The Passing of AACC’s Amazing Agnes Bain

Services for Agnes Bain will be February 3 at Friendship Baptist Church 402 Clinton Street 11am viewing followed by the Funeral Services.

At press time we learned of the passing of Agnes Bain, our beloved quiet cultural warrior who led the African American Cultural Center for the past four decades.

Agnes Bain, the  Executive Director  of the   Center,  was   probably one of the most “unsung heroines” in this community. She has produced  30  Pine Grill Reunion jazz concerts with such notables as Jimmy McGriff, Bill Doggett, Billy Taylor, Horace Silver, Houston Pearson, Etta Jones, Milt Jackson, Johnny Lytle, Hank Crawford, and Gloria Lynn, just to name a few and not to exclude Buffalo’s own Jaman, DoDo Green, James “Pappy” Martin, and Count Rabbit.  While thousands gather here for the reunion annually, many coming from across the country, the woman behind this much anticipated event, rarely, if ever, took  center stage.

The Cultural Center also houses the Paul Robeson Theatre, the second oldest component of the African American Cultural Center. It was founded in 1968 to nurture and showcase the talents of African American playwrights, producers, directors, actors and stage technicians in the City of Buffalo and the surrounding Western New York region. 

Ms. Bain is credited with over eighty African American productions working with such notables as Woodie King, Jr. (New York City producer/director/writer), Phylicia Ayers-Allen (Bill Cosby Show), Richard Gant (Rocky II), Karen White (Bill Cosby Show and Lean on Me), Theresa Merritt (renowned Broadway actress), Bill Cobb (The Bodyguard), not to forget Buffalo’s Edward Lawrence, Edward G. Smith, Lorna C. Hill, Timothy Kennedy, Laverne Clay, and Fortunato Pezzimenti. She has worked with renowned dancers — Pearl Primus, Mike Malone (Debbie Allen’s teacher), Rod Rodgers, and Babatunde Olatunji. She presented plaques of distinction to Johnny Mathis, Cicely Tyson, and Ted Lange, welcoming them to Buffalo.

The African American Cultural Center was founded  in 1958 by Malcolm Erni, an evangelist with Caribbean roots who had a devout faith in the virtue of his ancestry. Born and raised in Buffalo NY, Erni dreamed of a cultural and spiritual sanctuary where young people would learn that, God is a God of all races and ethnic groups.     

“The vision of Malcolm Erni was ahead of its time,” she told The Challenger in a former interview. “  I think he was a genius.   He wanted to build a   place where young people, especially,  would be able to learn about their heritage and culture and become better individuals because of  this self-knowledge,” noted Ms.  Bain.

Under her guidance the Cultural Center continued  to evolve in response to the changing landscape of real time and the future and remains a sentinel to Malcolm’s founding vision. 

In addition to the Pine Grill Jazz Reunion and the Paul Robeson Theatre, there is the  multi-disciplinary   Cultural Enrichment / Educational After School Program and Jumpin’ Jambalaya Summer Camp and the  soul-stirring African American Cultural Center  Dance and Drum Performance Company (its cornerstone component). 

 Under her leadership, The African American Cultural Center stood firmly committed to promoting a positive sense of self among the community it was founded to serve.

We salute our beloved Agnes  M. Bain and say “Thank  You” for all your years of service and dedication to your community!”

Services for Agnes Bain will be February 3 at Friendship Baptist Church 402 Clinton Street 11am viewing followed by the Funeral Services