110 Amazing Years!

Mamie Kirkland, who will turn 110 years old on September 3, says the secret to her longevity is God’s grace. She was photographed above, in her East Delavan Avenue home about a week and a half ago. A beautiful spirit with a ready smile, she is an inspiration to us all! Happy Birthday Mrs. Kirkland! Photo By Yves-Richard Blanc

Mamie Kirkland, one of Buffalo’s most beloved elders and the city’s oldest citizen, will celebrate her 110th Birthday on September 3rd. On September 1st family and friends from across the country will gather here to celebrate her life. Hers is a fascinating story of resilience, transformation, forgiveness, and memory.

In September 3, 2018, Mamie Kirkland, one of Buffalo’s most beloved elders and its oldest citizen, and second oldest in New York State, will celebrate her 110th birthday. Mrs. Kirkland has resided in the City of Buffalo for 95 years and has become a beacon of hope and pride for her family and the entire near East side community. On Saturday, September 1, 2018, family and friends from across the country will gather to celebrate her life at the Grapevine at The Ellicott Creek Banquet Facility in Amherst from 3 to to 6 p.m.

Mrs. Kirkland was born in Ellisville, Mississippi in 1908. Her family was forced to flee Mississippi in 1915 fearing that her father would be lynched. After migrating to East St. Louis, MO., when she was seven years old she experienced the traumatic East St. Louis race riots two years later in 1917 on the next leg of her migration north. After leaving East St. Louis like many African American residents did fearing the violence there, her family moved to Alliance, OH, where they were met bya cross burning on their lawn by the Ku Klux Klan.

At the age of 15 she met and married the late Albert Kirkland in Canton, OH and relocated to Buffalo, NY in 1924 where she has lived to this day. She remained married for thirty-five years until his transition and had nine children and is now the proud matriarch of six generations and over 100 grandchildren. After the death of her husband, it was necessary for Mrs. Kirkland to become a part of the work force. In 1964 she became a business representative for Avon Products and quickly garnered the skills to sell anyone a fragrance for every conceivable occasion.

In pursuing her entrepreneurship with the sale of Avon Products, she met many people through the years and authored her own very unique and personal style of community service by serving as teacher, counselor, substitute parent and confessor to the many who sought her knowledge, wisdom, compassion and truths. Her vibrant and youthful presence both physically and emotionally, always generates a laugh. She always welcomes with a smile. She is committed to sharing her generous and expansive spirit equally with everyone irrespective of race or orientation. She is truly a role model to many and daily inspires everyone she meets to be positive and to use her favorite phrase, “to be uplifted by the One above.”

At the age of 107 Mrs. Kirkland, inspired by her son, decided to travel to back to Mississippi where she had vowed she would never return. Her epic pilgrimage back to the place where she was forced to flee 100 years earlier fearing her father would be lynched quickly gathered interest from organizations including the Equal Justice Initiative, and the New York Times and her story became the subject of a front page New York Times article. It also is the subject of a documentary film her son, Tarabu Betserai Kirkland, is directing and producing: 100yearsfrommississippi.com. Additional information and background information on the film and Mrs. Kirkland can be found at this website.

Mrs. Kirkland was recently invited as a guest of the Equal Justice Initiative to attend the opening of the national Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration and the Peace and Justice Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. In the new museum Mrs. Kirkland’s story is one of the five featured digital stories that are on permanent display.

That story can be viewed at this address: https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/listen/tarabu-kirkland 

Mrs. Kirkland was honored at the opening ceremony and presented with a Champion of Justice medallion as the oldest lynching survivor the Equal Justice Initiative has researched in their exhaustive study, Lynching in America.

(Submitted by her son, Tarabu Betserai Kirkland, tarabu@sbcglobal.net )