I’m way too busy to work

Art at APL

It is a cliche, but like a lot of retirees, I’m way too busy to work. Friday, 1 October was a perfect example.

I was attending the third of a three-day online state Data Center conference. The penultimate session was on The Quality of the 2020 Census Apportionment Counts: What Can Process Statistics Tell Us? by Joe Salvo, Research Fellow, Social Data and Decision Analytics.

What? No, this was fascinating stuff! Really! For instance, how many more records had partial responses, such as just numbers with no names, for instance, because of the Non-Response Follow-Up taking place during a pandemic? As an enumerator for the 2020 Census, I would have loved to have stayed for the whole talk, not to mention the question-and-answer period.

Underground Railroad

But I needed to catch a bus for a tea for the Underground Railroad Education Center. It was outdoors, and fortunately a nice day. The UREC is a tremendous asset to Albany and the history of the country. Paul and Mary Liz Stewart’s “work uncovered the voices and stories of people written out of this history.”

Discovering the home of Stephen and Harriet Myers, abolitionists who lived in the city, and then buying and renovating – especially renovating – 194 Livingston Ave – has been a boon to the process. But it’s hardly the endpoint.

I knew a few people there, including mayor Sheehan, and met several more. One of the interns interviewed me for a project about the history of the UREC.

I was trying to remember how I knew Paul and Mary Liz, which predated the project that started two decades ago. Paul theorizes that the late Donna George probably brought us together. She was always connecting people to others they didn’t know before.

After I went home with my wife, who had come to the event directly from work, we ate a quick dinner.

Art@APL

Then I walked less than a fifth of a mile to the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library to see the new installation of Art at APL called Pieced Together. The artists include Fern Apfel, Paula Drysdale Frazell, Danny Goodwin, Chloe Harrison, Niki Haynes, Beth, Humphrey, Henry Klimowicz, Juan Hinojosa, Melinda McDaniel, Michael Oatman, and Kenneth Ragsdale. The exhibition guide is just a small fraction of the work.

I was immediately drawn to Michael Oatman’s work. Much of the created works are based on comic book covers, magazine logos, and the like. The installation will be at 517 Western Avenue until April 17, 2022, so check it out.

Expect that many of the next few posts will be of the “I’m way too busy to work” mode.

The Third Reconstruction

fighting voter suppression

third reconstructionThe U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week to further declaw the Voting Rights Act I found to be a kick in the gut. SCOTUS, by a 6-3 vote, overturned a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. It had found that two voting laws passed in Arizona “had both the effect and intent of discriminating against Black, Latino and Native American voters… The decision… will make it much harder to block other laws that have a discriminatory effect on voters of color.”

We’ve already seen a plethora of “voter suppression laws that hide their racist intent but have clearly disparate effects based on race.”

The “ruling significantly increased the level of discriminatory and burdensome effects that plaintiffs must demonstrate for a voting law or procedure to violate the Voting Rights Act, giving lawmakers or officials who enact such rules great deference in the interest of preventing supposed fraud—even without any evidence of such fraud…

“Some legal observers had warned before this latest decision, known as Brnovich v. DNC, that… the Supreme Court could make it so difficult to comply with the requirements to prove discrimination that the VRA would nevertheless become meaningless. That is, in essence, what happened.

With Congress so closely divided, it’s difficult to imagine it passing what is needed. That would be passing a new Voting Rights Act and the For The People Act, which would, among other things, expand voting protections.

July 4th Oration

I was thinking about this as I listened to Rev. Roxanne Booth at The Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence in Albany on Saturday, July 3. In person! after being virtual last year.

She spoke about The Third Reconstruction, as laid out by the book by The Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Beacon, 2016). The subtitle is How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear.

You know about the first, after the Civil War, until it was undercut by forces, starting with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. The second was the Civil Rights Era, starting with Brown v. Board of Education and the death of Emmett Till, undermined by the policies of Nixon, then Reagan.

The third, the authors argue, started with the election of Barack Obama, and was almost immediately sabotaged by forces that early on wanted him to be a one-term president.

Moral revival

The book is “Rev. Barber’s call for building and sustaining a movement for justice for all people.” From this Unitarian Universalist site: “The Third Reconstruction offers helpful, practical guidance for engaging with justice movements born in response to local experiences of larger injustices.

“Drawing on the prophetic traditions of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, while making room for other sources of truth, the book challenges us to ground our justice work in moral dissent, even when there is no reasonable expectation of political success, and to do the hard work of coalition-building in a society that is fractured and polarized.”

So when I asked Rev. Booth about how one gets over the disappointment of the Arizona decision, she noted that we have to keep doing the work of social justice, even when the short-term prospects may be bleak.

I’m reminded that many changes in our democracy have started with situations that seemed hopeless in the beginning. Consider joining the Third Reconstruction, a “revival of our constitutional commitment to establish justice, provide for the general welfare, end decades of austerity, and recognize that policies that center the 140 million are also good economic policies that can heal and transform the nation.”

Plugging stuff: UREC, FFAPL gala

The 8th annual Literary Legends Gala will be held on October 16th at the APL Pine Hills Branch.

URECOccasionally, I would plug items for organizations that I was fond of/involved with on these pages. Then I cut back because they tended to be Albany-based organizations. Most of the readers of this blog are not from around here.

So I tended to plug happenings at my church, et al. on my Times Union blog. But now, I have no TU blog.

At the same time, I didn’t have all that much TO advocate for. And what I DID have to note was on Zoom, and except for sharing the home-grown music concerts of my niece during the pandemic, I just couldn’t muster the energy to get all that involved.

