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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Skidmore College hosted the 39th annual Polo by Twilight event to benefit the Palamountain Scholarship Fund on Tuesday, July 24, at the Saratoga Polo Fields on Bloomfield Road in Greenfield Center, New York. All proceeds from the Palamountain Scholarship event benefited the Joseph C. and Anne T. Palamountain Scholarship Fund, created and named to honor Skidmore’s late president and his wife for their 23 years of dedicated service and leadership at the College. The scholarship benefit began in 1979 by Anne Palamountain to raise money for students who require financial assistance to attend Skidmore College.
“Anne’s greatest passion was building endowment for financial aid, which she saw as the most effective way to make a college education accessible to all students,” said Dr. Philip A. Glotzbach, President of Skidmore College.
“Anne championed the benefit event for 35 years, helping the Joseph C. and Anne T. Palamountain Scholarship Fund reach a total of $5.8 million,” Glotzbach continued.
The fund supports financially eligible juniors and seniors whose outstanding academic records and co-curricular service exemplify the unique contribution that the Palamountains have made to Skidmore College. The fund has enabled hundreds of students to attend and graduate from Skidmore. Skidmore alumnus, Eleuterio “Ele” Martinez Ramirez, class of 2018, is the fifth Anne T. Palamountain Scholar Award recipient. In 2008, Ramirez made the difficult choice to leave his family and community in Oaxaca, Mexico because of political violence and lack of educational opportunities to pursue a better life. When he came to Saratoga Springs at age 14, Ramirez did not speak English. He worked for two years before deciding that he needed to resume his education to meet his goals in life. He was accepted into Skidmore’s Pre-College Program while he was a senior at Saratoga Springs High School. Ramirez, who graduated in May from Skidmore with a major in math and minor in physics, plans to pursue a career in engineering. He completed a summer internship with General Electric in his sophomore year, and last summer he went back to his hometown in Mexico to teach young students photography skills. This summer he will go back to teach math and computer skills to students at his childhood school, truly following Anne Palamountain’s example of always giving back to the community.
“Behind every success, there is hard work and sacrifice. My time at Skidmore College has been a hard journey, but thanks to my mentors and professors, and to self-motivation, I am where I am today,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez’s plans to teach young students in his hometown will be supported by funding he received from a SEE-Beyond Award from Skidmore, which will bring much-needed resources to his community and allow him to significantly improve the education offered to students. SEE-Beyond Awards invite students to apply their academic learning to realworld challenges and aim to help them clarify the interrelationship between their educational and post-baccalaureate goals.
“I have not forgotten my roots and the need to give back to my community in Oaxaca, Mexico. I give my most sincere thanks to Anne Palamountain and all who have contributed to the Palmountain Scholarship Fund for these great opportunities that I have had at Skidmore College,” Ramirez said.
The 2018 Polo by Twilight event began with a reception and The Palamountain Cup Polo Match, followed by a silent auction and a gourmet dinner prepared by Skidmore College’s award-winning chefs. For more information, visit skidmore.edu/palamountainbenefit.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Skidmore College Saratoga Classic Horse Show is celebrating its 21st annual competition with the grand opening of a new 103acre venue called White Hollow Farm in Stillwater, New York. The property, located eight miles from Saratoga Springs, features eight new riding arenas engineered with state-of-the-art drainage systems and high-performance, allweather footing. The venue provides an expansive area for competition, practice rings, stabling, turnout paddocks, vendors and public viewing. The horse farm was a gift to Skidmore College from the estate of the late Robert R. Rosenheim, of Sharon, Connecticut. The guided tour of the 103acre property will provide a behind-the-scenes view of the new, state-of-the-art competition and schooling (practice) riding rings, horse barns, turnout paddocks, administrative offices and more.
“With this new facility, we’re investing in the future of the Saratoga Classic horse shows by creating a world-class venue that fulfills our vision and meets the needs of today’s equestrian,” said Adele Einhorn, executive director of the Skidmore College Saratoga Classic Horse Show.
“This competition venue is unlike any other in the region. The sheer size of the facility makes it attractive for riders. There’s ample room to ride and graze and turn out horses, and it’s so peaceful for both horse and rider. The new competition rings are state-of-the-art, with fully engineered drainage and all-weather, high-performance footing,” said Einhorn.
