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The Black Experience in the Adirondacks

Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake is collaborating with the Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI) and the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) to present a series of powerful, online programs focusing on The Black Experience in the Adirondacks.

These evening programs require a registration in advance to attend. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

All programs will begin at 7:00 pm EDT.


Tuesday, September 29 at 7:00 pm Postponed; please check back for new date

A Matter of Faith: North Country Faith Leaders & Black Lives Matter

Join faith leaders from two North Country congregations and hear about the work their churches are doing in support of Black Lives Matter. Reverend Katrina Hebb and Reverend James T. Galasinski share why they and their congregations have felt compelled to take a position on the BLM movement, what they’ve been doing, what sort of push back they’ve received, and future actions.


  • Katrina Hebb is minister at the Potsdam Presbyterian Church, an open and affirming congregation to the LGBTQ community and supporter of Potsdam’s local BLM group.
  • The Reverend James T. Galasinski is the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton, NY.

CLICK HERE to register for this program!

Tuesday, October 27 at 7:00 pm

The Adirondack Black Experience – Hunted: Race, Place and State Terror in the Adirondacks

More information to come…

CLICK HERE to register for this program!


Thursday, July 2 at 6:00 pm

What is the Adirondack Diversity Initiative?

Dr. Donathan Brown will interview ADI’s first Executive Director, Nicole Hylton-Patterson, about the organization’s mission and goals and how the killing of George Floyd has had an impact on ADI’s agenda.


  • Dr. Donathan Brown is Assistant Provost and Assistant Vice President for Faculty Diversity and Recruitment at Rochester Institute of Technology and Co-Founder of Adirondack Diversity Solutions.
  • Nicole Hylton-Patterson is the inaugural Executive Director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative.

If you missed this program click here to watch the archived discussion. 

Thursday, July 9 at 6:00 pm

Who Are the White Community Leaders Who Organized the Adirondack Diversity Initiative – and Why?

Moderator Kim Irland will interview the four founding members of the ADI on their motivations for creating, what had until recently been an all-volunteer organization.  What was happening in the Adirondacks – and the nation – that made the creation of ADI a necessity? What is the members’ role now that the organization has an Executive Director?


  • Kim Irland is Dean of Student Life and Diversity Officer at North Country Community College.
  • Paul Hai is Associate Director at SUNY ESF’s Newcomb Campus.
  • Willie Janeway is Executive Director of the Adirondack Council.
  • Pete Nelson is a writer and teaches at North Country Community College.
  • Martha Swan is Executive Director of John Brown Lives!

If you missed this program click here to watch the archived discussion. 

Thursday, July 23 at 6:00 pm

Driving While Black, PART I

ADI Executive Director Nicole Hylton-Patterson will interview Dr. Gretchen Sorin about her new book, Driving While Black (2020). A feature-length documentary on this subject created by Dr. Sorin and Rick Burns will air on PBS later this year.


  • Nicole Hylton-Patterson is the inaugural Executive Director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative.
  • Dr. Gretchen Sorin is the Director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies.

If you missed this program click here to watch the archived discussion. 


Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights
By Gretchen Sorin
Purchase a copy from the ADKX Store today!


Thursday, July 30 at 6:00 pm

Driving While Black, PART II

In the wake of COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers, there has been a resurgence in the national conversation on race in America. Americans are turning to news outlets and social media to gain a better understanding of the inequities faced by people of African descent. In this week’s installment of the Black Experience in the Adirondack, we continue to examine the phenomenon of “Driving While Black” to include a focus on the individual experiences of several local residents and their interactions with law enforcement in the Adirondacks and North Country. This interactive session will allow listeners to engage in dialogue with panelists and provide insight into the challenges faced by many Black people when interacting with law enforcement.

If you missed this program click here to watch the archived discussion. 

Thursday, August 6 at 6:00 pm

Recreating in the Adirondacks

Although good data on who visits the Adirondacks is difficult to come by, those studies that do exist indicate the overwhelming number of visitors are white.  A 2017 study conducted for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, for example, estimates that white people constituted  96.1%, 94.2% and 96.8%  of all visitors to Essex, Franklin, and Hamilton counties. People of color are, however, drawn to the region. Join us as our panelist discuss why they enjoy the Adirondack region, why it is important to have more representation of people of color enjoying the outdoor amenities the region has to offer, and why it is important to attract more people of color to the region. Moderated by Aaron Mair, former Sierra Club President and leader in the environmental justice movement.


