A conversation around race and diversity was elevated in the Adirondacks–and throughout the country–in 2020.
The Adirondack Diversity Initiative, already well under way with the addition of a dynamic director Nicole Hylton-Patterson in 2019, mobilized a response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in May. The Anti-racism Education and Mobilization included a list of educational seminars to help create an understanding of what it’s like to be Black in the Adirondacks and what the role of the white majority can be as allies and accomplices in fighting racism.
A pandemic that kept people home and in front of their computers created a large audience for the series of Zoom seminars.
The sessions featured Black people who had encountered racism and suspicion in Adirondack communities. In one, “Driving While Black,” Dominique Boone described his time in Saranac Lake between 2015 and 2019, where he was pulled over by police six to eight times, as always a sense of “we’re not supposed to be here.”
The discussion enlightened many but also surfaced some local racism to the surface. During the spring, racist graffiti turned up in Saranac Lake and Bloomingdale.
These programs opened up discussion around a vital question facing the Adirondack Park: Why is this place of beauty still not a place of solace for everyone? The Adirondack Park and its visitors are more than 90% white. And of 55 Black people and 34 people of color Hylton-Patterson interviewed as part of an oral history of Blacks living in the Adirondacks, none would walk in the wilderness without a white person, she said.
ADI’s work continues with programs to bring students from Bronx area schools to the Adirondacks, a community policing initiative and to work with local businesses to be more welcoming. — Tracy Ormsbee