Sharing our genesis stories: a North Country community dialogue

In our initiative we are sharing and co-interpreting our genesis stories of coming to allyship with Black and Indigenous people. We are a group of White settler allies living in the North Country of New York state. We believe our storytelling insights provide rich information that we are connecting to humanistic perspectives of social movements, racial consciousness, deviance and modernity, and anti-colonialism.

The people of the North Country have their own unique histories. Rural settlers in and around Cape Vincent, Potsdam, Massena, Saranac Lake, and Old Forge live in close proximity to Lands under the sovereign control of Indigenous peoples. The vast majority of White settlers do not ally themselves with Indigenous and Black movements for sovereignty and truth and reconciliation. Going beyond reform is a social risk few potential allies are willing to take in the rural areas where physical isolation is a factor.

Our process of coming together and building trust through our stories is leading us on a path of considering what kind of stories can break through dominant thinking in our current neoliberal era. Our intent is that the primary beneficiaries of this initiative are campaigns led by Black and Indigenous people and people of color in the North Country.

In coming together in dialogue we are connecting our storytelling insights and planning for public dissemination of our stories. Part story circle, part planning group, we are holding a two-event series of public forums, one event to take place in the North Country, and one on Cornell’s Ithaca campus. We invite people wanting to learn more about action-oriented allyship, anti-racist organizers from rural and urban areas, rural progressive educators and elected officials, and Cornell-based students and academics seeking to connect their organizing to their disciplines.