A new Black leader works to build a more diverse, inclusive Adirondacks

June, 2020

The Adirondack Park is one of the least diverse places in America. There’s evidence that people of color don’t feel welcome in the park’s overwhelmingly white, small towns.

The Adirondack Diversity Initiative is starting a conversation about racial bias and inequality, drawing new energy and urgency from the Black Lives Matter movement. ADI was formed as a volunteer-run organization in 2015. In 2019, ADI hired its first full-time director, Nicky Hylton-Patterson.

It was snowing the day Hylton-Patterson moved from New York City to Saranac Lake in early December last year. She was behind the wheel of a big U-Haul truck and. by mistake, she ended up on a road just for passenger vehicles.

“The GPS stopped working and I was lost. I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” says Hylton-Patterson. Then, a police car pulled up behind her. “So I did what Black people do — what most Black people I know do and I’ve been taught to do — is to put my hands outside the window so that [the officer] sees that I’m not — that I don’t have anything.”

Anything, as in, a gun. Hylton-Patterson says she told the officer she was lost. The officer asked for her license. “And so I said, ‘May I reach into my purse,’ and he said, ‘Yes.’" She says her caution reflects experience with police that most Black people share.

Read and listen to the full story on North Country Public Radio.

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