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The Darkest City by Andrei Guruianu

October 4, 2017 by pegjohnston

"The Darkest City is a dialogue conducted in text and images between Romanian-born writer Andrei Guruianu and American photographer and visual artist Teknari. The Darkest City draws its inspiration from Teknari’s black and white photographs of the Southern Tier of New York, whose small cities and villages have at times been labeled by some as “drive through” kind of places. Once known for being the birthplace of IBM, the Endicott Johnson shoe factories that furnished boots for American soldiers in WWII, Guglielmo Marconi’s first radio tower, as well as the Twilight one series, large parts of the area now lie in disrepair, abandoned, a modern ruinscape. The claw marks are visible on the empty factories, boarded up storefronts, the houses and churches that have seen the rise and fall of industry. Despite the inevitable change and fresh coat of paint that comes with time, the image remains often dark and bleak, one that unfortunately is all too familiar when one conjures up visions of small town America.
As The Darkest City is rooted in the ancient practice of ekphrastic exchange and artistic dialogue, we invite readers along the way to contribute their thoughts and reflections and insert themselves into this narrative be it on art and aesthetics, on memory and loss, or on identity and a sense of purpose and belonging. In the following pages we ask you to consider along with us: What do our modern lives suspended between the metaphorical here and then look like, and how do we go about living them to their fullest?

NYS Women's Suffrage Centennial

September 30, 2017 by pegjohnston

Women’s Rights National Historical Park and the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation Present Exhibits and Programs Celebrating Haudenosaunee Influence

PHOTO: Mural at 213 State St. by Bruce Greig of Elisabeth Freeman on Soapbox, Suffragette, 1913

LOCAL NEWS: Binghamton Suffrage Anniversary Parade
Sat, October 7, 1pm – 3pm
Main St, Binghamton, NY 13905
A re-creation of the October 1913 Convention of NYS Women Suffrage Association parade held in Downtown Binghamton. This year's parade will reenact the original parade, as well as feature current groups interested in celebrating the historic anniversary of women's suffrage in NYS.

Seneca Falls, NY & Fayetteville, NY – Exhibits highlighting the influence of Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) women on the vision of the woman’s rights movement will open at Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls on October 7 and the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center for Social Justice Dialogue in Fayetteville on October 14. Programs and dialogues at both sites will invite visitors to explore the often-untold story of Haudenosaunee influence, survival, and legacy. These Six Nations Confederacy women, with their legal, political, economic and personal authority, gave New York women a model to emulate.

Programs highlighting indigenous culture will begin the weekend of October 7-9 at Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Ranger dialogue programs exploring these issues will take place in the Wesleyan Chapel on:
• Saturday, October 7 at 11am and 2pm
• Sunday, October 8 at 1pm
• Monday, October 9 at 1pm

Children and families will also have the opportunity to create artwork around themes of trust and friendship and engage with a hands-on, outdoor timeline demonstrating the continuity of indigenous cultures in the area at the park.

A full schedule of events at both sites are available on their websites: and

The exhibits were created by the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation. This project was supported by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscious - a network of historic sites and museums dedicated to interpreting themes of human rights through dialogue-based approaches, with additional funding from Humanities New York and the Governor’s New York Suffrage Centennial Commission.

Related programming will be announced as Women’s Rights National Historical Park celebrates National American Indian Heritage Month in November and throughout the year as we work to better include the influence of Haudenosaunee culture in the story of the women's rights movement.

Follow us on Facebook (@WomensRightsNPS), Twitter (#WomensRightsNPS) and Instagram (WomensRightsNPS)

Join the Friends of Women’s Rights National Historical Park at If you would like to receive email announcements about other upcoming events, send an email to to subscribe.

All programs are free and open to the public


The Gandhi Project

September 11, 2017 by pegjohnston

The Gandhi Festival March – Sun. Oct. 1, 2017 at 4 pm, gathering at the M.L. King Statue on the Riverwalk, near Court St. Bridge.

