Being Black in the Adirondacks: Why the drive to boost diversity is complex, and personal

August, 2020

by Georgie Silvarole, New York State Team

SARANAC LAKE — Since moving to the Adirondacks at the start of the year, Nicky Hylton-Patterson greets most mornings the same way.

She laces up her neon pink-and-green sneakers, pulls on a bright long-sleeve shirt and a pair of leggings. Then she's out the door, hopefully early enough to share her favorite trail with only the ducks, frogs and turtles.

For months, her route is consistent: From her home, she runs down the road and over a bridge to the trail that loops around Moody Pond. The whole endeavor takes about 45 minutes — 40 of actual running, the other five reserved to say hello to any dogs she might pass.

Nicky Hylton-Patterson, the director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, talks about racism in the Adirondacks while in her Saranac Lake office July 28.

FRANK BECERRA JR./THE JOURNAL NEWS

Hylton-Patterson, 44, was brought on as the Adirondack Diversity Initiative’s inaugural director about eight months ago. She was hired to tackle the challenges of making the Adirondacks a more welcoming, accessible and inclusive place for all people, particularly those in marginalized groups.

She moved for the job from New York City to the village of Saranac Lake for the position. Now, she is a Black woman in an overwhelmingly white town of about 5,000 people, living amid the kind of lush American beauty that has historically been less accessible for people of color.

One day in June, that reality became strikingly obvious.

Hylton-Patterson didn't see it in person. She happened to take a rest day from running. Instead, a coworker emailed her the news: A bridge along her daily route had been vandalized.

Among the bits of spray-painted graffiti, one venomous message felt like a billboard erected just for her.

It read: Go back to Africa f---ing n---er

"I heard about the graffiti and I said, 'Oh, my God. That's where I run,'" Hylton-Patterson said. "I said, 'This is mine.'"  

Read the full article at USA Today

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