Posts Tagged ‘Binghamton’

Even though she hasn’t been to our hometown of Binghamton, NY in over a decade, my sister Marcia has contributed mightily to the genealogy talk our cousin Lisa presented recently.

Lisa spoke at the Broome County Area History Conference on April 21 at the Bundy Museum. She came all the way from Washington, DC to introduce two families, one Black and one Jewish, which my wife, daughter and I attended.

As she wrote in the precis, our “second great grandfather, James A. Archer, a free Black man who, along with two other family members, fought in the Civil War. They survived and returned to Binghamton to raise families and start businesses.” In part because of other photos Marcia put online, Lisa was able to ascertain that the post-Civil War photo I’ve posted to this blog included not only James Archer, but the brothers of his wife, Harriet Bell Archer.

“In the late 1800’s the Archer family purchased a house on Maple Street, which became a hub of family activity for several generations to come.” That was the house my grandmother and mother grew up in.”

She also told about her great grandparents, Isaac and Sarah Berman, who were born in Latvia and Lithuania, emigrated, first to Denmark then to the US in 1913 and settled in Binghamton. Isaac “started an egg business that eventually turned into a trucking company that was the first to offer overnight service from the Triple Cities to Boston.

“Both families grew and in 1937, the two came together with the marriage of Ernest Archer Yates and Charlotte Berman, my grandparents, who faced their own challenges as an interracial couple.” Ernie was my grandma’s brother and Charlotte the third child of Isaac and Sarah.

This picture also came from Marcia’s collection, with Ernie and Charlotte together in the back row, my mother’s arm on Ernie’s shoulder. Given the presence of three of their four children, I peg the photo in 1945 or 1946. Someone in the audience knew Charlotte from her time in Binghamton before 1954, when she and the children moved to Queens, NYC after Ernie died unexpectedly.

When Lisa came to Binghamton, she had to take a detour off Front Street onto Gaines Street and pass another Archer property at 5 Gaines Street, where MY nuclear family lived in the 1950s and 1960s.

So Marcia, even though she was far away, was an important part of Lisa’s presentation. Happy birthday, baby sister.

Lao Tzu

The invasion of Iraq more than a US “blunder,” or “colossal mistake;” it was a crime

The Return of the Chicken Hawks

John Bolton Paid Cambridge Analytica $1.2 Million to Make Americans ‘More Militaristic’

Scientific American: Why Are White Men Stockpiling Guns?

Give Teachers Guns, And More Black Children Will Die

How baby-toting, robed-and-hooded moms paved the way for today’s white hate groups

Surveillance footage shows the Las Vegas gunman’s methodical steps in the days just before the massacre

Obamas to Parkland students: “You’ve helped awaken the conscience of the nation”

I Tried to Befriend Nikolas Cruz; he Still Killed My Friends

Don Blankenship, the worst man in America, is running for Senate

“Death Penalty for Drug Dealers” Proposal Reeks of Eugenics

Non-disclosure agreements for White House staff? Not so fast

Why the Stormy Daniels story matters – it’s not about sex, it’s about the abuse of power

Austin Goolsbee says the tariffs are like his Aunt Trina’s lasagna

After the Storm – post-hurricanes Irma and Maria in the U.S. Virgin Islands last fall, some people showed up and stayed

New York City exporting homeless families to other parts of the state, including my hometown of Binghamton

Some millennials aren’t saving for retirement because they don’t think capitalism will exist by then

Living like I’m dying

NY Mets hitter Rusty Staub dies at 73

Kimmel Produces PSA For Melania’s ‘Cyberbullying’ Campaign

How to Decipher a Sarah Huckabee Sanders Press Conference

Librocubicularist (noun; plural: librocubicularists) (rare) A person who reads in bed

Bill Messner-Loebs, comic book artist worked on Wonder Woman and Thor, now homeless

Every Wes Anderson Movie, Ranked Worst to Best

Lois Weber, early 20th-century filmmaker

Sophia Jex-Blake, part of the Edinburgh Seven who campaigned for the right of women to study medicine

Steven Spielberg Doesn’t Think Netflix Movies Should Qualify for Oscars

Now I Know: How Chairman Mao Turned Freedom into Oppression and How Hitchcock Kept Psycho a Secret and How a Nearly-Perfect Crime Became Perfect Again and When the Driver Walks Away and Why Tennis Balls Are Yellow and Why You Shouldn’t Eat Those “Do Not Eat” Packets

Lois Lane, The Pulitzer Committee Wants Their Prizes Back

A video essay about cartoon sound effects

“73 Questions” video – Christine Pedi as Liza

MUSIC

Three Manhattan Bridges, for Piano and Orchestra: I. George Washington Bridge – Michael Torke, composer; Albany Symphony Orchestra, David Alan Miller, conductor; Joyce Yang – piano; Torke, Miller, Yang discuss the work

Pluto – King of the Underworld (Hades) – Taimane

Chicken Shack Boogie – Amos Milburn

Snake Farm – Ray Wylie Hubbard

Hendrix doing Hendrix on an acoustic guitar

5 O’Clock World – the Vogues, with more of their songs

Long Time Gone -Tom Jones & Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Coverville 1210: Aerosmith Cover Story II

WKRP in Cincinnati new home recordings and end theme lyrics

TV Theme Song medley – Jimmy Fallon & Will Smith

Stream a 346-Hour Chronological Playlist of Live Grateful Dead Performances (1966-1995)

DJT and I have the same favorite song

The curiously elusive date of Bach’s birthday

An article in Vox in 2017 discussed The myth about smart black kids and “acting white” that won’t die, declared it debunked, and that’s that, I guess.

