Nyack Sketch Log: Bongo Fries

by Bill Batson

Brian “Bongo” Davis has become a brand. In just six months, the reggae musician and tour manager launched a popular product that has a logo that bears his resemblance. Where ever he parks his orange food cart, his Bongo Fries sell out before the close of business.

Meet the man behind the hat, glasses and beard, who has won over the foodie faithful with his fierce, fresh, hand-cut fries.

When did you launch Bongo Fries?

March 29,2018. It was an awesome pop-up in front of Boxer Donuts for 5 hours, non-stop. There was a line around the block.

The people of Nyack really came out and supported me…one of the best days of my life. This community is really a beautiful thing.

I heard you had a brush with the spud earlier in your life?

Ha.

I have always loved French Fries, so when I started doing commercials in 1979 it came as a wonderful surprise that I landed an Ore Ida French Fry commercial.

It was 1981. I was 14. I looked 11.

Where did you find your distinctive bongo cart?

Well, I searched for about a year looking for something different. I was looking all over the US for a small camper or wagon. I didn’t want a truck. Finally, I found my food cart in China.

It took two months to deliver and finally a huge crate was in my driveway. That’s when I  knew this was real

What makes Bongo Fries better?

Honestly, I’m not doing anything people haven’t been doing for years. But Im doing it right and not cutting corners. I use fresh Idaho Russet #1 potatoes, cut them fresh, soak them over night and double fry them to perfection. I make them to order. No heat lamps. I also make my own signature spice and homemade sauces.

photo by Luis Bruno

The real difference is that I have fun doing what I do and try to connect with each person, big or small, who wants my fries.

So far, so good?

It’s been great. I love it. Of course there’s been ups and downs, challenges and disappointments, but that’s life and you have to roll with it. Sometimes I’m good at rolling with it…sometimes I suck.

What’s you other line of work?

I have been a stagehand for the last 22 years working as a video utility, audio utility.  I’m also the Tour Manager of The Grahams, a band out of Nashville,Tennessee.

How did you get the name Bongo?

It was the first week of college, back in the day, and I was carrying my Conga around and some guys were like hey it’s a Bongoman. Thirty-two years later…well, you can figure it out lol

What was the name of your first band?

The Razor Boys, in 1983-1985. The Razor Boys Are Coming was a Steely Dan song…we were a Punkish Mod band. We played CBGBS and a couple other bars back in the early 80’s

What’s the name of your current band?

JLP & The Very Bad Ideas, a local Reggae band

Where did your love for reggae music come from?

A friend of mine turned me onto Bob Marley (of course) back in 1979 or 1980. I then went and bought his newest album Uprising which would unfortunately be his last.

I would listen to it almost every day. Then I started buying more and more reggae, on vinyl of course. There was this great little record store on 1st ave and 90th street called Zig Zag  Records. I had a little job delivering bagels on the weekends and spent all my $$ at Zig Zag.

Then it was off to Jamaica every year from 1985-88, but that’s another story.

I was a Reggae Disc Jockey on my college Radio Station.

And now, finally 25 years later, in my first reggae band, and I love it.

I hear you have a signature dance move?

I guess. I just do a bit of skanking when I feel it, just for fun.

Any gigs coming up?

Yes Casa Del Sol on Oct. 18th at 9:30pm

What are some of the joys of owning Bongo Fries

Talking to all the people and hanging with the Nyack community.

There are so many great people.

What are some of the hurdles?

Dealing with red tape, cleaning and taxes

Same questions but with managing bands?

I love the band I work with.

When people don’t communicate or take their time getting back to me.

Who are some of the people in your early years that sent you on this path?

My parents for one. They taught me to always work hard and have fun.

I have always been able to connect with people, from all walks. I learned that from my dad and I learned respect and empathy from mom.

Of course there’s been people like Ernie Ferrigno who gave me my first job at the bagel place and my best friends growing up.

What brought you to Nyack?

The same as most people who move from NYC. I think all people want a better life for their children and family.

Slower life, better schools, and now I can GRILL!!

What’s coming next from your basement recording studio?

The band is working on recording about 3 tunes. It will happen…when, I have no idea.. but soon.

What’s next from Bongo’s kitchen?

I am going to be adding some new sauces and taking a few away. I’m also working on a breakfast fry thing and a nice late night item. You’ll just have to wait and follow me on Instagram to find out…

For those who have read this far and are now hungry for Bongo Fries. Where can we find you?

You can go to bongosfries.com for all my upcoming locations…

I’ll be hitting some local fall festivals, breweries, and always The Nyack Farmers Market on the first and third Thursdays until December!

