Conversations Around Social Justice in the Adirondacks

decorative image of the High Peaks

A Zoom Webinar Series

The Lived Experience April 15, 5:30 P.M.
Dr. Alice Green and Brenda Valentine

Moderated by Prof. Becky Cortez

Half a century of Adirondack lived experience: two Park residents reflect and share about systemic racism and structural oppression growing up and living in the Park, from the 1950s to today.

Dr. Alice GreenDr. Alice Green

Dr. Alice Green grew up in Witherbee, NY in the Adirondacks where she attended school, but currently lives most of the year in Albany and spends much of her summers at her Essex County home.  She grew up in Witherbee, a rural iron ore mining hamlet, during the 50s and 60s where her family was one of only two families in the town.  In 1997 she founded the Paden Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color in Essex, where writers are provided technical assistance and a quiet environment for writing.  Alice is the Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice, which focuses on issues of criminal justice, civil rights and liberties of concern to poor communities and those of color.  Alice holds a BA in education, two MA degrees, an MSW degree and a Ph.D. in criminal justice, all from SUNY Albany.  She writes and lectures on racism, criminal justice and prison reform and has co-authored several books, including Law Never Here, A Social History of African American Responses to Issues of Crime and Justice. She is currently completing a memoir entitled, We Who Believe in Freedom.  Alice has competed for city and statewide political office and has held leadership positions in several organizations concerned with racial issues including the NAACP and the ACLU.

Brenda Valentine

Brenda Valentine retired from Orange and Rockland Utilities/Consolidated Edison of NY in 2004. After numerous and successful corporate and community/public relations programs and activities and local and national awards, she became a full time resident in the Town of Indian Lake.  She is extremely active in the Indian Lake community, serves as president of the Indian Lake Community Development Corporation and was named 2018 Indian Lake “Citizen of the Year” for her years of outstanding service in the Town.

Prof. Becky CortezProf. Becky Cortez

Becky Cortez is currently a professor of mechanical engineering and director of engineering at Union College.  She enjoys living in the Adirondack Park – appreciating its natural beauty, wildlife, outdoor activities and learning about its history.


Diversity in Plain Sight April 29, 5:30 P.M.
Kelly Metzger , Amy Godine, and Prof. Neil Patterson

Moderated by Dr. Donathan Brown

The struggle to ensure the Adirondacks are welcoming and safe for all requires recognizing and supporting the diversity we don’t see. This panel explores issues of diversity cutting across gender identity and expression, sex, race, and ethnicity.

Kelly Metzgar

Kelly Leigh Metzgar is a transgender woman living in the Adirondack North Country of Upstate NY. Kelly arrived in Saranac Lake at the end of December of 1983 and has called the community and the region home ever since!

Kelly is a Co-Founder and Executive Director of Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance (ANCGA) and Adirondack North Country Gender Advocacy & Education (ANCGAE), both based in Saranac Lake, NY. She is a co-founding board member and Treasurer of Gender Equality NY (GENY), Core Team (Board) Member Adirondack Diversity Initiative and Advisory Board Member – Travel Unity.

Kelly believes in allowing Transgender, Gender Non-Binary and all LGBTQI+ people live as their true and authentic self. She seeks to end the stigma that there is “something wrong” or unacceptable in being LGBTQI+ and strives to educate the public on gender identity / expression and sexual orientation issues, to promote understanding, acceptance of LGBTQI+ people in all aspects of life including in schools, society and employment on the job.

Amy GodineAmy Godine

Independent scholar and Adirondack Life contributor Amy Godine has published scores of articles about Adirondack ethnic and social history.

She has curated several exhibitions, including the John Brown Lives!-produced traveling exhibition, Dreaming of Timbuctoo, about an abolitionist-founded black settlement near North Elba.

Amy has lectured widely in the region on migratory laborers, immigrants, ethnic neighborhoods and enclaves, peddlers, paupers, strikers, and other Adirondack “non-elites.”

Prof. Neil PattersonProf. Neil Patterson

Professor Neil Patterson Jr. is a husband, father, and traditional lifeways learner born into the White Bear Clan as a citizen of the Tuscarora Nation. Neil has worked with the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force since it’s inception in 1997. He is founder of the Tuscarora Environment Program, a USEPA-funded environmental organization addressing solid waste, drinking water, food sovereignty, hydropower relicensing, outdoor youth education matters of the Tuscarora Nation. In 2004, Patterson received an EPA Environmental Quality Award for the Tuscarora Environment News. Neil is also a founding board member of the Friends of the Buffalo Niagara Rivers, a non-profit dedicated to improving the environmental health of the Buffalo and Niagara Rivers.

