Wilderness advocates in the environmental movement have known for years there is a problem when it comes to diversity and the future of the Adirondacks. We look around the backcountry on an inviting summer weekend and we see people who use, love, and defend New York’s wildest lands. But we don’t see many people of color. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘Diversity’
Andrea Adams, founder and former director of The Bridge and a local LGBTQ activist, passed away peacefully at her home in South Glens Falls on January 22. Her loving partner Dennis Belden was by her side.
A memorial service was held on January 28 at Saint Andrew Lutheran Church in South Glens Falls, a welcoming congregation of which Andrea and Dennis were dedicated members. » Continue Reading.
There has been some old-school rancor in the Adirondacks lately. From management of the Essex Chain to the opening of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) for review to the fate of Lot 8 and NYCO’s drilling, some of the traditional disputes between advocates for preservation and advocates for increased access, recreation and development have been heating up.
These tensions have never been absent, but in an era when many are talking about “common ground,” things have been getting surprisingly vitriolic of late. This spike in old fashioned hostility hit an undistinguished apex with the unanimous approval by the Essex County Board of Supervisors of a resolution supporting Denton Publications’ flame-throwing, editorial calling for the abolition of environmental advocacy group Protect the Adirondacks.
Last weekend the people of New York State lost a leading citizen, the children of Albany lost a dear friend and the Adirondacks lost a trailblazer. On Friday, December 5th, Brother Yusuf Abdul-Wasi passed away unexpectedly at the age of sixty four. His substantial contributions to the Adirondack region were only a small part of his many undertakings. But from the perspective of the ongoing work to make the Adirondack Park a more inclusive, welcoming and life-changing place for everyone, we have suffered an incalculable setback.
Brother Yusuf was a tireless doer, a walker of the walk who gave the experience of the outdoors to countless urban children. He was also a man of courage and staying power who struggled through war and personal adversity and emerged as a voice of dignity, commitment and wisdom. His story is a great American story and his accomplishments were many (you can read a brief article about his life here). » Continue Reading.
Black history in the Adirondacks has an anecdotal quality, maybe because the numbers of black Adirondackers have been so few. Here’s a story of a black homesteader who was good friends with John Brown. There’s a barn that may have sheltered fugitives on the Underground Railroad. Outside Warrensburg is a place in the woods where a black hermit lived. And so on.
The temptation – and I should know; I’ve been a lead offender – is to make a sort of nosegay out of these scattered stories, pack them all into a story by its lonesome, a chunky little sidebar, and let this stand for the black experience.
It makes a good read, and it’s efficient. And it’s wrong. It reinforces the idea that the black experience in this region was something isolated, inessential. It ghettoizes black Adirondack history, and this wasn’t how it was. » Continue Reading.
It has been nearly a year since I began a series of columns on diversity in the Adirondacks. Much has happened since then, most notably a challenging, motivating and well-received symposium held in August, “Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks.”
The symposium was a good start to addressing the important challenges in making the Adirondack Park more welcoming and inclusive, thereby increasing the Park’s role in the betterment of the lives of all New Yorkers and giving it a richer, more robustly supported future. But if a good day of conversation was all we accomplished it would amount to very little. So a number of initiatives are underway to the further the work. It is our sincere wish to make diversity part of the cultural DNA of the Adirondacks, as surely for human beings as it is for the natural world. » Continue Reading.
It must have taken great courage, the kind needed to overcome the natural fear of rejection and isolation, for the first woman and the first person of color invited to join the board of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.
For one hundred years, from 1901 until 2001, those directing the work of the Association had been entirely white and mostly male. So had the boards and staffs of most environmental organizations in the Adirondacks, in the entire state and, I imagine, in the country. I hope we were all warm and welcoming of these courageous individuals when they first joined. Their experience and character made a difference.
The recent conference in Newcomb at the Adirondack Interpretive Center, “Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks,” brought the reality of courage, fear of rejection and isolation to everybody’s heart. It required everyone participating to re-examine assumptions. Many governmental and non-governmental organizations today applaud diversity and are trying to find ways to walk that talk and be more diverse. This recruitment is challenging, but what this conference made clear is that it is even harder to welcome, include, accept, and embrace difference. » Continue Reading.