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. “Nyack Sketch Log: Bongo Fries ” © 2019 Bill Batson.


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Nyack Sketch Log: Celebrate Halloween Here

by Bill Batson

In 2017,  Nyack was ranked by travelchannel.com as the 4th best place in America to celebrate Halloween.  Here is a list of frightfully fun spooky-season events in and around Nyack that crescendo with the 32nd Annual Nyack Chamber of Commerce Halloween Parade.

This week’s sketch, the depiction of a home on Midland Avenue, was given to the winner of the first house decoration competition in 2018. Learn more about how to register to win cash and prizes in costume, float and house decoration contests that make Nyack a nationally ranked place to pay homage to All Hallow’s Eve!

Oct. 9 – Rivertown Magazine Halloween Party

Join Rivertown for a Halloween Party at Confetti’s Ristorante in Piermont on October 9th, from 6:30-9:30p. Light appetizers and cash bar. $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

Rivertown Magazine is one of the sponsors of the 32nd Annual Halloween Parade. In collaboration with the Nyack Chamber of Commerce, Rivertown has launched Foodie Fest – a celebration of the diverse dining scene on the sunset-side of the Hudson. Foodie Fest begins October 27, the day after Nyack’s Halloween Parade and goes through November 16. Come for the costumes, come back for the cuisine! Learn more here.

October 12 – fear: An Exhibition and Costume Party at VºLITION gallery

An exhibition that questions what is the nature of fear and how does it manifest itself in art?  Come dressed to impress in your boldest most creative costume, the wild and imaginative will be rewarded in a contest that is not for the faint of heart.

Admission is free. VºLITION gallery is located at Bell-ans Center of Creative Arts 103 S Greenbush Rd, Orangeburg, NY 10962;

Oct. 20 – Oak Hill Cemetery Walking Tour

Walk scenic Oak Hill Cemetery & celebrate the lives of many “permanent residents” of the Nyacks who made their mark on the national, state, and local stages. Actress Helen Hayes, playwrights Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, artist Edward Hopper, author Carson McCullers and some of the earliest settlers of the Nyacks are buried here. A $5 donation to the Historical Society of the Nyacks is suggested.

Meet 2pm at the Cemetery entrance gate, Route 9W, between Sickles Avenue and 5th Avenue. For more information, please visit nyackhistory.org.

Oct. 25 – YACK YACK Halloweenfest and Costume Party

The Nyack Village Theater BOO-tique’s Yack Yack Broadcast Show invites you to a rollicking party featuring Visual Artist Cori Schimko, Stand Up Comedy by Austin Gallo, and live musical performances by Curly (full band performance), Mik3y The Rapper, Rachel Beers, and John from…. Plus a costume contest with a live panel of judges, oh my!

Oct. 26 – 32nd Annual Halloween Nyack Chamber of Commerce Halloween Parade

Registration starts for the 32nd Annual Nyack Chamber of Commerce Halloween Parade on October 26, 2019 at 3:00pm in Memorial Park. The parade steps off at 5:30pm. Thousands in cash and prizes for best costume and best float.

Candy craving costumed revelers are welcome for follow a Trick-or-Treat trail map through downtown Nyack from 1-4pm. Trick-or-Treat bags, with local swag, provided.

Registration for costumes and floats starts in Memorial Park at 3:00p

The parade steps off from Memorial Park at 5:30 and follows the following route:

  • South on Piermont Avenue
  • West on Cedar Hill
  • North on Broadway
  • West on Main Street
  • South on Franklin Street
  • East on Artopee

Performances and the announcement of best costumes and floats will be held at the gazeboo in Veteran Park at the corner of Main and Cedar.

Our Halloween Parade is sponsored by Guinness/Oak Beverages, Rivertown Magazine’s Foodie Fest, and Better Homes and Gardens/Rand Realty of Nyack.

Oct. 26 thru Nov. 7 – 2nd Annual House Decoration Competition

Is your house the spookiest, most cleverly decorated candy distribution portal on your block? Why not win a prize in the second annual Better Homes And Gardens Rand Realty of Nyack House and Lawn Decoration Contest.

First Prize:2 nights for 2 at the Time Nyack Hotel:
Second Prize: House portrait commission by Nyack Sketch Log’s Bill Batson
Third Price: Cruise for 2 from Nyack Boat Charter

First place trophy sculpted by Peter Cheney

Register here by October 23.

Ballots will be distributed at the Halloween Parade and at the following polling sites where completed ballots can be dropped off until Wednesday, November 6.

