By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A wife and mother of seven, Loretta Winters developed her fighting spirit many years ago, when she was the victim of an attempted rape.
“The way I was treated by the police department and the hospital was really criminal,” she recalls. “From that point on, I thought, we need a voice. The way we as women are being treated is really unfair.”
A self-proclaimed advocate for women, Winters began pushing for what she believed in. Four years ago, her behind-the-scenes efforts took center stage when she became president of the Gloucester County NAACP, in South Jersey. But she was a reluctant leader.
“I realized, the first step of changing anything, you’ve got to have courage first,” Winters says.
During her tenure, the once-dormant Gloucester County NAACP raised money for scholarships, gave laptop computers to students in need, and stepped up efforts in the fight for voting rights, an end to gun violence, women’s equality, and more diversity in state government.
Winters says she didn’t come blaming others for the many problems facing African-Americans in South Jersey. Instead, she looked within.
“I’m not going to point the finger and say what you haven’t done,” she says. “I’m going to point the finger and say what I haven’t done.”
In 2012, Winters established partnerships with various state agencies, including local and state police departments, Gloucester County College, and local hospitals, and began to personally recruit minority candidates to fill state positions.
“It’s all about relationships and being invited to the table,” says Winters, who personally convinced numerous candidates that state jobs were an option.
“Sometimes [these kids] feel the police are the enemy,” she says, “and they’d rather pump gas than take a job with the state police. But we have to get away from that.”
Last December, New Jersey graduated the most diverse class of state troopers in the state’s history. The class of 118 troopers including 30 Hispanic and 16 African-American recruits. (In 2012, only two African-American troopers were part of the class.)
Winters was recognized for her effort but says this is just the beginning.
“I want to see more, but in order to see more I have to make sure I do more, too,” she says.
Hear the extended interview with Loretta Winters in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 15:04)…