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Black History: Capital Region Youth Rise Up!

February 27, 2021 @ 11:00 am 1:00 pm EST

Exploring the minds of youth in the Black History that they are part of and continue to create. Learn from the voices and vision of our younger generations, as they rise up to imagine a more just future!


This event builds upon last month’s Capital District MLK Holiday Labor and Community Celebration “Rise Up! The Struggle Continues…” event. Join us as youth share Black History “Influencers” with a focus including having a voice, women, film history, LGBTQ and environmental justice.

Art depicting people of color protesting after the recent events, holding posters and raising their fists in the air.

Presenters include: Erika Diggs, Asad Benbow, Team H.E.R.O., Shades of Cocoa, Angelo Domingo, Water Justice Lab Fellows Shansanique Pollack, Genesis Cooper, Gabriella Espada Asad Benbow and Diamond Owens. Event organizing support from Shana Davis, with Erika Diggs, Willie Terry, Jerry Ford, Debra Garrett, Melissa Bromley and Branda Miller.

Co-sponsored by: TEAM Hero,  Water Justice Lab, Troy 4 Black Lives, NAACP, Capital District Chapter Coalition of Black Trade Unionist, The Solidarity Committee of the Capital District and more!

Bios of participants

Genesis Cooper, a student at Lansingburgh High School, is in advanced math and science programs, and has been a high honors student since elementary school. Genesis is in various school clubs, and works to help other organizations in her community.Working in WJL, Genesis hopes to help her community understand more things about their own home that they don’t really know about, like local economics, environmental racism, and local politics.

Genesis Cooper’s main focus is to help and educate those around her by volunteering her time. She helps run the Justice4Dahmeek organization that was started by her father, Massiah Cooper. They go around the city and hold events to educate the community on police brutality and inequality in America. Genesis is a Water Justice Lab fellow at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, a collaboration with Riverkeeper. She has also volunteered her time at the Sanctuary, and has been an Uptown Summer leader for the summers of 2019 and 2020. In 2019, she ran the face painting table at the Spirit of the Suffragettes concert series and community resource fair at Freedom Square. She is thinking about attending Howard University and possibly becoming a teacher. Genesis has interests in many subjects including science and hope to educate the youth on many different topics about the world around them.

Angelo Domingo is a senior student at Lansingburgh High School. He takes multiple advanced classes and has been on high honor roll for all of high school. Angelo participates in various school clubs and other programs outside of school. Angelo is very passionate about social justice and works frequently on projects with The Sanctuary For Independent Media to spread awareness about social issues. Ever since Angelo was in the Uptown Summer youth program in summer of 2018, he’s been passionate about raising issues in social awareness. Angelo made a 3 part radio series on slumlords to raise awareness in his community. He even made a survey to hear personal experiences from the community. His time as an Uptown Summer youth member inspired him to keep pursuing activism and making his voice heard to help improve the lives of others.

Angelo Domingo is currently working with the NYCLU Student Ambassador Program tackling issues for youth including comprehensive sex education and the school to prison pipeline. Angelo Is currently planning on going to college to pursue a degree in musical theater with hopes to minor in a field where he can work on tackling the social issues that he so deeply cares about.

Gabby Espada is a ninth grader at Lansingburgh High School. She is in advanced science and top of her math class as well. Gabby enjoys hands-on activities in science, and she’s a very social and outgoing person. She strives for the best and is an extremely determined teen. Gabby likes having her voice heard and making a change. She does as much as possible in school such as: drama club, soccer, volleyball, track and field, basketball, student council, and tutoring. Gabby is a determined teen ready to take on anything that comes her way.

Gabby Espada is is a Water Justice Lab fellow at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, a collaboration with Riverkeeper.  She has been involved in many movements including: Justice for Dahmeek, suicide prevention movements, and Dance for Donations, She’s also worked with kids and animals. Gabby attends the STEP program at R.P.I. and takes architecture and coding there. In Dance for Donations she danced and taught others dances for donations for leukemia. She has experience working with people of all ages.

Diamond Owens is a young poet, and a member of TEAM H.E.R.O.

Shansanique Pollack is currently attending Lansingburgh High School and just graduated 9th grade year with high honors. She is also involved in her school’s advanced programs including advanced science, advanced math, and both Pre AP history and ELA.  As a WJL Fellow, Shansanique is excited to deal with science that could also help the community learn more about what’s around them and help educate the community on what it can do to improve.

Throughout her life, Shansanique has always tried to improve the lives around me in any way possible and to help spread useful information. When she’s older Shansanique wants to be able to use her career to help people in any way possible. Shansanique is a Water Justice Lab fellow at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, a collaboration with Riverkeeper. She’s hoping to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology for college and go into computer science, hopefully using computers in new and exciting ways to change communities and people for the better.

Estreja Turner is an Afro/Latino 12th grader of Shaker High School.  In 2017 Estreja was a part of the Black Student Union and in 2018-2019 she was a member of the Key Club. Estreja started liturgical dancing at 3 years old. She joined the Art In Motion Dance Academy (AMDA) in 2009 where she participated in Hip-Hop classes for a couple of years in 2011 Estreja moved into other dance genres i.e. Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, Musical Theatre and Technique. Estreja has been dancing competitively for a number of years. Estreja has been a Teacher Assistant AMDA for 5 years. Along with dancing Estreja has been an active in the community doing Get Out the Vote campaigns, Literature Drops for the 2010 and 2020 US Census, Black History Month Movie programs with the Capital District Chapter CBTU, a member of the CBTU National & Regional Youth Conferences and Conventions since 2012. Estreja participated in the 2019 & 2020 Capital Region Human Rights Summer Synopsis Program and also volunteers at Life Church Albany working with children. Estreja will be attending college in the fall majoring in Dance and minoring in Psychology. Estreja’s dream is to work with young people to help them learn to use dance as a way of communicating. Estreja feels like often young people do not always know how to articulate their thoughts and emotions and that Dance Therapy is another form of effective communication for children.