Winners will be announced at Casa del Sol at 7pm on Thursday, November 7!

Polling sites:

  • Casa Del Sol, 104 Main St., YMCA, 35 S. B’way,
  • Rand Realty 46 S. B-way
  • Nyack Library, 59 S. B’way
  • Hartell’s Deli, 326 N. B’way
  • Nyack Farmer’s Market

Winners of the first House Decoration Competition, the Nassisi’s

House Decoration sponsors:

  • Rand Realty/Nyack
  • Lauren Murray Law Offices
  • Greenbush Construction Co.
  • Time Hotel Nyack
  • Nyack Boat Charter
  • Nyack Sketch Log

Oct. 26 – Nyack Center’s Annual Monster Mash

Nyack Center is the place to go for families to enjoy live music, food and revelry after one of the largest Halloween parades outside of New York City.

Monster Mash directly Following the famous Nyack Halloween Parade. No entry fee. $5 for games and $5 for food

Oct. 26- Casa del Sol’s Halloween Parade Afterparty

Join Casa del Sol for their famous annual Halloween Parade Afterparty directly following the Nyack Halloween Parade.

Casa’s afterparty featuring food & drink specials, live music by Frankie Dee and the Boys, and cash prizes for the best costumes!

Call (845) 353-9846 to reserve your tables now, as they fill up fast!

Special thanks to Visit Nyack for their excellent Halloween calendar.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. “Nyack Sketch Log: Celebrate Halloween Here ” © 2019 Bill Batson.


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Nyack Sketch Log: Worldwide Community First Responders

by Bill Batson

The low-tech, durable whistle has been saving lives for centuries. Whistles were used by early police forces to disrupt crimes in progress. Women have been advised to use a whistle to loudly protest unwanted advances. This ancient instrument for raising an alarm is also an apt symbol for Jacqueline Cassagnol’s common sense approach to saving lives.

Cassagnol’s organization, Worldwide Community First Responders, distributes whistles, along with other medical supplies and basic necessities so that disaster victims can shelter in place and  direct first responders to their locations under rubble or debris. The disaster preparedness training and supplies that WCFR distributes in vulnerable communities around the world, delivered before natural disasters strike, are intended to reduce the loss of life.

Nyack Sketch Log spoke with Cassagnol to learn more about WCFR, who are having their eighth annual fundraiser this weekend at the Time Nyack Hotel.

What is WCFR?

Worldwide Community First Responder is a 501(c)(3) non-profit/charitable organization.  Our a mission is to prevent deaths worldwide through education and training. We offer two main services, health education and training. WCFR health education focuses on educating community members worldwide of fatal health conditions and preventative measures. WCFR’s training program is dedicated to providing worldwide community-based first response and first aid training.

“Teaching People – Saving Lives”

Here is an example of some of the information Worldwide Community First Responders (WCFR) distributes in Hurricane prone regions like Haiti. Cassagnol’s efforts were inspired by a comment made to her during a training session that she was giving after the devastating 2010 Earthquake in Haiti, “If we knew what you are teaching us right now, fewer people would have died during the earthquake.”

Be Hurricane Prepared!

Preparing for a hurricane takes time and effort, but it will be worth it if a hurricane should threaten to strike your area. Share these tips to help friends and family prepare during hurricane season.

Before a hurricane

  • Assess your risks and know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind.
  • Follow official instructions; shelter in place or evacuate.
  • Make a plan to communicate with family and find each other in an emergency.
  • Build supplies kit needed when you shelter in place or evacuate.

During a hurricane

  • Stay away from windows, in the middle room or closet of the house and under a heavy piece of furniture.
  • Stay informed; Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Turn off propane tanks, and utilities if instructed to do so.
  • Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.

After a hurricane

  • Wait until area is declared safe before returning home.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines.
  • Use good basic personal hygiene and hand washing.
  • Make water safer for drinking: distill it; strain it; boil it; chlorinate it.
  • Do not eat any food that may have come in contact with flood water.
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.
  • Remember that recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process.

We provide our services worldwide to all communities regardless of gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, ability, economic and social class. WCFR members are a diverse group of volunteers who provide their services free of charge. Through their efforts, WCFR members seek to empower individuals in their own communities and save lives.

Describe the moment you realized that the world needed Worldwide Community First Responder, Inc?

It all started after the 2010 earthquake when I was teaching first aid in Grand Goave, Haiti and a student stated ‘If we knew what you are teaching us right now, fewer people would have died during the earthquake.’

