Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Syracuse Speaks celebrates Black History Month

Students of the NO CAP program get to work creating marketing content for their upcoming projects
Ana Gil
Ana Gil Studios
Students of the NO CAP program get to work creating marketing content for their upcoming projects

Syracuse Speaks marks Black History Month by delving into the dynamic narratives that define Syracuse's history. In this special hour-long episode, we traverse the paths of groundbreaking Black politicians, delve into innovative Black-led projects, and celebrate the musical achievements of local Black artists.

Unveiling Pioneers: Early Black Politicians in Syracuse

Syracuse's political evolution witnessed its first African American elected to office in the early 1960s. Malchester Reeves, a Syracuse University student, paved the way at just 24 years old, securing a seat on Onondaga County's Board of Supervisors. The echoes of his trailblazing journey resonate through the stories of subsequent leaders like Robert Warr and Clarence "Junie" Dunham.

In a historical exploration, Scott Willis chats with Robert Searing, Curator of History at the Onondaga Historical Association, shedding light on the activist roots embedded in Syracuse's fight against abolition in the 1840s and 1850s.

Assemblymember Pamela Hunter: One Politician's Journey

The narrative shifts to contemporary politics, focusing on Assembly Member Pamela Hunter, who’s political career began at the city level in 2011. Hunter, overcoming early challenges, became the first African American woman to serve as a councilor at large on the Syracuse Common Council. She quickly commits herself to revamping the Citizen Review Board, which addresses issues of police misconduct.

Reflecting on her journey, Hunter emphasizes the significance of local elections, urging citizens to engage in the decisions that shape their daily lives, from police funding to property taxes.

Investing in Black-led Projects: NO CAP Initiative

WAER's Natasha Senjanovic brings to light a project investing in Black and LatinX youth, fostering innovation and economic development. Through poignant stories, the initiative not only advances technological progress but also creates opportunities for underrepresented communities, contributing to Syracuse's economic landscape.

Music Industry Achievements: Celebrating Black Artists in Syracuse

The episode crescendos with a celebration of Syracuse's diversely rich music talent legacy. Sepp Herbert, a distinguished black musician, recording producer, and mix engineer is set to be honored at the Syracuse Area Music Awards (SAMMYs). His journey, intertwined with Jay Phoenix, a successful music produce Herbert mentored, illuminates the enduring impact of mentorship in the city's music scene.

The spotlight turns to Jackiem Joyner, an internationally renowned black jazz artist from Syracuse. His success story, rooted in mentorship from high school music teacher Lou Adams, reflects the challenges faced by African American musicians. Despite financial constraints, Joyner's determination propelled him to chart-topping success. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at
John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.
Natasha Senjanovic teaches radio broadcasting at the Newhouse School while overseeing student journalists at WAER and creating original reporting for the station. She can also be heard hosting All Things Considered some weekday afternoons.
Bob Beck, a veteran media professional, currently serves as a part-time editor/host at WAER Public Radio and an adjunct professor at Syracuse University. Beck retired as News Director at Wyoming Public Radio in 2022 after 34 years. During his time, Beck won 5 regional Edward R. Murrow awards and 5 Public Media Journalists Association awards for reporting. He also won 11 PMJA awards for the news and public affairs program Open Spaces. He was awarded the Wyoming School Bell award for education reporting and was part of two Emmy Award winning television productions. You can find him on X under the name @butterbob.

Kat is WAER's anchor/producer delivering local news content and hosting NPR's "All Things Considered."