Erika Dulcinia Diggs is a writer, actress, and production assistant. Erika has been a producer for the Media Sanctuary for Independent Media for two years now. Before her time at the Sanctuary, she grew up in a small town. Erika is a mixed-race woman who never grew up seeing color, being from an Italian and Caribbean background she was able to see different perspectives. Erika was not truly aware of the harsh injustices that happened to people of color on the daily. She wanted to find a way to help, back in 2019 she stumbled into a young woman who told her she would be a perfect fit for the Sanctuary. Throughout the duration of her time here she learned how to engineer, produce, and edit interviews. Some of her biggest accomplishments are through her social justice work within the community with Homer Bosh Jr. She is a co moderator for this wonderful Black History: Capital Region Youth Rise Up Celebration because with everything that has happened this past year, we still must remember that it is okay to bring light to our influential black leaders who fought for us to have a voice.

Asad Benbow is a 17 year old filmmaker from Troy, NY. He is a student at YouthFx. He mainly creates satires because that is what he is most interested in.

Hi my name is Justin Gilmore ll. I am 15. I’m a sophomore at Troy High School. Some hobbies I have is playing football and playing the keyboard. When I grow up I want to be in the NFL or have a good music career. I’m a member of Team HERO.

My name is Diamond Owens. I am an active member of my community. I am a college student. I am dedicated to bringing my peers and the adults around us together. I’m a member of Team HERO.

My name is Olivia Ford, I’m a 6 year old first grader. I’m very energetic and have a love for soft and cuddly teddy bears and blankets. I love dancing, singing and exploring all types of talents.I once won runner up for lil Miss Uncle Sam(received my first trophy too). I have two big brothers who look after me. I love giving back to my community by volunteering with my parents.

My name is Jeriyah Ford, I’m a 14 year old 9th grader. I enjoy playing basketball,video games music and making tik tok videos.

“Black History Influencers” include:

Black History Environmental Justice Influencers

Leah Thomas, Environmental Activist and Eco-Communicator standing in front of an ocean wearing a pink jacket and smiling for the camera.
Leah Thomas is an intersectional environmental activist and eco-communicator based in Southern California. She’s passionate about advocating for and exploring the relationship between social justice and environmentalism. You can follow her work on instagram @GreenGirlLeah.
Dr Robery Bullard, smiling and wearing a red vest over a white button up.
Dr. Robert Bullard is the Father of Environmental Justice. He has been a leading campaigner against environmental racism, as well as the foremost scholar of the problem, and of the Environmental Justice Movement which sprung up in the United States in the 1980s.
John H. Francis III walking through a forest, wearing a colorful hat and carrying a drum as he walks.
John H. Francis III (born 1946) John Francis is an American environmentalist nicknamed The Planetwalker. John Francis stopped travelling in cars and began walking wherever he went during the 1970s, often travelling vast distances with a backpack and banjo.
Rue Mapp, Black History Environmental Justice "Influencer" posing with a plant and smiling for the camera.
Rue Mapp is the Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a national not-for-profit organization with offices in Oakland, CA, and Washington, D.C. Rue oversees a carefully selected and trained national volunteer leadership team of nearly 90 men and women who represent 30 states around the US, and shares opportunities to build a broader community and leadership in nature.

Black History Black Women “Influencers”

Cori Bush giving a speech.
Congresswoman Cori Bush is a registered nurse, community activist, organizer, single mother, and ordained pastor for the people of St. Louis. Congresswoman Bush is serving her first term as the representative of Missouri’s 1st Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. She is the first Black woman and first nurse to represent Missouri; the first woman to represent Missouri’s 1st Congressional District; and the first activist from the movement fighting for Black lives elected to the United States Congress.
Simone Leigh, Black HIstory Black Women "Infuencer" posing with her sculpture
Simone Leigh is a celebrated contemporary sculptor. Working in a variety of media that includes ceramic, video, installation, and bronze, her work explores issues of identity and race, beauty, and feminism. Her artworks frequently incorporate materials and forms traditionally associated with African art and the African diaspora, while her performance-related installations often blend historical precedent with personal stories.

Black History Filmmaker Influencers

Raymond Lawrence "Boots" Riley giving a speech
Raymond Lawrence “Boots” Riley (born April 1, 1971), is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, rapper, and communist activist. He is the lead vocalist of The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club. He made his feature-film directorial debut with Sorry to Bother You (released July 2018), which he also wrote.

Black History LGBTQ Influencers

Gladys Bentley, a historical figure in black history, wearing a suite and top hat.

Gladys Bentley A gender-bending blues performer who became 1920s Harlem royalty.

Bayrad Rudin and Martin Luther King Jr. posing for a picture together
Bayrad Rusin was an American civil rights activist,a former adviser toMartin Luther King Jr. and a staunch advocate of gay rights,
Marsha P. Johnson wearing a crown of flowers and smiling brightly at the camera.
Marsha P. Johnson was an activist, self-identified drag queen, performer, and survivor. She was a prominent figure in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. Marsha went by “Black Marsha” before settling on Marsha P. Johnson. The “P” stood for “Pay It No Mind,” which is what Marsha would say in response to questions about her gender. Marsha P. Johnson stood at the center of New York City’s gay liberation movement for nearly 25 years. Her body was found in the Hudson River in 1992.

3361 6th Ave
Troy, 12180 United States
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