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Straight No Chaser: Black Men In Rochester Who’ve Influenced My Life and Community

Op/Ed By Gloria Winston


gloria newAside from my father, James Walker Winston Sr., my grandfathers Lindsey William Winston (AL) and Nathaniel Alexander (NC); enslaved great grandfathers Anthony Winston (AL), and Pleasant Alexander (NC); brothers James Walker Winston Jr. and Garson (Gary) Neil Winston; uncles, and cousins, there were also several other strong black men who influenced my life.

James Mamba McCuller, a visionary, coalition builder, and man who was at the helm of the Rochester Black Political Caucus and the Black Leadership Roundtable for years, was one of those individuals.

His oratorical style, leadership and people skills were strong, and his quest to connect our community to national agendas is still something this community lacks, to date.

Back then, we were active in the National Black Media Coalition, and he promoted more black journalists than most. He supported Lou Parris and Herb Hamlett, radio hosts who first had shows on WCMF, long before there was a WDKX.

McCuller had also been instrumental in the fight to get WDKX licensed. He fought in the trenches with Minister Franklin Florence Sr.

Steve Monroe was another strong community advocate, who worked for Gannett.

However, I heard Monroe was transferred, once they realized being a slave was not in his DNA.

My childhood friend and neighbor Richard Dickie Boddie was another positive leader in the community.

He used to host a radio talk show, while attending Syracuse University’s School of Law.

Boddie created so much controversy, he failed to pass the bar, after several tries.

Consequently, I always wondered whether there had been tampering with the test.

Relative to McCuller, he constantly paid tribute to the individuals who had come before him, like Dr. Freddie Thomas.

Dr. Thomas and his wife Midge were also close friends of my parents.

Jim was very humble, and he recognized that we were all a product of somebody else’s struggle.

He also supported Howard Coles’ newspaper, The Frederick Douglas Voice. It was a newspaper Coles published for over 60 years.

Jim also understood the value of The Buffalo Challenger. The Challenger was a newspaper which was published and owned by Assemblyman Arthur Eve.

In addition, James “Mamba” McCuller was also one of my biggest supporters, when I founded About Time magazine, and managed to get two issues into the streets, before being betrayed.

He was also determined to open a black-owned bank in Rochester, and he played a key role in establishing the Black United Fund, under the leadership of Jasper Jefferson Huffman III.

Jim also supported and encouraged former school board member Frank Willis, after Willis decided to publish the “Communicade” newspaper.

At one point, we also had a very active Black Policeman’s Association, in the community, and its membership included Charles Price, the first black policeman in Rochester; additional RPD officers including Spencer Walker, Jimmy Byrd, Leonard Butch Johnson, and Kenny Patterson; Monroe County Sheriffs Willie McCummings, Joe Bradford, and Lenny Adams; and state trooper Jimmy Jackson.

There were also many other members of the association, the names of whom, unfortunately, my memory has failed to produce at this writing.

Jim McCuller was a motivator in this community.

Our first and only black Assemblyman, David Gantt, often gives him credit for encouraging him to get involved in politics.

This is because there was a time when Rochester’s political arena had only a few black faces.

One I remember from my childhood was Stanley Thomas Sr.

I also remember when we did not have ONE black face on the city school board, Rochester City Council, or the county legislature.

At one time, we had strong black men who held PhDs, and they were men who were not afraid to jeopardize their careers.

There were men like Dr. Walter Cooper, who is still with us; Dr. Anthony Jordan; Dr. Charles Lunsford (my first pastor at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church); Dr. Charles Boddie; and Dr. Arthur Whittaker.

We also had warriors in our community like Laplois Lakey Ashford, a man who led the local junior chapter of the NAACP, which was  involved in fighting the many injustices that were taking place at the time.

Lakey also became the city’s first black public safety director.

And, Dr. David Anderson is still a mover, shaker, and the local resident historian in our community.

Former Mayor Bill Johnson, initially head of the Urban League, also became our first black mayor.

We had clergy who were not afraid to participate, like Dr. Samuel McCree, Dr. John Walker, and Rev. Raymond Graves.

We also had strong black men like my cousin Howard Bond, who organized the C.A.R.I. organization at Xerox.

We had Paul Cosey, the person who brought Blacks in Government (B.I.G) to town.

And, I don’t recall who started it, but there was also an organization called The North Star, at Kodak.

I remember when our community was full of leaders like Amifika Gueka, founder of the Pan African Cultural Exposition (PACE).

There were also strong and vocal black men like Jim Dobson, Bill Hall, Andrew Langston, Gordon Kelso, Sam White (Van White’s father), Moses Gilbert, John Mitchell, Bill Johnson, Minister Raymond B.T. Scott, and Jim Rhodes, to name a few I worked with, personally.

There were also two Frederick Jeffersons, one who became the first black president of the United Way, and another who was a pastor at Trinity Emmanuel Presbyterian Church.

And, we should continue to celebrate our first black Assemblyman, David F. Gantt, who is our first, and only Assemblyman that has made the journey to Albany for over 30 years now.

Leaders like Willie Lightfoot and Tony Reed also found their way into the political arena, as county legislators, back in the days.

And, Declan Brown and Jim Ellis, the latter of whom was the former executive director of the Arnett YMCA, led our local chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

All of the aforementioned individuals either were at one time, or still are, the epitome of being UNBOUGHT, UBOSSED, and UNSOLD.

These giants were strong black men, who I am proud to say have influenced my life positively, with their actions, and not just their words.

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