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    Ribbon-Cutting Celebrates Permanent Olean Home for African American Center for Cultural Development

    By Rebecca Schneider and Anne Lee,


    Director Della Moore engages in conversation about the center.

    Credits: Rebecca Schneider

    OLEAN, NY — “I pray that you pray that I don’t cry,” Della Moore told the dozens of people gathered for Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting at the African American Center for Cultural Development.

    “You’ve all been involved,” Moore, the center’s director, added. “Accept my gratitude.”


    Cloudy skies and drizzling rain did not dampen the spirits of those gathered for the ribbon-cutting. Many crowded onto the large covered porch; many more stood on the lawn and sidewalk.

    Master of ceremonies Mo Sumbundu, assistant director at Empire State Development, began the 11:30 a.m. event by asking for a moment of silence to honor those who lost their lives in the May 14, 2022, mass shooting at Tops in Buffalo.

    Sumbundu noted that the center’s mission of promoting and integrating the rich Black history of the Southern Tier stands out to him.

    The center’s permanent home is a Queen Anne-style home located at 214 N. Barry St., adjacent to the Cattaraugus Campus of SUNY Jamestown Community College, that was donated by law partners Ed Wagner and Jack Hart.


    Sumbundu also praised Keri Kerper, program coordinator for Olean’s Department of Community Development, for her role in the center’s progress and said that Gov. Kathy Hochul sends her congratulations.

    “Government is all about collaboration,” Sumbundu said, adding the center received $225,000 from New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and support from individual donors and foundations.

    The speakers Sumbundu called to the microphone praised the efforts of Moore and the center’s board of directors.

    “Della has poured her heart and soul into the center,” Julie Schmidt, representing State Senator George Borrello, said.

    John Eberth, representing Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, called the ribbon-cutting a “celebration of faith.”

    Eberth added, “Della motivates everyone she meets. Thank you to all volunteers.”

    Sumbundu said Mayor William J. Aiello “had been hoping to join us today” and also wished Michiko McElfresh, the mayor’s secretary, a happy birthday.

    McElfresh spoke on behalf of the mayor, who was at the New York State Conference of Mayors.

    Wendy Brand, vice president of the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation, said philanthropy has enhanced the downtown area of the City of Olean and that the African American Center for Cultural Development highlights such efforts.

    “It took a community," Brand said.

    Paula Snyder, executive director of the JCC Cattaraugus County Campus, quoted her late husband’s four-word description of Moore: “integrity, community, love and spirituality.”

    Former Olean mayor and alderman Linda Witte was called to speak and simply said about Moore: “I just love her. That’s it”

    Jim Stitt, Cutco Corporation chairman, who with his wife Carol, is a center donor, noted the need for more Black businesses in the Olean area and suggested the center may be a site for startups.

    Sumbundu concluded the talking portion of the event, saying “Every one of you here today is part of Della’s story, and the governor is so proud to be part of this project.

    “Cut the ribbon.”

    Tours of the center's newly renovated first floor followed. The rooms are handicap accessible. Displays of books and various works of art highlight African American history; some are specific to Olean. The center’s Tuskegee Hall doubles as an events room. The center's Oscar Micheaux Theater is the site for showing films. New additions are an equipped commercial kitchen; a dining area and restrooms.

    Signs inside the center showed much more to come on other floors, including an Underground Railroad display, an upstairs room for children and a room dedicated to the story of Black Wall Street.

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