The Gandhi Project was launched in 2015, to focus attention on the potential of “ordinary people” to work for the common good.  Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) came to be called “Mahatma” (great soul) because of his ever-deepening social awareness, and his ability to teach others—through personal example—about a force more effective than violence.  Calling upon the power of “truth” (the Sanskrit word is “satya”) to transform unjust situations, Gandhi’s followers achieved the independence of India from the world’s preeminent colonial power.  Satyagraha (truth force) challenged India’s caste system as well, and has become an instrument of social transformation in societies around the globe—using respectful, courageous, and disciplined human power, rather than violence, to liberate humanity.

As we move toward Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary (Oct. 2, 2019) we call attention to ahimsa, non-violence, as a creative energy—validated by experience—to mobilize moral energy and challenge the indifference and selfishness expressed in racism, sexism, xenophobia, heterosexism, and apathy about poverty and injustice.

The Gandhi Project in New York’s Southern Tier has announced a “3-H Campaign” to address Health Care for All, Housing for All, and Hospitality for All:

Health In one of the world’s wealthiest nations a significant number are still deprived of a passport to heath care:  medical insurance.  Americans pay more, but receive less effective care, than other developed nations.  Our system is burdened by needless administrative costs and profiteering.  A clear, comprehensive system of  “Improved Medicare for All”— would make medical care a human right.  All would be covered through their life-spans.  Equitable taxes would cover the cost.  The Gandhi Project, with a majority of Americans, believes this is a moral imperative. 

Housing More people than we can imagine spend their nights—wintertime and summertime—not under sheets in a warm bed, but under bridges or in abandoned warehouses.  A great number of these are veterans, traumatized in ways beyond imagining.  Providing adequate shelter for individuals and families on the streets of America has proved difficult.  It will require serious investment.  We think people are worth it.  To care for those in greatest distress is the mark of a humane, mature society.

Hospitality At our best, Americans have learned to appreciate diversity as a great strength.  Many times, indigenous Americans extended hospitality.  Colonists did not always reciprocate.  In some moments, Americans acted generously.  At others, not so much.  Our Statue of Liberty has long proclaimed freedom to immigrants, but at times we have reneged on the promise.  When demagogues rouse fear, we can renew the American dream of welcome and hospitality.  We can lift one another.

Your Invitation  This introduction to The Gandhi Project is your invitation to join with us:  imagining, planning, walking, celebrating … embodying the dream of harmony and justice.

Resources  Here are some places to start:

Health Care for All: Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) is a non-profit research and     education organization of 20,000 physicians, medical students and health        professionals who support single-payer national health insurance. See their web site: .   On May 5, 2016, an esteemed group of physicians unveiled a detailed plan for single-payer health care in the U.S. To read the proposal, please visit:

Bernie Sanders’ just-published book:  Guide to Political Revolution  (Henry Holt and Co.,NY, 2017) has an excellent chapter entitled “Health Care for All” (p. 81 ff.)

Housing for All: Lack of income makes housing unaffordable for many.  Look at the Sanders book (see       above) for thoughts about guaranteeing livable wages. Many local organizations address housing issues, and work in different ways to expand housing opportunities.  You might contact one or more of the following:

First Ward Action Council, Binghamton, community-based developer and provider of   housing and housing services: .  Reach the Council            by telephone (607) 772-2850 or e-mail at It office is located          in a historic building it renovated at 167 Clinton Street in Binghamton, New York.

Broome Habitat for Humanity is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International.  It          partners with families in need of decent housing to build affordable homes. or e-mail:  Phone:  239-4783

Search online for “Broome County Homeless Housing Resources” and you’ll find a PDF     file listing numerous resource groups that provide services.

Hospitality for All: The American Civic Association assists refugees to find housing and welcome in the         Binghamton area.  Local churches and other groups assist in this process from time to   time.  Contact the ACA at:  or phone:  607-723-9419. 

To learn more about The Gandhi Project and/or non-violence resources, please contact: .  You can also be added to our e-mail list to receive updates and meeting notifications.  Download flyer below.