The Saratoga Classic show began in 1927 and was brought back to life in 1998. It has since become a highlight of the early summer season in Saratoga. The top-level competition attracts many of the country’s best horses and riders to the Saratoga area. The show had previously been held at the Yaddo show grounds since 1998. Over the past 20 years, the show has attracted more than 13,000 horses and participants from 49 states and seven countries; created employment opportunities for 850 individuals; and raised more than $4.5 million for financial aid/scholarships for students of Skidmore College. Show organizers have added an additional week to this year’s event, which will generate more funding for student scholarships. The show is traditionally held over two weeks in June (June 13–17 and June 20–24) and will now extend to three weeks, with new dates in August (Aug. 15–18). Events begin each day at 8 a.m., with the exception of Saturday, June 17, and Saturday, June 24, when events begin at 7:30 a.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit the website at www.skidmore. edu/saratogaclassic.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Ramblin Jug Stompers will perform at Skidmore College at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17 as part of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery Upbeat on the Roof series.
The band is comprised of banjoist Bowtie Blotto, guitarist Steven Clyde, “Wild Bill” AKA Sergeant Blotto AKA rock journalist Greg Haymes and Renaissance man Michael Eck – whose prolific poetic and songwriting skills have been showcased in the greater Capital Region for several decades. The Stompers’ exuberant style combines the washboard, guitar, mandolin, and banjo in a spirited quartet.
The UpBeat on the Roof concert series, now in its seventeenth season, features an eclectic mix of musicians from across the Capital Region.
The museum is located on the Skidmore College campus at 815 N. Broadway. Due to the popularity of the concert series, visitors are advised to arrive early. Free parking is available in parking lots adjacent to the museum. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be moved inside the museum.
For more information on UpBeat on the Roof, call 518-580-8080 or visit http://tang.skidmore.edu.
Challenging. Extremely nuanced. And very, very complicated.
The city’s recently formed Human Rights Task Force hosted a Town Hall at Skidmore College on a stormy Monday evening regarding the impact of immigration in Saratoga Springs. The moderated panel discussion included regional business owners, an attorney specializing in immigration employment matters relating and local and state community leaders and representatives.
The prevailing sentiment of the informational meeting – which was attended by about 175 people and included an audience Q&A session – is that even as Saratoga Springs strives to be “a welcoming and all-inclusive community,” there are limits to what the city can do regarding immigrant workers – both documented and undocumented - given that federal laws supersede local ones.
“What we have done is everything we can do,” said city Mayor Joanne Yepsen. “This is a federal agency. This is The White House. And we don’t have legal grounds.”
Earlier this year, the mayor founded a city Human Rights Task Force – which focuses mostly on education, programming such as Monday’s event, and providing referrals to local agencies that can assist in immigration issues. In March, city Police Chief Greg Veitch said while the department will work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E. if asked, local police will not detain anyone solely for a civil violation of federal immigration laws.
In June, federal agents conducted two separate operations in Saratoga Springs, arresting a total of 26 “unlawfully present foreign nationals,” according to the agency.
In recent months, two city based churches stepped forward with a sanctuary pledge for undocumented immigrants who are targets of deportation. I.C.E. typically operates under guidelines that recognize places like churches and schools as sensitive locations where agents would not normally carry out enforcement actions. However, there are no guarantees.
“Designating oneself as a ‘sanctuary’ doesn’t mean that people without immigration status are immune from federal law,” notes attorney Brendan Venter, an immigrant specialist with the Whiteman Osterman & Hanna firm in Albany.
More than 11 countries are represented on the backstretch said Task Force member Diane Barnes said Monday, adding that besides the racecourse, high-profile employers such as Skidmore College and Global Foundries also employ a good number of immigrants.
Panelist and local business owner Patrick Pipino spoke about the large immigrant work force in the food and restaurant business. “Good people. Hard working people. Why Saratoga? I think it’s easy to pick off people because we’re a high-profile community, and in my opinion there’s a new sheriff in town and he wants to show he’s tough on immigration.” Business owners are required to turn over employment records to federal authorities when asked and when they arrive with warrant in hand. Those detained are held locally in Albany for only a couple of days before being sent to federal detention in Buffalo, which makes timeliness of representation difficult where they can plead their case.
One resource available to anyone with immigration questions is at the New York State Office for New Americans, which is funded by Catholic Charities and offers resources in 200 different languages.
