BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A new mural in the heart of Buffalo’s East Side is resonating with the people who live there. This new public work of art honors the civil rights leader, late Congressman John Lewis.
“When people see this, I want them to feel hope. I want them to feel a sense of responsibility, and I want them to feel a sense of duty,” said mural artist Edreys Wajed.
Across from the Central Terminal, artist Edreys Wajed wants his vision of Representative John Lewis to inspire.
“I hope that when people see this that they are called to action. Before being called to action, I hope they’re called to sit and do a self-reflection as well,” Wajed said.
The unveiling of this new mural on the Matt Urban Hope Center comes one year after the late congressman’s passing. The illustration is a younger version of the civil rights leader though, showcasing a version of lewis when he was still finding his sense of purpose.
Congressman Brian Higgins, who worked alongside Lewis for years, says Lewis discovered his earliest purpose at just 11-years-old when he moved to Buffalo and saw Black and white people working together.
“He played with white kids in what is now MLK Park, and in his biography, he wrote, that it was in summer of 1951 at the age of 11 years old, that John, what he experienced in Buffalo, inspired him to dedicate his life to desegregation,” said Higgins.
Fittingly, the Matt Urban Hope Center serves this Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. It’s a pantry, and shelter, and helps distribute beds to kids. Now, its east-facing wall can bring hope here.
Eastside resident and artist, Lisa Brown said, “It’s very important, especially for our youth. It gives them an opportunity to learn, to educate themselves in reference to what Mr. Lewis represented. It’s important for all of us in reference to voting. Our voter’s rights as African American people, we need to get out and do more.”
Congressman Lewis’s connection to Buffalo is even beyond living here as a child.
A local resident, Leon Smith, marched with Lewis on Bloody Sunday.
And now, this mural is a vibrant and permanent reminder of that work.
Erica Brecher is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.