’s goal of community service and outreach.

The project was designed and led by BPS and MBK curriculum designer and instructor Jason M. Hall under the direction of Dr. Fatima Morrell, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. All faculty and scholars of My Brother’s Keeper would like to sincerely thank all visitors who take the time to view the MBK Freedom Collage and interact with our exhibit.

Students from Buffalo Public Schools' My Brother's Keeper program working on their MBK Freedom Collage

What do the different elements of the MBK Freedom Collage symbolize?

Burlap – A common material used for the storage and shipping of goods on the triangular trade routes, burlap was also used innovatively by slaves to make clothing and a variety of other items.

Scraps of cloth – The red, yellow, green, and black scraps of cloth represent the traditional colors of Africa, the Freedom Seekers’ homeland. The jean and colorless scraps represent the few types of materials given to those who were enslaved to make their own clothing. In joining these scraps of clothing, we represent the origin and eventual return of the vibrant color patterns of the Freedom Seekers and their ancestors. The colored cloth also honors the vibrant work of one of our project inspirations, Gullah artist Diane Britton Dunham.

Drift wood – The drift wood was collected on the rocky shores of Lake Erie, near the Peace Bridge and Broderick Park, in the exact location where Freedom Seekers crossed the swift paced Niagara River into Canada. This wood is soaked with the same water that soaked the Freedom Seekers as they made their way across the border.

Broken chain link – We incorporated a broken chain link to honor and symbolize the Freedom Seekers who began their journey to freedom the exact moment they broke free from their chains. With this chain link, we also honor the Tula Monument of Curacao, the Path to Freedom sculpture in Facer Park in Sandusky, Ohio, and the Emancipation Statue in Barbados, all of which we studied for inspiration and as they incorporate chains or broken chains in their symbolic tributes to Freedom Seekers.

Hand print – We pressed a hand print to allow our students to imagine themselves as a Freedom Seeker, pushing up on the muddy ground below, using any strength they had left to continue their courageous journey to freedom in Canada.

Creek stones – The stones seen at the bottom of our exhibit were taken, with permission, from a creek in Allegany County, New York. It was one of the creeks on which, according to a local Seneca historian, Freedom Seekers traveled on the last segment of their journey to Canada.

In what ways might Albright-Knox visitors of all ages add to the MBK Freedom Collage?

Join us in honoring Freedom Seekers who once walked on the same ground on which you stand today. To do so, please complete one, a few, or all the following options:

  1. Choose one scrap of cloth. Take one safety pin. Attach the scrap of cloth to any area you wish
  2. Choose a piece of driftwood. Cut a piece of string. Tightly tie the driftwood to any area you wish.
  3. Choose a chain link. Attach the chain link to any area you choose.
  4. Choose a Sharpie marker. Find a blank space on the collage or on a piece of driftwood. Write a one-two word expression describing your personal notion of freedom.