“First it will help refer you to an organization that will provide assistance on any immigrant-related questions. It’s all free and confidential,” New York Department of State’s Laura González-Murphy - who directs the New York State Office for New Americans - said Monday night. “We’re also going to be using that as a resource to connect with legal assistance, for an attorney.” The agency can be reached by phone at 1-800-566-7636. “People who know an immigrant can call, immigrants themselves can call. It’s for anyone who needs assistance,” she said.
“I think there is a humanitarian effort to this, because families are being broken apart in ways we haven’t seen before,” Yepsen said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A local college student and professor are showing young people the power of radio.
Skidmore College junior Adam Simon and professor Adam Tinkle introduced the Upstate Youth Radio & Podcast Project this summer, with the goal of showing Capital Region kids the inner workings of radio production and sound engineering. According to the project’s official website, the project teaches kids “everything you need to be a radio DJ, talk show host, audio documentarian, and podcaster.”
The kids involved with the program are mostly preteens, but the range of ages runs from as young as seven to as old as 20. Simon and Tinkle wanted to be sure that the program would show that kids of all ages could gain things from radio production. Two days out of the week, the program runs workshops for its participating kids in the C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, one at the Saratoga Springs location and the other at the Schenectady venue. Another two days out of the week, they take what they have learned in the workshops and run actual broadcasts from WSPN. On these days, Mondays and Thursdays, from 4-6 p.m., Simon either broadcasts prerecorded material produced during the workshops, or he works with the kids live in the studio. Simon said that for some of the younger participants, the sense of planning something and seeing it play out for an audience is the most engaging part of the program.
The program was made possible via a grant as part of Skidmore’s Faculty/Student Summer Research program, which allows individuals with the school to have around 5-10 weeks of lab or classroom time on-campus during the summer for research purposes. Unlike the traditional research pursuits that this program allows for, the Upstate Youth Radio Project is acting as a sort of pilot program, providing a means for facilitating youth involvement in radio production and testing the waters for a potential network of youth radio programs in the Saratoga area and beyond.
“We are basically acting as if we could propose a sort of permanent installation of this project,” Simon said.
The inspiration for the project partly came from similar projects that Tinkle had run in the past focused on getting young kids involved in experimental and improvisational music. Simon also said that the school’s possession of its own radio station was a major inspiration for creating the program. Creating such a program also went a ways to fixing the situation whereby the station would have to rely on automated playlists in the summer when many of its student DJ’s would be back home.
Simon is a philosophy major at Skidmore College with a minor in media and film studies. He has been involved with Skidmore’s local radio station, WSPN, as a radio DJ since his freshman year. Tinkle is a visiting professor at the school, teaching film and media studies with the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative.
All photos courtesy of Adam Simon.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A local film production company is bringing to life the fairy tales of old right in our very own backyard.
The newly established Trident Fantasy Films is currently in the midst of its first production, a children’s fantasy television series to be called “The Adventures of Snow White and Rose Red,” inspired by the Grimm’s Fairy Tales canon and more. The company was co-founded by Nicole Coady and husband-and-wife team Andrew Balog and Katie Spass. All three co-founders are serving as executive producers on the show, among other duties. They are aiming to release the show on Amazon Prime in early 2018.
The show will consist of seven episodes, which will range from 10-15 minutes each. Coady wrote the pilot episode, and co-wrote two other episodes. Balog is also set to direct one of the episodes. Each episode will consist of sisters Snow White and Rose Red going on adventures with other popular “fairy tale friends,” including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Lewis Caroll’s Alice. The show’s producers hope that it will teach its young audience a variety of wholesome life lessons, as well as inspire them to seek out and read the classic fairy tales from which its characters are derived.
“We really tried to go back to the original Grimm’s text and pull from there, and say, if Snow White and Rose Red were to really run into [for example] Little Red Riding Hood, what would happen?” Coady said about the show’s creative ambitions.
Coady, who is acting as showrunner and creator for the series, compared the feel they hope to achieve with the series to Disney’s 2015 live-action “Cinderella” with Lily James, while producer Spass said that the show’s intended demographic includes children ages 4-9. While the series is aiming young, Coady said that they hope the enduring popularity of the characters would make it popular with older kids as well.
The series’ titular fairy tale heroines will be played by real life sisters, Demetra and Callista Zorbas, 14 and 17, respectively, of Colonie. Callista, portraying Rose Red, has been performing since age 3, and has been involved in a number of plays and short films. Demetra, portraying Snow White, has also been performing for a while, but until now she has mostly been an extra in things alongside her older sister. This series marks the biggest undertaking for the two of them.
