OUR FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT

Debbera M. Ransom

Debbera M. Ransom embodies a lifetime of dedicated service, transitioning seamlessly from her distinguished military career to becoming an unwavering advocate and catalyst for change in her community and beyond. Born into a legacy of service and courage, her journey began in the spring of 1976, where she enlisted in the United States Army, serving as a Military Police Woman stationed both stateside and overseas.

Her early military years were marked by distinction and pioneering roles. Assigned to various units, including the 1st United States Woman’s Army Corps and the 60th Military Police Detachment, Debbera blazed trails as one of the first Military Policewomen within the 8th Infantry Division. Her diligence and commitment earned her accolades, including Certificates of Achievement and Letters of Appreciation, testament to her outstanding service.

Upon her honorable discharge, she returned to Buffalo, New York, where she undertook a new mission: empowering her community and advocating for fellow veterans. Driven by an unyielding commitment to service, she completed her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees at Buffalo State College, utilizing the Vietnam Era GI Bill.

Her involvement with veterans' organizations, such as the American Legion, marked a pivotal period. Debbera shattered barriers, becoming the first elected female Commander of the Jesse Clipper Post No. 430 American Legion and the president of the Bennett-Wells American Legion Post No. 1780 Auxiliary within the same year. Her impact extended beyond the Legion, where she mentored in the Veterans’ Court and volunteered extensively.

Beyond her military and community engagements, she embraced an unexpected venture, stepping into the wrestling ring as the renowned Sheena the VooDoo Queen, captivating audiences across the United States, Canada and Malaysia. Her wrestling career wasn't just about entertainment; it became a platform for philanthropy, raising funds for handicapped children and participating in international championships.

In her relentless pursuit of service, Debbera founded Ransom House, a haven for homeless or fear of becoming homeless female veterans and their children. Her commitment to aiding veterans earned her the President's Volunteer Service Award and induction into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame.

Since 2018, Debbera has orchestrated numerous initiatives, amplifying the voices and legacies of African American veterans. Through parades, educational tours, exhibitions, disaster preparedness programs, movie series, and memorials, she's meticulously crafted platforms for honoring, educating, and immortalizing the invaluable contributions of African American veterans.

Her unwavering dedication speaks volumes about the transformative power of service and advocacy. Debbera M. Ransom remains a beacon of resilience, a tireless advocate preserving legacies, celebrating valor, and ensuring that the sacrifices of African American military veterans are eternally remembered and revered. Her legacy isn't merely about individual accolades; it's a testament to the enduring impact of a life committed to the service of others.

OUR VICE PRESIDENT

veronica johnson

Veronica Johnson's journey is a tapestry woven with threads of resilience, expertise, and unwavering dedication to service. Her indelible mark in the military began with three impactful years in the Regular Army, followed by a commendable seven years in the National Guard, which led her across stateside missions and overseas endeavors.

A trailblazer in her own right, Veronica shattered barriers as one of the pioneering female soldiers specializing in the intricate field of Helicopter Repair, particularly focusing on AH-64 Attack Helicopters. Her expertise in structural repair and maintenance elevated her as a standout figure in a traditionally male-dominated domain.Her commitment to service transcended military boundaries. Veronica became an integral figure in the formation of the African American Veterans Arts and Culture Corporation, serving as an initial Incorporator and Board Member. Beyond her military exploits, she delved into academia, pursuing her doctoral studies while imparting knowledge as a former Geography College Instructor at Grambling State University in Louisiana.

Her academic prowess was matched by her involvement in various esteemed organizations, including active roles in the Geography Club, ROTC, Pi Gamma Mu Honor Society, and the Association of American Geographers (AAG). Veronica's scholarly pursuits extended to contributing a valuable chapter titled "Migraines and Atmospheric Conditions" in the book "Disability and Disasters."

Veronica's commitment to her community and fellow veterans is noticeable. Her involvement in multiple parade committees and dedicated contributions to various veteran organizations underscored her steadfast dedication. Her exemplary service garnered recognition, culminating in the prestigious 2021 Certificate of Recognition for her invaluable contributions to her country and continuous support for veterans and their families.

Veronica Johnson's life is a testament to resilience, knowledge, and selfless service. Her unwavering commitment to her country, academia, and the veteran community stands as a beacon of inspiration for all who follow in her footsteps.

OUR TREASURER

shango oya

Shango Oya epitomizes a life dedicated to empowering and enlightening others, particularly through his profound connection to African American history and consciousness. As one of the Initial Incorporators and Board Member of the African American Veterans Arts and Culture Corporation, he has been instrumental in shaping the organization's vision and mission.