But now that I’m not so melancholy, I’ve rethought this. For instance, I should be promoting the Underground Railroad Education Center’s FreedomCon 2021 Zoom Series – Freedom Road: the Struggle for Justice Continues, especially since I’m one of the sponsors. The event has been going on since February.

Coming up these Saturdays at 3 pm, Eastern time:
Jul 24 Racist Violence is as American as Cherry Pie
Aug 21 Food Justice: Hunger, Child Poverty and Farming while Black
Sept 25 Destined to engage and collaborate: Examining the Social/Political Dynamics of Native Americans and African Americans in the United States
Oct 23 Building Community through Free Black Migration before the Civil War
Nov 27 Native American Lives Matter
It’s $10 per session.

Oh, and before that: the  July 4 Oration is back in person at The Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, 194 Livingston Avenue, Albany, NY 12210. But NOTE: it is on Saturday, JULY 3 beginning at 11 a.m. It features “an enriching presentation by Rev. Roxanne Booth on The Third Reconstruction.” I’ve heard her speak before, and she’s quite good.

The talk will be followed by light refreshments. Bring a chair and a dish to share if you like. Oh, and “this program will be live-streamed for those unable to join in-person. Details will be available on or before July 1.”

Library types know how to party!

literary legends 2021The 8th annual Literary Legends Gala will be held on October 16th at the Pine Hills Branch APL.2021 Literary Legends Tickets on sale NOW. Support the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library and join us as we celebrate this year’s honorees, Lydia Davis and Eugene Mirabelli.

“Last year’s gala was virtual and we are navigating the new normal and learning what will make our honorees and guests comfortable. Like you, we are figuring things out as the post-pandemic situation changes each week. Some things we do not yet know: there may or may not be a buffet, or a live jazz band. But there will be food, and there will be music! And our silent auction is back this year! Get your ticket and join the party!

“The Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library provide critical financial support to the Albany Public Library in order to help the Library provide education, literacy, career development, cultural enrichment, and lifelong learning. We can’t wait to party with you at the library!”

Buy general tickets here or purchase Honorary Committee tickets here. Purchase your Honorary Committee ticket by August 6th to be listed on the invitation card. You may also buy an ad at either link. If you are interested in donating food or a silent auction item, please use the link here.

Underground Railroad Ties, Blackness Project

Years after his retirement from WRGB-TV after 38 years of telling stories that touched everyone, reporter Ken Screven remains a fixture in his community.

Ancestry Railroad TiesYou can and should watch, at this link, the 23-minute film Railroad Ties, presented by Ancestry® and SundanceTV.

“Six descendants of fugitive slaves and abolitionists come together in Brooklyn to discover more about their lineage. Documenting each person learning about their ancestors, and featuring renowned historian, Henry Louis Gates Jr., the film interweaves powerful personal moments with contextual historical anecdotes.”

Here’s the CBS News story about Railroad Ties.


In Buffalo, NY, The Blackness Project is helping people talk about race.

It is “a featured length documentary film about culture and race from the perspectives of African American and other minorities. The film was inspired from conversations about the “Whiteness Project” which is a similar documentary discussing race and the perceived loss of white privilege by white Americans. The main purpose of The Blackness Project film is to bridge the gap between white and black Americans with in depth interviews on race.


My buddy Ken Screven Remains Active, Despite On-Air Retirement

“Years after his retirement from WRGB-TV after 38 years of telling stories that touched everyone, reporter Ken Screven remains a fixture in his community, from his Albany Times Union blogs to his active social media following. This Black History Month, we take an in-depth look at the trails he blazed to become the first black on-air reporter in the Capital Region.”


Weekly Sift: I See Color

“Having a choice about whether or not you’ll notice race today is an element of white privilege.”


Alabama Newspaper Calls For Ku Klux Klan ‘To Night Ride Again’


This Is What Alvin Ailey Gave Us

“We sat down with Leslie Odom Jr. to talk about Alvin Ailey’s powerful legacy in dance.”


‘We’ll be back for you’

“Ensign Jesse L. Brown, USN In the cockpit of an F4U-4 Corsair fighter, circa 1940. He was the first African-American Naval Aviator to see combat. Brown was shot down over North Korea.”


Meet The Fearless Cook Who Secretly Fed — And Funded — The Civil Rights Movement

“Georgia Gilmore, the Montgomery cook, midwife and activist whose secret kitchen fed the civil rights movement.”


Don Newcombe, a star right-hander for the Dodgers who made history by becoming the first pitcher to win the rookie of the year, most valuable player and Cy Young awards in his career, has died at 92.

Nicknamed Newk, he played for the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles and was the first black pitcher to start a World Series game, in 1949.


Ken Levine: MVP Frank Robinson

In These Challenging Times: Tonko on 4 July

Congressman Paul Tonko will reflect on the meaning of July 4th in the context of our current political and social climate.

Within the framework of Frederick Douglass’s 1852 speech, “What to the Slave is Your Fourth of July,” Congressman Paul Tonko, as featured speaker for the 2018 July 4th Oration, will reflect on the meaning of July 4th in the context of our current political and social climate.
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The legacy of the institution of slavery weighs us down as a nation, but, together, we can rise up and shake off the weight by carrying on the enduring legacy of our abolitionist forebears.
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Program – 11am-12noon at The Myers Residence at 194 Livingston Avenue, Albany, NY 12210 – bring your own chair if you can
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Lunch – 1pm-2pm – bring a dessert to share
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Restroom facilities available. Parking is on Livingston Avenue and Third Street.