“The ‘acting white’ theory — the idea that African-American kids underachieve academically because they and their peers associate being smart with acting white, and because they’re afraid they’ll be shunned — was born in the 1980s.”

I never “dumbed myself down” when I was a kid in the 1960s. But I did feel that, for a variety of reasons, that I was thought to be “acting white.” Part of it I credit with my father, who, though barely a high school graduate, did not like the use of ebonics, for himself and certainly not for his children.

So I have been told I was “talking white,” which, not incidentally, was generally NOT a compliment. My standard retort that since I’m black, and I’m talking, that I must be “talking black” generally did not fly.

Even as an adult, that’s been an issue. I remember those first six years in my current job, when we were serving a national audience with our research. I talked to people on the phone about their library reference requests. When I went to the annual conference, I’d see in the faces of white people, “He’s black?” and in the smiles of African-Americans, “He’s black!”

When I was in 11th or 12th grade in high school, I attended a few days of a Red Cross training session in Manlius, NY, near Syracuse. I had a lovely time. I even got a standing ovation after I performed on stage. People expected me to sing, I gather, but I played blues on my comb for a couple minutes.

There was a group picture (above), and I got a bunch of people sign the back of my copy. One black girl, who I liked well enough, wrote, “You’re a nice guy, but you’re no soul brother.”

If I had been punched in the gut, it wouldn’t have hurt nearly so much. Not only had people who had known me for a while decided I wasn’t “black enough,” someone I knew for less than a week came to the same damn conclusion! Hell, thinking about it now, it STILL stings a little.

I cried, not just at the time, but for weeks – months? – afterward. It took a good long while to conclude, essentially, that they – whoever – can go sod off.

So I never slacked off academically because of being too… whatever. I didn’t know how to be someone else. But I can understand how it could play out that way for others.

Right photo by Howard Petrick

I was in Binghamton, NY, my hometown in October for a work-related trip. That evening, a couple of my friends get me to go to this film about Costa Rica, which I’ve written about. It was sponsored by the local Green Party and some other activist organization. The friend of an old high school buddy of mine says he’s from The Frances Beal Society. What?

I’ve known Fran Beal pretty much all my life. She was my mom’s only female cousin on her mother’s side of the family. Fran, her late mother Charlotte Yates, and her three late brothers, Raymond, Donald and Robert all lived in Binghamton or in nearby Johnson City until 1954, when her father, Ernie Yates, my maternal grandmother’s brother, died suddenly.

Charlotte moved the family to St. Albans, Queens, New York City and the Greens visited the Yates at a minimum annually. And they visited us frequently as well. I wrote up an excerpt of this 2005 interview, the early part about her growing up in our shared hometown.

Fran grew up to be a black feminist activist icon. A couple years ago, local author Barbara Smith told me how much she admired her. I told the FBS person that my cousin’s politics are so far left that she made me feel like William F. Buckley.

So what IS the Francis Beal Society? As far as I can ascertain, it’s an entity at Binghamton University that occupied the campus administration building for a couple weeks in the spring of 2017, in part over opposition to the Blue Lights Initiative. Now, community organizations have been offered a seat at the proposed Town-Gown Advisory Board by the school administration.

I think I let Fran know about the FBS via Facebook, but I don’t know if she saw the notice. For their part, the guy from the Frances Beal Society would LOVE to have contact with the organization’s namesake. I’m not feeling a desperate need to play matchmaker.

BTW, happy birthday, cousin. It’s SOMETIME this month.

Binghamton, NY, as I’ve noted once or twice here, is my hometown. Almost every year, I go to Broome County to attend the Olin family reunion – that’s my mother-in-law’s people who can be traced in what is now the United States back to the 1680s.

Those trips, however, were to a park in Endicott, part of the Triple Cities, to be sure. (Endicott and Johnson City, though, are villages; only Binghamton is incorporated as a city.)

When I did venture to downtown Binghamton in the 1980s and 1990s and even the early part of this century, it was depressing. The anchor department stores of McLean’s, where my late mother worked as a bookkeeper, and Fowler’s, were magic to visit on Christmas Eve in 1970 and 1971. When they left, and smaller stores followed, the downtown was overrun by vacant spaces. If it weren’t for Boscov’s, in the old Fowler’s, there would have been no downtown retail to speak of.

The building of a new Route 17, which will become Interstate 86, made it easier to get through Binghamton, but the city wasn’t a place to go TO. The State University of New York isn’t even in Binghamton proper, but out on the Vestal Parkway on old Route 17/Route 434.

But an interesting thing happened:

“Downtown Binghamton, by most accounts, is in the midst of a revitalization. After years of decline, a boom spurred largely by masses of Binghamton University students leaving the dorms of the Vestal campus for the city has filled once-vacant storefronts downtown and chipped away at blight there.’

And that has spurred numerous coffee shops, tattoo parlors and the like catering to that population. I stayed in a hotel that was once the old city hall, not far from the current city hall, where I was a janitor for a few months in 1975, and there are blocks around there that have been totally transformed.

“But further away from the city’s core, other neighborhoods are waiting to see whether the ripple effect of the downtown boom will reach them.” I noticed that too, particularly in the part of town I grew up in.

Still, I felt hope that there is a chance of economic revival in my old hometown. That made me quite happy indeed.

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