Dear Wild Earth Community –
As many of you may already be aware, a troubling situation arose last week related to the NY19 Congressional campaign for November’s mid-term elections. NY19 covers most of the Hudson Valley, where Wild Earth’s programing, offices and a large percentage of the population that we serve live, work and visit.
On July 17th the New York Times published an article titled “A Congressional Candidate Used to Be a Rapper. Will It Matter?” in which a current political advertisement is described. The ad, sponsored by a PAC, describes one of the candidates as formerly being a rap musician and states that the lyrics in his songs are un-American while implying that the candidate must not have the district’s interests at heart.
In the article, quotes are attributed to Gerry Benjamin who is the founder of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz. Both the ad and the quotes attributed to Mr. Benjamin have engendered a concerted response from faculty and leadership at the college, as well as the community at large.
The Board of Directors of Wild Earth would like to inform the Wild Earth community that we as an organization have an official relationship with the Benjamin Center. We have engaged the Center to study the impacts of our Kingston Schools Program for the population it serves. This ongoing study has been in process for the past year and is led by a former Wild Earth board member who is the Center’s Director of Education Projects.
Mr. Benjamin has written an apology letter to his fellow SUNY NP colleagues, but to our knowledge has not issued any sort of public response. Wild Earth’s leadership has asked that he do so. We find his apology encouraging, and it is our hope that Mr. Benjamin will turn those lessons learned into concrete action steps to further anti-racist practice and understanding on campus and in our community.
Issues of overt and institutional racism, attempts at race-baiting and other-ing, as well as political polarization all deserve our utmost attention in these tumultuous times. Wild Earth strives to be a community centered on inclusiveness. It’s instilled in our mission, our programming, our staff training, and our day to day culture. With inclusiveness in mind, we encourage you to discuss these issues in whatever ways are appropriate for you and your family.
The Wild Earth Board of Directors
Radio Kingston’s ‘The Source with Hillary Harvey’ July 20th episode with Wild Earth Board Member Micah Blumenthal and others discussing the issue (includes both the original radio ad and samples of the music)
Wild Earth joins inspired leaders in offering multi-generational programs and events that strengthen connections with ourselves, others, and the Earth while building ecological, social and cultural resilience. Located along the Shawangunk Ridge in New York’s Hudson Valley, Wild Earth is a not-for-profit that runs nature-based programs for children, teens, families and adults. More about Wild's work.