“It’s been really fun,” Callista Zorbas said. “This is like our dream come true.”
Production on the series began on June 12, and is set to wrap on July 1. When press were invited to visit the set on June 14, the cast and crew were shooting scenes in the gardens behind the Surrey Williamson Inn, across from the entrance to Skidmore College. Spass described the isolated location as a “hidden treasure” in the area, with stonework perfect for a fantasy project. The episode being filmed involved the characters meeting Rapunzel, portrayed by Madeline Balta, 16, of Greenville. Balta has previously worked with Coady on an adaption of the Brothers Grimm’s “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Coady described the moral of this particular episode as learning to share. Other planned shooting locations for the series include Galway and Moreau State Park.
Coady currently resides in Ballston Spa, having moved to the area from Los Angeles after spending time close to Hollywood building her career in film. She is originally from New York City. Balog and Spass have both lived in the area for most of their lives, with Balog hailing from Vermont originally, and Spass having moved here at age 5. Prior to the creation of Trident Fantasy Films, Balog founded Logs Leisure Entertainment, a company focused on providing digital releases for various film projects on platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, and more. Balog also produced a pilot last year for Amazon called “Solitude,” which he also directed. The rest of the series is scheduled to begin production in Aug. It will, like “The Adventures of Snow White and Rose Red,” be filmed locally.
All photos by Thomas Kika.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Officially known as MB 360, the Saratoga-Skidmore Consulting Partnership (SSCP) offers invaluable benefits to both Skidmore College students and local businesses. Headed by Colleen Burke, SSCP gives students from a variety of degree paths hands-on experience working as consultants for local businesses.
For the businesses themselves, they gain insights from a diverse and often international pool of young minds. Students in the program come from degree paths as varied as business management, English, psychology, and more, as well from countries all over the world, like Japan, Swaziland, Haiti, Germany, and Brazil.
As a manager in the program, Maya Reyes has been with SSCP for two semesters. During her time, she worked with Saratoga TODAY to help the publication stream-line its visual identity, as before, the design would vary significantly from page to page. Reyes and her team helped the paper develop its “blue box” strategy, making it cohesive across the whole publication.
“We undertake a lot of market research, including extensive focus groups and group surveys, so we learn how to do those things at a professional level,” Reyes said about the academic benefits of the program.
Robert Pierce is another student who has been with the program for the last two semesters. Among the projects he has been a part of, perhaps the biggest was with Death Wish Coffee. After the local extra-strength coffee company landed a commercial during Super Bowl L in 2016, the company’s national profile grew exponentially. Pierce and his group helped the company scale its practices to help meet higher demand while staying as efficient as before.
Pierce also worked with Battenkill Valley Creamery – run by Skidmore alum Seth McEachron – to help the company develop new growth strategies that focused on telling the company’s history.
“This course has been everything for me,” Pierce said. “It’s all I talk about in job interviews, it’s all employers ask about, and... I can talk about this course for hours on end. Professor Colleen Burke has been the most supportive figure in my life, in regards to job hunting, motivating me, and helping me find my true skills.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A crowd of cheering friends and families filled the bleachers in the Saratoga Springs High School’s blue gym as 14 young athletes embraced their futures.
In a special ceremony held on April 12, the Saratoga Springs City School District honored 14 senior athletes as they signed their letters of intent to play inter-collegiate athletics at the universities of their choice in the fall. Athletic director Peter Sheehan addressed the attended crowd – which included other student athletes allowed to attend before their various practices and meets by their coaches – before the actual signings, thanking them for their attendance and congratulating the athletes on their achievements.
“We are so very proud of each and every one of you, and of the time and effort you’ve put in to make this day possible,” Sheehan said.