A prominent African American historian, Shango Oya's commitment extends beyond scholarly pursuits. For several years, he has been the driving force behind a weekly African Consciousness workshop, passionately guiding and enlightening participants through insightful presentations and discussions.

Shango's impact reaches further as the visionary Founder of Jack of Black Trade, a thriving endeavor that, for the past 15 years, has served as a catalyst for numerous Black Consciousness Events. Among these, the Race First Rally in Buffalo, New York, stands as a testament to his dedication to fostering pride and awareness within the community.

However, beyond his professional endeavors, Shango Oya stands tall as a proud family man, embodying the values he advocates. His philosophy is a call to action—a belief in the transformative power of individual self-pride, emphasizing that self-respect and awareness are potent tools for personal and societal growth.

His tireless efforts and unwavering commitment have not gone unnoticed. Shango Oya's exceptional contributions were recognized with the prestigious 2021 Certificate of Recognition, honoring his continued provision of outstanding information and profound insights into African Consciousness for veterans, their families, and the Western New York Community.

Shango Oya's life journey is an inspiring testament to the transformative power of knowledge, pride, and community engagement. His unwavering dedication to promoting African consciousness and unity remains an enduring beacon, illuminating paths toward enlightenment, empowerment, and unity for all.

OUR BOARD SECRETARY

shango oya

Latrice M. GrayAVP, Relationship Officer

Commercial Banking - Key Bank

Latrice M. Gray is a Relationship Officer with Key Bank. In this role Ms. Gray administers and manages all aspects of the client relationship within Key Bank’s Western New York Commercial Loan Portfolio Division. Her day-to-day duties include but are not limited to, customer service, compliance, and liaison for the client’s day to day banking. Ms. Gray’s portfolio consists of companies with revenues from $10MM to $250MM annually. 

Ms. Gray has more than 16 years of experience in the banking industry as a Relationship Officer, Senior Team Leader, Team Leader, and various other positions in Key Bank’s Retail Contact Center. Her years of experience has taught her the importance of teamwork and unfailing customer service. Ms. Gray has over 32 years of experience in management and customer service. Before joining Key Bank in 2007, Ms. Gray worked for 16 years in two other organizations Blockbuster Video and Client Logic.

In these roles Ms. Gray was responsible for team management, employee development, customer service and technical support.A big believer in charity work and giving back to the community Ms. Gray supports, Boys and Girls Clubs of Western New York and has volunteered numerous hours of her time helping children. She is the Vice President of the Key Bank’s African Heritage Business Impact and Networking Groups Buffalo Chapter.

Ms. Gray is an Eastern Star for International and Modern Free Masons. She serves as Worthy Matron of Rising Star Chapter #451 and Past District Youth Grand Matron for Annie Walker Youth Court #132. She is a Christian who attends First Timothy Missionary Baptist Church regularly. She serves as a Missionary and member of the Pastor’s Aide Committee. She serves on the African American Arts and Culture Corporation as a Secretary; Destination We board as Treasurer. And ENBOR board as Financial Chair. 

2021-2023 GRAND MARSHALS

CHANTHINI TAYLOR DIXON

First Female Grand Marshal

A Life of Education, Caregiving, and Musical Brilliance

Staff Sergeant Chanthini Taylor Dixon Retired served in the United States Army as a Military Police and later as a Petroleum Supply Specialist from 1987-2019. Her deployments were Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF), Vietnam, Gulf War, etc.) For her service she earned the following awards: Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

Taylor-Dixon's duty took her to Washington, D.C., and her work as a Military Police Officer sometimes placed her in proximity of powerful people. She served under the command then-President Ronald Reagan and three former presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. There was also Vice President George H. W. Bush, who would later become president. During her service she also got the privilege to see Army General Colin Powell and other generals.Taylor Dixon completed eight years of active duty and continued to live in the Washington, D.C. area, serving on the home front as a wife and mother of three children. She later returned to Buffalo. Chanthini Taylor-Dixon enlisted in the Army Reserves in June 2001 and three months later America began its global war on terror following the Sept. 11th attacks and a combat veteran in the Iraq War Zone. While serving in the reserve her Specialty became Petroleum Supply Specialist with the 277th Quartermaster Petroleum Supply Company in Niagara Falls. In the spring of 2005. Taylor-Dixon was activated and assigned to the 408th Personnel Service Battalion.She survived her 18-month deployment and returned home in November 2006 and was surprised to see not only her family and friends, but the television stations were there waiting for her arrival at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Taylor-Dixon graduated from Grantham University in Kansas in 2019 earning her Bachelor of Science Degree. Chanthini Taylor Dixon was chosen to be the Grand Marshal of the 2020 Western New York Veterans Day Parade Chanthini Taylor Dixon was also the Grand Marshal of the First Parade Honoring African American Veterans, 2022. 

