I was born in Newport News, Virginia.
My father is from Alabama and my mother is from North Carolina. After World War II, he was a Veteran, so my parents came to Rochester, where he had three aunts.
One of them was married to Milllard Latimer, of Latimer Funeral Home.
I grew up in our family home on Adams Street, next door to Dr. Anthony L. Jordan, across the street from Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. At that time, where I lived was called The Third Ward. It got popular and was rename Corn Hill in the 1970’s, but we always referred to it as, The Third Ward.
It was a diverse community, not a lot of apartments. Most people had their own homes and the majority of kids I grew up with had mom and dad in the home. Even though we were considered poor, my brother and I are teased that we were raised in Camelot, because as neighbors we had people like Constance Mitchell, Dr. Walter Cooper, Dr. Anthony L. Jordan and Dr. Charles T. Lunsford.
We had black policemen in our community. We had a community, something we celebrated every year. Our neighborhood is before Urban Renewal in Rochester. We had ever luxury you could think of.
We never had to leave the neighborhood for anything. We had grocery stores, restaurants, barber shops, beauty shops, and a black owned hotel called The Gibson. We had night clubs including Shep’s, The Pythod, and The Elks Club. Top entertainers played in our community every Friday night including The Drifters, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, you name it.
Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.) Campus was down off Clarissa Street, before it moved to Henrietta. There was also The Montgomery Center, Latimer Funeral Home, bakeries, laundromats, record and ice cream shops. We had everything in our neighborhood. And as youth, we were involved in our community. I came to Rochester at the age of 12. And, at that age, I was writing a column in The Montgomery Center Journal.
I’m seventy-three. And I’ve been active in the Rochester community for all but 11 years of my life. We had a very active Junior NAACP Chapter Laplois Ashford oversaw, but Dr. Walter Cooper brought it into the fore-front. Howard Coles was over the local adult chapter. So as kids, we were also involved politically. And we had to, because like today, they were issues in our community.
After the riots, when FIGHT (Freedom, Independence, God, Honor Today) was formed, Constance Mitchell was the bridge to Chicago. She‘s the one that went to meet with Saul Alinsky, who then came to Rochester and from there FIGHT was form.
When I was a kid there wasn’t no black faces in authoritative positions including city court, county court, family court, city council or the school board. Constance Mitchell was the first to break that ceiling as a county legislature in the early 1960s. I was born in 1945.
In the early 1950’s, these positions were nonexistent in terms of having black faces in it. So, I can sit back and look at the progress, regardless how other people look at it. I’ve seen progress. It has been slow, but it has been sure. And what’s important is that we continue to stay involved and don’t get distracted and continue to combat racism and things that have held us back for decades.
There’s a lot of history in this community that’s unwritten. They’re stories that need to be told. People like Lena Gantt (mother of current assembly member David Gantt) and Mildred Johnson. A lot of people don’t know Lena Gantt was one of the people that spearheaded Jordan Health Center. Mildred Johnson had incredible influence in the courts. She was not an attorney, but she was considered a legitimate friend of the court. We had a community of fighters. I don’t know too many people who weren’t active in the community back in the days. We had the Rochester Black Political Caucus, when Jim McCuller was alive and the Black Leadership Roundtable. These were not groups that met to eat chicken wings. In the Black Panther Party, we were active doing neighborhood watch, breakfast and school programs.
We were active!
Southwest Tribune: How do we get Rochester’s young people to get involve in their communities today?
I was so disappointed at Constance Mitchell’s funeral not to see more young faces there. Her funeral was a lesson in history. Some young people would’ve benefited just by being in the presence of speakers like Former Mayor Bill Johnson, David Anderson, Matt Augustine and our current Mayor Lovely Warren. I don’t know, how millenniums get the message. It’s such a divide and a disrespect for people my age. A lot of them are arrogant, who feel they have arrived on their own. However, they are standing on the shoulders of those who came before them. They got their little degree and doesn’t believe that wisdom is necessary. And most of them are working on a plantation somewhere being told what to do.
I started ‘About Time Magazine’ in 1970 (currently owned by Jim and Carolyn Blunt) to keep communication open about local news and events in the Rochester community.
In the upcoming weeks, I will be hosting a weekly show called ‘Liberation’ on Royal Broadcasting, where I will be inviting people to touch on important local issues the community needs to know; especially Rochester’s youth.
Worth Knowing: Gloria worked for American Civil Rights Activist Jesse Jackson as an organizer in nine different states when he first ran for president and Former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Berry.
Dr. Anthony L. Jordan-http://www.jordanhealth.org/about-us/
Dr. Charles T. Lunsford-https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action?institutionalItemId=5876&versionNumber=1)
Laplois Asford- https://muse.jhu.edu/chapter/924779
Howard Coles- http://www3.rmsc.org/museum/exhibits/coles/Howard%20Coles%20info-1.htm
Lena Gantt- http://www.abcinfo.org/files/2015%20Lena%20Gantt%20Award%20Description%20Nomination.pdf
James McCuller- http://www.rochestervoices.org/historical-media/interview-james-mcculler/
Black Panther Party- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Panther_Party
Rochester Urban Renewal- https://rocwiki.org/Urban_Renewal
Saul Alinsky- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Alinsky