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Women planning a Pan American 2001 celebration want to build a road to the future paved with bricks from the past.

Gloria Brennan, project manager for the Women's Pan Am 2001 Pavilion's Women's Walkway, says Bricks for Buffalo offers a unique opportunity for women to "connect with our past, something we need to do if we are to build a better future."

The Women's Walkway will be a set aside within the Working for Downtown's Bricks for Buffalo site that will be paved with engraved bricks purchased by individuals or institutions to memorialize themselves, friends or relatives.

A portion of the women's area, at least 100 bricks, will be reserved for women of the past who have made important contributions to Western New York.

The honorees, to be selected by a committee headed by Marilyn Wilson, must be deceased, have lived in one of the region's eight counties and have made a significant contribution, here or elsewhere.

Deadline for nominations is July 1 and forms are available at the Women's Pavilion office, 881-0733. Individuals and institutions are invited to submit names.

Brennan said the section dedicated to women will occupy about 2,200 4.5-inch by 6-inch cobblestone bricks, but the exact site among the walkways to be located in the DL&W Terminal area near the Marine Midland Arena has not been selected. In addition to the 100 set aside for historical women, about 1,500 bricks for engraving will be available for purchase at $80 each by individuals and organizations. Bricks in other walkways will be offered at the same price.

An interactive computer system will provide information on the historical women, show the location of individual bricks and categorize individuals under titles such as sports, arts and entertainment.

A scholarship fund is being set up to pay for bricks for those who can't afford the price and any profits from the sale of bricks will be used to fund permanent public art in downtown.

"We hope to begin construction this summer," says Brennan, who plans to honor her grandmother, mother and daughter on the walkway.

Did your mother come from Ireland? Or was your grandmother a German emigre? If so, chances are a Grand Island school teacher wants to talk to you.

In another Pan American 2001-inspired journey into the past, Marie Saccomando Coppola is collecting stories about immigrant women who came to Buffalo in 1900 and 1901 as a Women's Pavilion project.

The Grand Island High School social studies teacher and oral historian wants to find descendents of Buffalo's immigrant women willing to share their personal recollections or anecdotes and stories from family lore. She hopes the stories will enrich this and future generations through a Pan Am commemorative book.

By 1924, 35 million Europeans had come to America and one in every three were women. Buffalo attracted its share of them -- the 1900 census revealed that less than a quarter of the city's poplation was American-born. If you have a story about an immigrant woman of this period, contact Coppola through the office of the Women's Pavilion Pan American 2001, 881-0733. The fax number is 881-0751.

Coppola is an experienced listener. Her doctoral theses at University at Buffalo compared the lives of women who had emigrated to the United States from Sicily and American-born women of Sicilian descent with the lives of Sicilian women. The project involved the oral histories of local women and a trip to Sicily to collect stories of women there. Her mission was to find the "missing link in the identity of Sicilian-American women."

Charlene Gilbert, a University at Buffalo assistant professor, has filmed a documentary on the plight of America's black farmers that will be shown nationally on PBS in February as part of network's Black History Month programming.

In "Sometimes I am Haunted by Memories of Red Dirt and Clay" Gilbert, a member of UB's Media Study Department, uses the personal stories of farmers, many of them family members, in her native Georgia to illustrate how public policy and private practices have combined to force black farmers off their land. In 1920 there were one million black farmers in American tilling more than 15 million acres. Last year there were fewer than 18,000 on a million acres.

The film will be shown at 10 p.m. Feb. 3 on WNED-TV. The station will have a screening of the film Tuesday after a 5:30 p.m. reception to honor the filmmaker in its Horizons Plaza studio. UB's Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender is joining several other academic departments to sponsor that event.

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