LARRY HUNLEY - MEMBER

A Life of Education, Caregiving, and Musical Brilliance

Larry Hunley is a remarkable individual whose life journey has been characterized by his commitment to education, unwavering dedication to caregiving, exceptional musical talents, and his strong bond with the community.

Larry's educational journey began with his college graduation, where he laid the foundation for his future endeavors. His passion for education led him to become a Buffalo Public School Teacher. Through his innovative teaching methods and genuine care for his students, Larry made a significant impact on the lives of countless young minds. His dedication to their growth and development propelled him to rise through the ranks, eventually reaching the esteemed position of High School Principal. As a principal, he continued to champion educational excellence, fostering an environment where students could thrive and educators could excel.

Beyond his professional achievements, Larry Hunley's compassion extended to his family members in need. His selfless caregiving efforts were truly a testament to his character. He devoted his time, energy, and love to provide care and support to several family members facing challenges. This unwavering commitment showcased his deep sense of responsibility and his willingness to go above and beyond to make a positive impact on the lives of those he cared for.

Larry's talents extended far beyond the realm of education and caregiving. He possessed a remarkable musical prowess that brought joy and inspiration to those around him. Annually, Larry orchestrated community performances that combined his musical talents with a delicious meal, creating an unforgettable experience for all who attended. These events not only showcased his musical brilliance but also highlighted his dedication to fostering a sense of togetherness within the community.

Larry Hunley's life story is one that reflects the values of education, compassion, and community engagement. Through his journey from a college graduate to a transformative educator and compassionate caregiver, he left an indelible mark on the lives he touched. His commitment to empowering students, his selflessness in caring for family, and his ability to bring people together through music and community events are a testament to the extraordinary depth of his character.

As Larry continues to inspire those around him, his legacy serves as a reminder that a life lived with purpose and a heart full of kindness can truly make a lasting difference in the world.

ANDREA

ANDERSON - MEMBER

BIO

A military veteran who served with the 2nd Infantry Division, C Co, 302nd Forward Support Battalion, Camp Casey, South Korea. She was a medical specialist in the 16th Cavalry unit. Currently, Andrea serves as a veteran officer within the Buffalo Police Department for nearly 9 years. She is also a licensed real estate salesperson and an esteemed realtor with Keller Williams WNY. Her current role as Community Police Officer for Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority in C-district demonstrates her ongoing commitment to community service.

Throughout her tenure in C-district, Andrea has initiated numerous community-focused events, demonstrating her dedication to her fellow citizens:

A "Thank Our Veterans" event, aiding U.S. military veterans in connecting with vital services.

Job fairs to facilitate employment opportunities for community members.
Home ownership workshops to educate individuals about the home buying and selling process.
Community Food giveaways, distributing over 500 bags of groceries and produce to those in need.


In 2021, Andrea Anderson held the honor of being the Grand Marshal for the Western New York Veterans Day Parade, exemplifying her continuous dedication to serving her community.

The African American Veterans Arts and Culture Corporation (AAVACC) initiative yields significant non-monetary benefits beyond revenue generation. Firstly, AAVACC's programs contributed to social cohesion and unity, bringing together veterans and civilians alike, bridging generational gaps, and promoting understanding between diverse backgrounds. The initiative empowers veterans by offering them opportunities for personal growth, skill development, and artistic expression, aiding in their post-service transition and overall well-being.

Furthermore, it provided a platform for African American veterans to showcase their artistic talents, fostering a sense of empowerment and recognition within the community. The initiative also plays a pivotal role in preserving and promoting African American culture, history, and traditions through various artistic expressions, thus enhancing cultural awareness and appreciation.

Additionally, AAVACC's efforts may have served as a catalyst for promoting diversity and inclusion within the arts and cultural sectors, inspiring similar initiatives and collaborations beyond their immediate scope. Overall, the initiative's impact went beyond financial gains, positively enriching the lives of African American veterans and the broader community through arts, culture, and social integration.

ADDITIONAL 2021-2023 GRAND MARSHALS

Wayne Mark Greene