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Mural Fest and Mural Workshops

September 3, 2017 by pegjohnston


The Department of Public Art (DPA) will sponsor the 4th Mural Fest at Floral Ave. Park in Johnson City on Saturday October 7th from 11-4 pm. The Village of Johnson City has given permission to paint murals on several structures at Floral Ave. Park and there will be several activities for children and adults. "Leaving behind permanent murals is important," said Peg Johnston of DPA, "and just as important is engaging people in the process of creating art in public places.”

Live painting of murals is an important feature of Mural Fest and this year master muralist Susan Champeny will teach mural planning and painting Oct. 1st from 12-4 pm. Champeny is a professional muralist and creates murals, mosaics, and sculptures from recycled materials. She completed a 3 sided mural called “Goin’ Fishing” on Jarvis St. in Binghamton in 2015, as well as a mural on cloth at Mural Fest 2016. Susan will be painting two murals at Floral Ave. Park this year and will teach people who want to paint with her all week long (times TBA). Bruce Grieg, a New Zealand artist who lives and paints in this area, will paint one side of the handball court. He is responsible for many of the local murals including Mohammed Ali and several murals in the Water St. Parking Ramp. The other half of the handball court will be painted by Judy Salton, local artist at the Cooperative Gallery, with an abstract theme. Both designs will attract selfies with their novel perspectives. Shawna Stevenson, an illustration major at Syracuse University, has designed a Flower Mural that she is painting with the help of BOCES Students.

This year Mural Fest will offer even more community engagement with art, guided by local artists. This year DPA will sponsor a mural workshop starting Sunday Oct. 1st and continuing through Mural Fest Oct. 7th for community members. The workshop will show participants how to plan a mural, including gridding the design, prepping the space, and then painting it throughout the week and finishing 5 murals at Mural Fest. Another workshop, led by Stephen Schweitzer will teach people how to use camera phones to document community events, also starting on Oct. 1st, 12-4. Children will have an entire Box City to paint and decorate as well as cardboard animals, and mask making for small children to paint and play with. All workshops are free.

Similarly, DPA is partnering with Southern Tier Solar Works to create solar lanterns for neighbors: At Mural Fest children and adults can build their own solar lantern.

To VOLUNTEER to paint or to help with children's activities sign in here.

Mural Fest has received support from Chenango Co Arts Council (DEC NYS Council on the Arts) and the Hoyt Foundation, Broome County Tourism Grant, Town of Union Community Development, Golden Paints, PPG Paints, Daniel’s Paints, and other sponsors as well as a Go Fund Me fundraising campaign (  .





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7 Democrats. 7 Republicans. One Room

August 28, 2017 by pegjohnston

?Summary of the Better Angels Gathering, Saturday, July 15th in Ithaca, NY.
by Dana LaCroix

On a sunny Saturday in Ithaca a group of 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans came together for a day, pulling their political opinions off the internet or out of the closet to engage in face-to-face conversation. The session was led by Better Angels moderators Bill Doherty, David Blankenhorn and David Lapp.

I think it’s fair to say that we were all a little trepidatious in the beginning and uncertain of what to expect but it was equally clear that we were all united in our desire to communicate.

We spent the next 8 hours engaged in what was essentially a communication workshop. The structured conversation and small group exercises were peppered with coffee, lunch and snack breaks which gave us an opportunity to have one-on-one conversations and get to know each other on a more personal level.

In this day and age where the cult of opinion seems to reign supreme participants were asked to listen. Just listen. Not “listen until you hear what you want to say”, but “listen to understand”. I have little doubt that every person in the room heard opinions expressed that made them bite their tongues but it was an excellent, refreshing exercise in putting one’s self aside and exploring empathy and understanding.

After breaking into two small mixed groups of conservatives and liberals in which we shared opinions and respectfully questioned each other (“no ‘gotcha’ questions, instructed Doherty) we convened again as a large group to discuss what we had learned. One of the Republican participants said something I found interesting and strangely heartening. He said he felt that our differences as conservatives and liberals went so deep that he was convinced there are many things we will never, ever be able to agree upon. There was a general nodding of heads and a mood of assent on both sides but no palpable animosity. This reaction was clearly familiar to Doherty, who suggested that we had managed to “sharpen” our differences and that it was not a bad thing. A well-functioning Democracy depends upon the ability of its citizens to hear someone else’s point of view, dissect it, consider it, disagree with it vehemently and still see the person expressing it as a human being worthy of respect.