Civil rights leaders, community activists, social scientists, and organizations will get together in Newcomb on Saturday to discuss the need to broaden diversity in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender-identity among the Adirondack Park’s residents and visitors.
A symposium entitled Towards a More Diverse Adirondacks will feature a day of discussions about challenges to, and opportunities for, widening the pool of people who use, enjoy and care about the future of the Adirondack Park, the largest park in the contiguous United States. » Continue Reading.
Several months ago I wrote a series of columns on socioeconomic and racial diversity and the Adirondacks. The reception to these columns was even stronger than I expected. Much of it was thoughtful. Some of it was controversial. Some of it was ugly. But in total the columns and the reaction validated my point that for most people diversity in the Adirondacks is an under-the-radar issue even though it is arguably the most important issue facing the future of the park.
Since then the conversation has grown and led to action. Many stakeholders in the park recognize that human diversity – my new descriptor, for indeed the issue is bigger than just racial or socioeconomic problems – is just as important to the Adirondacks as plant and animal diversity is to a healthy Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
I have always believed that the initial step in addressing a deep and difficult issue – especially one that is controversial – is recognition: we must first understand that something matters; that it is real; that it affects people’s lives. Without recognition, without an embrace of the importance of an issue, we risk what will likely be at best a display of sturm und drang when we try to talk about it, signifying nothing but ego and personality. Yet despite the sometimes perfunctory dismalness of on-line comments, I am convinced by the experience of writing these columns that the issue of diversity in the park is headed for a substantive future, not just shouting and rhetoric. » Continue Reading.
Two weeks ago I posted my initial interview with noted travel writer and blogger Carol Cain. That column set a record for comments here at the Almanack. My own reaction to those comments taken as a whole is that they persuasively demonstrate the need for this conversation (fortunately the off-line discussions that have been spurred by this issue are leading to some productive initiatives… more on that in the future).
Subsequent to my first interview with Carol I asked her a series of of follow-up questions. I share her answers today. These questions were formulated previous to the posting of the first interview, thus not influenced by the tone and content of the comments. However her answers, written after the comments, speak powerfully for themselves.
Born in Brooklyn to a Dominican-Puerto Rican family, Carol lived and studied in the Dominican Republic as a teenager before returning to New York City to pursue a career in public relations. She speaks three languages. » Continue Reading.
Over the last few weeks I have been making an argument that socioeconomic and racial diversity is a primary challenge facing the Adirondacks. The core of the argument is that the Adirondack region is becoming ever-more sequestered racially as the rest of New York State rapidly moves towards a non-white majority and this poses problems for the future of the park. This sequestration cuts both ways – the Adirondacks lose and an evolving population that does not have a relevant connection to the park loses too.
So far my argument has been rooted in experience, raising questions of equity and social justice along the way. Proceeding from this experience I would contend that the my core argument is true prima facie – that is it is obvious to anyone with open eyes and a little breadth of experience in the world. » Continue Reading.
Last week I wrote a column about my personal experiences on the South Side of Chicago. My purpose was to frame the issues in terms of sequestration: when a region or area is overwhelmingly of one socioeconomic or racial class, it gets cordoned off – literally and figuratively. Other classes know little about it in experience and understanding. Stereotypes predominate. Economic and cultural gaps persist, even widen.
This is a two-way street. An obvious example is the gap in understanding between people who have lived all their lives in hyper-urban areas – say East 55th Street in Cleveland – and people who have lived exclusively in very rural areas – say farm country near the Ohio River. When the only experience of another way of life is popular media, the lack of understanding can be fractious indeed; witness the current divisions in American politics. » Continue Reading.
Last week I began a series arguing that racial and socioeconomic diversity is the number one issue facing the Adirondacks. My multi-part argument is sustained in part by overwhelming demographics that I will be presenting soon. But there is a deeper moral and cultural dynamic to my argument far more important than statistics. I need to get to it first or the rest of the argument will suffer a lack of meaning. As always, I’ll try to accomplish that with a story. » Continue Reading.