  • Aaron Mair – Aaron is an Environmental Justice pioneer intersectionally working in the spaces of, Health, Environment, Voting Rights and Disparities over the last 40 Years. He is an epidemiological-spatial analyst with the New York State Department of Health and former President of the Sierra Club. Mair’s experience includes more than three decades of environmental activism, diligently working for environmental justice.
  • Michael DeJesus – Mike’s life long work has been about creating opportunities for disadvantaged communities in education.  He enjoys a myriad of outdoor activities particularly biking, clay shooting, hiking, and camping. He has recently started running in the last year and is newly certified for boating in the last month.  Mike is married to his lovely wife Lisa who currently works for NYS DEC also enjoys the great outdoors.
  • Chris Fay –  Chris is a Professor at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM, Canada). Since 2015 he is a Consul for “Montreal Stay Active Group,” which is part of InterNations https://www.internations.org . where he helps people/professionals, coming from different countries and living in Montreal, to discover North East regions through outdoors. He enjoys hiking, biking, and kayaking.
  • Chris Fernando – Chris has a deep affinity for being active and the outdoors. He’s an avid hiker and proud Adirondack Winter 46er (#9477). He also loves to run, ski, bicycle, swim, and participate in triathlons.  He also has had enjoyable experiences ice climbing, indoor rock climbing, and kayaking. He hopes to share that love with others while learning from them, too!
  • Benita Law-Diao -Benita is a NYS licensed dietitian/nutritionist, retired from the NYS Dept. of Health (NYDOH) in 2019 after 32 years of public health service. She is currently a Food Recall Auditor for the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) and has worked as a USFDA Commissioned Tobacco Inspector and USDA Food and Nutrition Services Store Reviewer. Throughout her life she has had a passion for the environment and sustainable living. Through her work at the NYSDOH, she and her co-workers helped to market and encourage the re-opening of the Erie Canal as a recreational asset for NYS by riding bicycle across the state for 3 consecutive years. As past President and National Board Member of Hostelling International USA, she worked to encourage more people of color to participate in travel through hostels. As Benita travels around the world learning about different people and cultures, working on climate change, public and environmental health projects, she is usually the only person of color at the table. She has worked to encourage, educate and create access for people of color to experience the wonderful things that she has been privileged to do and see, on a budget. Benita loves nature journaling, hiking, bicycling, kayaking, traveling, birdwatching, landscape photography and volunteering for citizen science environmental projects.

If you missed this program click here to watch the archived discussion. 

Thursday, August 13 at 6:00 pm

Driving While Black, Part III

ADI Executive Director Nicole Hylton-Patterson will interview Dr. Lorenzo M. Boyd about police-community relations, urban policing, and diversity issues in criminal justice systems.


  • Nicole Hylton-Patterson is the inaugural Executive Director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative.
  • Lorenzo M Boyd, Ph.D., is Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at the University of New Haven, is a nationally recognized leader in police-community relations and an authority on urban policing, diversity issues in criminal justice, race and crime, and criminal justice systems. He served for 14 years in the Suffolk County (Mass.) Sheriff’s department – working in policing, corrections, and the courts – which he says shaped his approach to teaching, research, and training of police commanders and officers.

If you missed this program click here to watch the archived discussion. 

Thursday, August 20 at 6:00 pm

The History of Blackface in the Adirondacks

Blackface performers at Winter Carnival, 1916 Courtesy Lake Placid North Elba Historical Society

For a century and a half, white men “blacking up” and performing as blackface minstrels drew eager audiences to Adirondack halls and stages. Writer and independent scholar Amy Godine tracks the long uneasy history of this unabashedly racialized performance style from its antebellum introduction as a big-city circus act to its later revival as a locally-produced nostalgia act in Adirondack towns and cities. Even into the 1960s, and long after blackface was widely recognized as racist, hometown blackface flourished on Adirondack stages. (Iterations still crop up in North Country college campuses.) Godine explores the tenacious roots, representations and consequences of this toxic tradition in Adirondack life.

Independent scholar Amy Godine has been delving into Adirondack social history for thirty years. Her articles in Adirondack Life have explored vigilante culture, labor uprisings, poorhouses, the stories of Chinese, Spanish, Jewish immigrants and migratory labor, Black Adirondack history, and racist influences in the early conservation movement. She is the writer/curator of Dreaming of Timbuctoo, an exhibition on view at the John Brown Farm Historic Site in North Elba, about a Black Adirondack farm settlement before the Civil War.

If you missed this program click here to watch the archived discussion. (This video has been edited to remove terms that may be offensive to some.)

This series is part of a larger ADI antiracism education and mobilization initiative that includes an Antiracism 101 web series, workshops, town hall meetings with elected officials, and public policy mobilization. For more information on these programs please visit: www.diversityadk.org.