The athletes honored at the ceremony were, in the order they were seated at the table from left to right: Sarah Winters, who will play field hockey at Skidmore College; Francesca Mangino, who will play lacrosse at SUNY Brockport; Cameron Parry, who will play lacrosse at Quinnipiac University; Emily Fischer, who will play lacrosse at Clarkson University; Tucker Pierce, who will play lacrosse at Westminster College; Elizabeth Maguire, who will play soccer at Le Moyne College; Gabe Olsen, who will play soccer at Mount Ida College; Daniel Varsames, who will play soccer at Utica College; Michael Moran, who will also play soccer at Utica College; Autumn Boxley, who will swim at George Mason University; Victoria Breslin, who will swim at Le Moyne College; Morgan Hoffman-Smith, who will swim at Ithaca College; Nick Cavotta, who will run track and field at Winthrop University; and Mary “Mimi” Liebers, who will run track & field at the College of the Holy Cross. Griffin Taylor, who will play lacrosse at SUNY Oneonta, was not present at the ceremony due to attending a meet at his soon-to-be school, but he was mentioned by Sheehan and was present on the list of athletes at the ceremony.
“I just loved the campus as soon as I stepped on campus,” Parry said about her choice of Quinnipiac. “I knew that that was the place for me. The coaching staff was just really welcoming, and all the girls on the team were super welcoming, and I just really got a good feel for the team and for the… kind of program that I’d be going to.”
“I’m very excited,” Liebers said about attending Holy Cross in the fall. “I’ve always known I wanted to do college sports, and track has been my main sport for five years now. So getting to continue track in college is a dream come true… I wanted a D-1 program, but I particularly liked the Patriot League. And I just loved the school, and I knew I needed to see myself at the school without track, so it all just fell into place.”
“I was looking at schools in the south, and I found Winthrop, it has my major in business and a minor in sports marketing, which is just awesome for me,” Cavotta said about his choice of Winthrop. “It’s a beautiful school. It’s down south, lot of warm weather. Not a huge school, which I like, so I can get some more individual time with my professors. It just has everything I could look for in a college.”
“Super proud,” Cavotta’s mother said about her son’s achievement. “I like the school. Like he said, it’s a nice small school, homey, they focus on academics and education, and parent involvement.”
Notably, two of the athletes at the ceremony, Varsames and Moran, will be playing the same sport, soccer, at Utica. This is fitting, as they have been close friends for years.
“That’ll help a lot,” Varsames said about attending school with someone he is so familiar with. “We both know how each other plays. It’ll help team chemistry, obviously. We’re best friends, so it’ll be fun… [We’ve been playing together since we were] probably like around 10, 12 maybe.”
“I think we have an outstanding group of coaches, we have very supportive parents who allow our student athletes to have opportunities, both in-school and out-of-school, that kinda give them a chance to compete at the collegiate level,” Sheehan said about the SSCSD athletics program. “I think that’s important to have that year-round commitment and to have those year-round opportunities.”
All photos by Thomas Kika.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – By the time the early 1970s rolled around, any promise perceived of a train bound for glory on a fast track to the Aquarian Age had instead become supplanted by a cranky subway car departing a graffiti-stained station with a congregation of misfits aboard.
It is these characters of humanity – Rake the hustler, Fick the junkie, Al the alcoholic, and Franny the transvestite prostitute – put on display, in all their grit and glory in the staging of Skidmore Theater’s presentation of “Balm In Gilead.” The play, scripted by Lanford Wilson, premiered Off Off Broadway at La MaMa in 1965 and a generation later re-set to take place in the early 1970s.
The geography is uptown Manhattan, the setting an all-night diner where characters drift in and out against a backdrop of booths and swiveling stools that lean on a cheesy, diamond-motif counter topped by metal napkin holders, red and yellow plastic-spout squeeze bottles, and a big, clunky cash register.
Under the direction of Phil Soltanoff - a veteran of recent projects staged in Austin, Vancouver, Los Angeles and New York City - the two dozen or so Skidmore College players convincingly convey a scenario with a talented realism that certainly pre-dates the time before their own existence on earth if not their parents, in providing a voyeuristic experience of a collection of characters whose lives are simultaneously humorous and tragic.
Sydney Tennant portrays the doe-eyed Darlene - a naïve, newly transplanted New Yorker - with credible splendor, marathon monologuing deep into the night, expressing every single thought that pours from her mind with a blend of child-like innocence and annoying animation. She engages even the most hardened characters seated in the 24-hour diner in a shared humanity, if only for a fleeting moment. When she concludes her soliloquy by saying “Anyway, to make a long story short…” it cracks everyone up, characters and audience alike.