When we split into homogenous groups to come up with a list of prejudices that we felt the other group held about us it interested me to see how many of the misconceptions or prejudices on both sides were connected not to policy but to feelings.  Democrats believed Republicans felt that Democrats don't care about the Midwestern states. Republicans felt Democrats believed that Republicans don't care about poor people. And on it went. What we found at the end of the exercise was that neither side was made up of ‘good people who care versus bad people who don’t’, but that we were a group of Americans who sit on opposite sides of the debate on how problems are best solved. If we can take as a starting point the assumption that we all – red, blue, conservative, liberal, progressive, independent - come from a place of caring about our fellow citizens and that our differences lie in the policies we believe will achieve positive results for all, I think the conversation would be more fruitful and less vitriolic.

Fringe groups that perpetrate and encourage acts of violence aside, I came away from the gathering with a renewed belief that most Americans want to find effective, humane solutions to solving the challenges we face as a country. That was certainly what I experienced through the social microcosm of the better Angels Workshop.

English Country Dance Lessons

August 9, 2017 by pegjohnston

The Binghamton Country Dancers present a series of nine fall English Country Dance Classes from September 20 through November 15 at Christ Church, corner of Washington and Henry streets, Binghamton, 7:30-9:30 p.m.  All dances taught by Terry Glasspool, Lynn Swain, Jennifer Fuller; live music by Brandywine and the Playford Gang. Newcomers welcome. No partner needed. Bring clean shoes and a snack to share. $25 for the series, payable at the first class. Try the first class free!

What is English Country Dancing? If you've seen Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility or Emma, you are already familiar with it!

While this traditional form of dance has been around for several hundred years, and evolved into square and contra dancing, it still thrives today in its own right. English Country Dancing (ECD) is done all over the US, Canada, England and on the Continent.

Some love ECD for the beautiful tunes that make the heart swell. Some come from old ballads and satires, others come from classical music and opera. This gives ECD tremendous variety, sometimes sweet and melodic, sometimes melancholy, sometimes driven with a pulsating beat. At times, dancers are simply swept away as they become one with the music.

For more information, contact Lee Shepherd at 722-9327 or

Re-Thinking High School

July 22, 2017 by pegjohnston

“When you think about it, we’ve gone from the Model T to the Tesla, from the switchboard to the iPhone. But high school has stayed the same.”

Union-Endicott's Tiger Ventures program which is an alternative high school in the Linnaeus West school was recently awarded a $2.5 million grant from XQ America Rethinking High School. XQ helps public high schools across the United States create innovative programs that engage students in creative projects, team building, and interactive learning. The XQ Super School Bus is on tour and visited the district Saturday with a bus filled with facts about American education. On their site they argue, "IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is important. It measures how we process information. But it isn’t everything.In fact, the latest science shows that intelligence is not fixed and that there’s a lot more to a person’s capability than what can be measured in an IQ test. What also matters is a person’s EQ (Emotional Quotient)—the ability to relate to others, understand emotional cues and collaborate.But today, neither IQ nor EQ is enough. There’s a certain something, something we call XQ, that’s essential for success in the new era we’re entering."

The Super School bus facts reveal that while American elementary schools perform well compared to other countries, the US falls behind dramatically at the high school stage. XQ also challenges the notion that every student can get an education and prepare people for college, noting that some schools don't even offer basic subjects like biology, chemistry, calculus and others. In an attempt to re-define high school they have funded 10 schools and have recently funded 8 more, one of which is the UE school.

The Tiger Ventures Project at UE has been in existence for one year and serves young people who can benefit from learning differently. For instance, it has a Maker's Space in the school and art programs and communications equipment for TV/video production. Students can apply or get referred into the program. The project competed for the first round of funding and ranked in the top 50 but did not win. However, they founded the program anyway, and were surprised when they got the call that their efforts were noticed and they were being awarded 2.5 million dollars.

For a video and more information about the project visit

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