ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Five local high school students are celebrating Black History Month with a new podcast. 

The students recently launched ‘Black Radio Rochester‘ through RCTV. The podcast series explores Rochester’s first African American radio personalities, including Howard Coles. Coles founded Rochester’s longest-running Black-owned newspaper, The Frederick Douglass Voice.

“This project started about three years ago when I was working on a documentary project called ‘Clarissa Uprooted’ about the history of the Clarissa Street neighborhood,” said Darien Lamen, the Producer of Black Radio Rochester and program facilitator. “I got to know a little bit about Howard Coles, who was known in the community as a civil rights pioneer and the publisher of the longest-running black newspaper.”

Lamen said he didn’t realize at the time that Coles was also a radio host and one of the first black radio personalities in Rochester.

“I wanted to know more about this, get young people involved in the process of researching about this, and produce a podcast as a way of teaching both media skills, media literacy, and production skills, and learning about local history,” Lamen explained. 

A number of high schoolers in Rochester were interested in learning about Coles’ work, including 11th grader Paris Horman. Horman attends Bishop Kearney High School and had started working as an intern at RCTV in July.

“I thought it was really inspiring, because not only was he doing all of this back in a time where it’s not even thought of, but he’s right from Rochester and he was just like me,” Horman said.

“He was able to prosper when that game was just not for black people, it was for predominately white people. So the fact that he was flourishing, he had a radio show, he had a newspaper, he had so many things going on, he was also a realtor, so all of that coming together was just crazy for me to think about.”

Photo courtesy: Joan Coles Howard

Coles used his platform as a journalist to demand social change in the 1940s, something Horman said was inspiring. 

“He used his platform, his many platforms, to speak out against injustice against people of color, redlining, so I thought I could use this podcast like he did so long ago to share like, ‘hey, all this stuff is still happening, it just has a different look. It’s not completely gone. It’s still happening,’” Horman said.

Horman and her peers produced the podcast after months of research, interviews, and even working alongside Joan Coles Howard, Howard Cole’s daughter. Horman said Joan taught her a lot.

“She’s proud of who she is and she’s not going to sit back and just be okay with injustices going on all around us,” Horman said. “She’s elder now, but she’s still a pioneer. She still believes and stands up for what she believes in, and it’s really inspiring to see.”

Lamen said it’s important pioneers like Coles are not forgotten, which is one of the reason Black Radio Rochester is so important. 

“We’re hopeful that our podcast will help to restore some of his memory and his legacy and to spark conversation about black excellence in media and leadership in civil rights and racial justice struggle,” Lamen said. 

While RCTV has been involved in a number of after-school programs after the years, Lamen said this podcast series was different. 

“It has created a space for young people to interact with elders and community leaders, media professionals of color, and I think that interaction as a way of teaching and learning media skills is really special,” he said. “I’m so impressed with the students who have produced Black Radio Rochester. They approached this topic with such humor and such insight and I think the podcast really showcases that.”

As for Horman, she said her classmates at Bishop Karney have been impressed with her work so far. She hopes to continue creating podcasts after this series, specifically about redlining in the Rochester area. 

“It’d be a shame for us not to show our talents and be proud of who we are by doing this podcast,” Horman said. “We just want to inspire other people to use their talents and pay homage to people from the past.”

You can list to Black Radio Rochester each Thursday at 5 p.m. throughout February. Listen to the series by clicking here: RCTVmediacenter.org/blackradiorochester