Events Share Tweet

Miniature Portraits of John E. Brent, 1910; Lent by Descendants of John E. Brent

Miniature Portraits of John E. Brent, 1910; Lent by Descendants of John E. Brent

Screening  |  Through These Gates

Thursday, March 17, 2016, 12:15–1:15 pm

THROUGH THESE GATES is a tribute to Buffalo's First African American Architect, John Edmonston Brent (1889-1962) and his contributions as an architect, landscape architect, and draftsman in Buffalo and Western New York. This 20-minute video documentary was written and co-produced by Christine A. Parker, a SUNY Buffalo State Museum Studies graduate student and Diversity Research Fellow. She is the principle researcher of a recent comprehensive study of John E. Brent that culminated in an exhibition organized for the Burchfield Penney Art Center by Nancy Weekly, Head of Collections, Charles Cary Rumsey Curator, and Burchfield Penney instructor of museum studies. The production of “Through These Gates” was directed by local television journalist Sandy White at Mustard Seed World Productions, with an award-winning crew, TVRE Productions, Inc.

As an added feature to Ms. Parker’s master’s project thesis, this mini-documentary features reenactments of historical 19th- and 20th-century highlights of Brent’s life and accomplishments, played by Aaron Moss, assistant professor of Theatre, SUNY Buffalo State. The documentary also showcases interviews with local historian and author Dr. Lillian Serece Williams and Uncrowned Community Builders co-founder Dr. Barbara Seals Nevergold. The two historians along with Parker, provide added insight into the “soul” of John E. Brent, who lived through segregation and went on to contribute to the landscape, culture, and socio-political development of the city of Buffalo and the surrounding region.

“Through These Gates” sends viewers back in time and takes them on a journey through local and national historical events narrated by Rev. Pedro A. Castro, Jr., who is the WNY Conference Presiding Elder of the AME Church, Pastor of Fellowship AME Church and Chaplain at Syracuse University. The cast also includes historian and Buffalo Criterion columnist Eva Doyle, community activist Derrick Byrd, and student Jaylen Hearon (as young John Brent) and Kenneth Parker, Jr. (as senior John Brent). Special cameo appearances were made by Clifford Bell, a representative of SUNY Buffalo State’s Small Business Development Center, entrepreneur and former City Councilmember; Rev. Diann Holt, director of Durham Central City Baby Café, and Brent Rollins, great nephew of John E. Brent. Mayor Byron W. Brown provided special commentary about the importance of education and preparation in shaping the future of the City of Buffalo. Wardrobe was provided locally by Allita Stewart ( and her Apple’s Haberdashery wardrobe collection.) The soundtrack includes music by international recording artists, Chor Leoni of Vancouver, British Columbia and national recording group D.E.M. of Silver Springs, Maryland.

Financial and in-kind support were provided by the following collaborating groups, institutions, and individuals: SUNY Buffalo State, Museum Studies Program, the Graduate School and Graduate Student Association, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo History Museum, Mayor’s Office of the City of Buffalo, and local educators and historians under the direction of Ms. Parker as the Executive Producer.

In 2013, the Buffalo Zoo’s Entrance Gates 3 and 4 were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was “through these gates” that John E. Brent’s professional contributions, social advocacy, and distinguished life of service as a leader in the African American community would become reintroduced to a new generation. The documentary “Through These Gates” tells his story.

This is a free event.