In commemoration of Veterans Day, the City of Buffalo declared November 7 Black Veterans Day, according to a proclamation signed by Mayor Byron Brown.
There was a gathering at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, the largest naval park in the country, to honor black veterans. In light of the celebration, attendees scrubbed and cleaned military-style dog tags that honor living and fallen black veterans. The participants also cleaned the towers that stand at the African American Veterans Monument.
Co-founder of Black Veterans Day, Dewitt Lee, told 2 On Your Side, “Today is a special day in a special place. It’s just a small gesture of saying we appreciate you and we thank you for all that you’ve done.”
November 7, 1775, marked the day the British offered to free slaves who joined the British army during the American Revolution. Soon after, that forced Americans to allow blacks, free and enslaved, to serve in the Revolutionary Army.
“That, of course, forced America to recognize that they needed supplement forces as well. And that ultimately led to us being armed to be able to fight for America as well,” Lee said to WKBW.
This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the executive order to desegregate the U.S. military. “Every ethnicity that sacrificed and served for this country and that went through all of the obstacles just to fight for a country at many times didn’t fight for them. So, we think that story cannot be forgotten and it must be celebrated,” Lee said to 2 On Your Side.
Last year, NBC News reported that the African American Veterans Monument was unveiled in Buffalo, New York, to honor black veterans and active-duty military service members who served in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, and the Coast Guard—both past and present.
Military members, veterans, and city and state officials, including New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, attended the unveiling ceremony.
Buffalo’s Black Veterans Day was not only the first celebration for Black veterans in the city, but it was also the first in the United States.