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Standing together, learning together

The Adirondack North Country Association stands with our black sisters and brothers in this time of nationwide grief and protest that have resulted from the murders of George Floyd and so many others. We stand with our black sisters and brothers in declaring that Black Lives Matter. We stand with our black sisters and brothers as America faces an inflection point, ready to do the hard work of making much-needed change.

This moment demands intentionality: intentional language, intentional strategies and intentional action to disrupt 400-plus years of racism and to dismantle the structural inequities that plague our nation.

ANCA intentionally focuses on promoting systemic change in food systems, clean energy and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The impact of this intentionality is visible, quantifiable and tangible to communities across the North Country.

But if we could fix all other aspects of our local economies and not fix this, we will have failed.

Today, ANCA commits to mobilize this intentionality toward addressing systemic racism and the structural inequities in our region that affect everyone. In doing so, we recognize that as a white organization, in a predominantly white community, we must approach this work with humility, listening to and centering the voices of black people, other people of color and marginalized people across the region. 

Of our staff of 15, all but one are white.

For most of us, when we get pulled over by the police, our worst fear is getting a ticket. When we walk out our front doors, we do not consider that our skin color will elicit negative assumptions about who we are, no matter our degrees or professional accomplishments. Fear, just because of how we look, is not a daily experience. Because we do not experience that, it is intrinsically difficult for us to know how to begin to change it.

So we feel enormously grateful to be hosting the Adirondack Diversity Initiative that we and the region can learn from Nicky Hylton-Patterson, the vibrant, brilliant woman who is leading this program, despite her own fears of being black in this mostly white region. 

Nicky is working with ANCA and other groups across the region to help us learn how to change the embedded systems that affect us all. And as with any radical change, it starts within ourselves: examining our own assumptions, unexplored biases and how our implicit cultural affiliations affect how we see the world. Our staff is working through a cultural consciousness project with Nicky, and learning with deep humility how much we don’t know. How blind we are to the experiences of “the Other,” and how to begin to do the work to make our society equitable for all.

Through Nicky and the ADI, we are learning to be active allies. To take the steps that are needed to stand with our black sisters and brothers and not be silent bystanders. 

Nicky is guiding other organizations through this same program, and since the day after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police last Monday, 60 more people have signed up to support her work and participate in the learning process. To accommodate this interest, we will begin hosting listen-ins and teach-ins facilitated by Nicky and other black activists in the region starting next week. We believe that Nicky’s presence here, her role here will help lead the North Country to model the America we need to become. Details will be available next week.

Together, we affirm our shared humanity as we embrace the daunting challenge of learning how to address systemic racism and structural inequity.

Kate Fish is the executive director of the Adirondack North Country Association, based in Saranac Lake.

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