In John - the grungy, apron-draped cafe manager portrayed by Jacob Hudson who alternates his time between cooking in the kitchen and showing non-paying customers the door - and Kay, the yellow- garbed waitress played by Anabel Milton who runs around taking coffee orders and wiping down tables – the play depicts a solid foundation of the drab, bleak realities of the working class. It stands in high contrast to the commotion of platinum blonde wigs and wounded blue jeans, hot pants, leather thigh-high boots and fishnet stockings, silver sequined miniskirts and post-hippie fringe in a sleaze-and-glam cacophony that lives somewhere between a New York Dolls concert and a Starsky & Hutch TV show.
Lulu Fairclough-Stewart especially shines as the oh-so-bored, scarlet-haired Ann, providing a perfect foil to Darlene’s ramblings, nursing a cigarette and firmly encased in her hard shell of emotional body armor, before heading back into the street, past a shuttered bodega and an alleyway framed by trash, to make her living. Chris Naughton is convincing as well in a lead role as the mustached drug dealer Joe, for whom the naïve Darlene falls.
The ensemble as a whole weaves its work like a large orchestra, a series of direct and non-direct actions conveying the mayhem with an authenticity; These student actors bring the scenes to life.
An appropriate soundtrack blares out the diner jukebox throughout: Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Meeting Across the River,” “Thunder Road,” and “Jungleland,” and “Waltzing Matilda” sung by Tom Waits, that fittingly sprinkles the optimistic hope of escape onto on-the-nod moments of despair.
After the final curtain call, the characters return for one more go-around the diner, reminiscent of the dusky cycling at the conclusion of the Rolling Stones documentary “Gimme Shelter,” and which leaves the open question: are we moving on to a grander time in this life, or being forced to return to our destiny, time and again?
Skidmore Theater Presents “Balm In Gilead,” by Lanford Wilson. Director: Phil Soltanoff.
Performances at 8 p.m. Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 23. Skidmore College: Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Mainstage. Tickets are $12 adult, $8 students and faculty. After the April 22 performance of Balm in Gilead, the Skidmore Theater Department will host its annual house party. “That 70’s House Party,” is a celebratory event to recognize the department’s achievements this year.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Aya Awawdeh is an honors student, a soccer fan, and an ice cream lover. When the Saratoga Springs High School junior decided to start wearing a hijab in the seventh grade, it had a huge impact on her life. Nearly every day she fields questions and comments from her peers about her faith. Some are innocent, or curious. Others are hurtful.
“Just last week, my sister overheard somebody saying that they feel uncomfortable around Muslim women in a hijab because they’re afraid they’ll blow up the school,” Awawdeh shared with an audience of over a hundred people at a Voices for Unity event at the school.
“I don’t even have words for this. I lived in one of the most intense conflicts worldwide, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but the political circumstances never made me question how I viewed other faiths,” said Awawdeh, a Muslim immigrant. “Our behavior is the only way that we judge people.”
Voices for Unity, presented by the high school’s Amnesty International Club, featured a panel of speakers on LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, and refugee rights. The goal of the forum was to bring people together in advocating for a more inclusive community.
“These are extremely personal topics for all of us. Sharing your thoughts and experiences in such a public forum can be very emotionally exhausting,” said Abdul (Abude) Alasaad, a Skidmore College student and Syrian refugee. Alasaad was one of four panelists that also included Awawdeh, Lyndon Cudlitz of the Capital Region’s Pride Center in Albany, and Julie Southwell of Amnesty International in Boston.
The speakers agreed that panels such as this one are important because listeners can hear from people who are very different from themselves and find some common ground.
Cudlitz spoke about the LGBTQ community and the history of the movement, and Southwell described the scope of work done by Amnesty International.
“These are human rights issues,” said Southwell, who helped establish the Amnesty International Club at the high school. “It’s not about politics, or a few people who are mad.”
While each panelist offered a different perspective, their messages were all about the things in life that we can—and cannot—control.
“The biggest difference between me and anyone in this room is the random accident of birth,” said Alasaad, who was born and raised in a refugee camp in Damascus. “And it’s this random accident of birth that can determine your fate for your entire life.”
There was a flood of questions from the audience, which consisted of students, faculty, parents, and other members of the community, all wanting to know what they could do to help.
“It’s not enough to call yourself an ally,” said Cudlitz. “‘Ally’ is not an identity. ‘Allyship’ is an action.”
The panelists explained that actions such as attending events like Voices for Unity are a good start, but there’s more that can be done, such as writing letters, signing petitions, and joining local lobbying efforts.
“We have to stay informed and engaged,” said Southwell. “Not just for tonight.”