Patterson currently serves as Assistant Director of the Center for Native Peoples & the Environment at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Onondaga Territory. He teaches courses in traditional ecological knowledge and oversees environmental research, education and outreach initiatives associated with Indigenous Peoples. Neil is also the current Co-Chair of the National Tribal Science Council, a tribal partnership group of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Dr. Donathan Brown

Dr. Donathan Brown is the inaugural Assistant Provost and Assistant Vice President for Faculty Diversity and Recruitment at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he leads the Office of Faculty Diversity and Recruitment. In this capacity, Dr. Brown provides institutional leadership for the effective recruitment and advancement of a diverse and excellent faculty body. He places particular emphasis on recruiting historically underrepresented faculty and providing strategic guidance to support retention-related efforts that include professional development, mentoring, academic diversity and equity, work-life policies and other climate issues. In addition, Dr. Brown is a tenured member of the faculty, a former U.S. Fulbright Professor and current US Fulbright Scholar Ambassador.


The Color of Covid, May 13, 5:30 P.M.
Dr. Nicole Hylton Patterson and Aaron Mair

Moderated by Prof. Deidre Hill Butler

Examine vaccine reticence and the history of medical exploitation/experimentation on BIPOC communities, that go beyond Tuskegee and delves into a historiographical examination.

Dr. Nicole Hylton PattersonDr. Nicole Hylton Patterson

Dr. Nicole “Nicky” Hylton-Patterson is not a diversity trainer. She is a Black Queer Activist Scholar and Community Organizer, who has spent the last 25 years working with marginalized and minoritized communities around the world to seek justice. In her current role as the Inaugural Director for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, she continues to mobilize and deploy the entirety of her personal, political, and professional experiences. Her mission: To equip communities in the North Country with the tools, strategies, language, and VOICE needed to dismantle systemic racism and structural oppression.  Received her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College, multiple master’s degrees from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and Syracuse University, and a doctoral degree in Women & Gender Studies from the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University.

Aaron Mair

Aaron Mair is an epidemiological-spatial analyst, environmentalist with New York State from Albany, New York. Mr. Mair is an Environmental Justice movement pioneer and leader, and 57th national president of the Sierra Club. As an advocate for environmental justice and activist in the Arbor Hill, NY community, he responsible for the creation of the W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center and the Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corporation. He lives in Schenectady, New York and works for the New York State Department of Health.

Mair was elected president of the Sierra Club on May 16, 2015. He was that National organization’s first African-American president. Mair has been a member of the Sierra Club since 1999. Since that time, he has held many leadership positions with the Sierra Club: National Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Chair 2010–present; National Diversity Council 2008-2010. Atlantic Chapter: Environmental Justice 2003-2004; Chapter Chair 2002-2003. Hudson Mohawk Group: International Human Rights/Environment 2003–present; Environmental Justice 2002-2008; Water Quality/Habitats 2006-2011.

He is a graduate of Binghamton University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in History and Sociology and a certificate in Southwest Asia and North Africa Studies. Mair also earned a honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for his life’s work in pioneering diversity, equity, and inclusion work in the environmental movement.  Mair also trained at Rhode Island’s Naval Education and Training Center and attended The American University in Cairo. He participated in Binghamton University’s Political Science Doctoral Program, but left the program to begin State service in 1988.

In 1995, Mair founded the Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corporation, which was a member of the White House Council on Environmental Quality from 1998 to 2000. He also founded, served as board member, and lectured at the W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center in the Albany Capital region of New York. In 1999, Mair was a member of Friends of Clean Hudson. In 2000, Mair received an EPA Environmental Quality Award for cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on the Hudson River. Mair also served as a board member at the New York League of Conservation Voters in 2000.


Prof. Deidre Hill ButlerProf. Deidre Hill Butler

Professor Hill Butler’s research areas encompass the sociology of African American Culture and African American women’s representations in society. Her current focus is the role of African American women in contemporary stepfamilies. She has published articles in Afro-Americans in New York Life and History: An Interdisciplinary Journal and The Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering. She is a lifetime member of the Association of Black Women Historians. She is co-teaching a Minerva Online course this fall 2020, Critical Perspectives and Action on Inequality, Power, & Privilege, designed to engage students and colleagues to develop action plans for social justice.