This statement touched me so deeply that I broke down in front of the classroom. I knew then that I had to continue doing this type of work.

When did you become a health care professional?

I became a nurse twenty years ago. Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse.

I started as Licensed Practical Nurse, then went on to get my Associate of Science Degree in Nursing, then Bachelor of Science Degree, then Master of Science Degree, and then Post Master Certificate in Nursing Education. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Nursing Degree at Pace University.

What is your specialty?

My specialty is community health nursing. I have taught community health nursing in the United States and Haiti for about eight years. I always look forward to teaching and promoting volunteer work in my community health nursing courses. Leveraging nurses’ interest in volunteer work could improve the way nurses engage with their communities, expand the role of nurses as public health professionals, and foster the social desirability of healthful living.

What are some of the worst disasters that you have responded to?

The last disaster that I responded to was Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. More than 1,000 people died when Hurricane Matthew slammed into the island on Oct. 4. Although, WCFR is dedicated to providing its services before disasters happen, we sometimes participate in relief efforts to communities locally and abroad.

What are some of the issues that first responders are most concerned about in this day and age?

We believe that everyone should be a first responder. Everyone should know basic first aid in order to save lives. Since we train many community members in hands-only CPR, there  are some concerns about hurting a person while doing chest compressions. We always tell them that they are covered under the Good Samaritan Law.

How many individuals have taken your heath education and first aid and first response classes?

We have trained and educated over 350,000 people worldwide.

In what communities?

Our focus is the United States and Haiti, but we have been to Ireland, South Africa, and China.

Is Haiti ready for another natural disaster?

Haiti is not ready for another disaster, but we are doing as much as we can to train community members how to prepare for the next one.

What is next for WCFR?

We are growing and need more help than ever to meet our mission “to prevent deaths worldwide through education and training.” Our goal is to train and educate a total of 400,000 community members in 2020. One way to help is to attend our upcoming gala on October 5th, 2019.

If you would like to learn more about how to support the work of WCFR as a volunteer and sponsor, visit wcfrworldwide.org

The eighth annual WCFR fundraiser will be held on Saturday, October 5 at 6p at Time Nyack Hotel. For tickets click here.

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Worldwide Community First Responders“© 2019 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.

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Nyack Sketch Log: Joe Allen, Documentarian

by Bill Batson

As a documentarian, Joe Allen uses films to explore the perverse arithmetic of racism and antisemitism. In Two Schools in Hillburn, Allen exposed the binary cruelty of racial segregation that was tolerated in one town in Rockland County well into the 1940s, a practice brought to an end by a young attorney from the NAACP named Thurgood Marshall. His previous film, 20 Million Minutes  chronicled the interval between the massacre of 11 Jewish athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany in 1972 and the launching of a campaign to get the International Olympic Committee to commemorate the atrocity, a struggle that persists. Allen’s documentaries are helping new generations seek answers to seemingly intractable social problems.

Leadership Rockland will be showing “Two Schools in Hillburn,” tonight, Tuesday, September 24 at the Lafayette Theater in Suffern. Doors open at 6. There will be Q & A after the screening. The event is free to all Leadership Rockland Alumi. Register at leadershiprockland.org/two-schools-in-hillburn/

Nyack Sketch Log sat down with Allen to learn how he uses film to find social equations for equality.

When did you make your first documentary?

I made my first documentary in 2011 and 2012. It was the story of the terrorist attack on the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in Munich Germany in 1972 that killed 11 Israeli athletes. It tells the story of how JCC Rockland got involved with the families of the Munich 11 in an effort to move the International Olympic Committee to grant a minute of silence on the behalf of the murdered athletes.

What was the impetus?

JCC Rockland was, for the first time ever, going to host the JCC Maccabi Games, which is an Olympic-style event held all around the world for Jewish youth. At each set of games, there is a memorial to the Munich 11 during the opening of the event. JCC CEO David Kirschtel and I spoke about how Active International, the company I was working for at the time, could be involved in the games. During the course of that conversation, I asked David if he was documenting what JCC Rockland was doing at the games, and especially what he was planning to do for the Munich 11? At that moment the documentary, which was “20 Million Minutes,” was born.

In what field was your career?

I have been very fortunate to have a career that spanned being a journalist,  a corporate spokesperson, owning a small ad agency, being a writer and spending 25 very productive years at Active International, where I was in charge of corporate communications as well as heading up its philanthropic program, which we called Active Cares. I am now retired from Active and I am now a full-time filmmaker. I also consult on nonprofit and philanthropic issues as well as remaining involved in the nonprofit committee in Rockland.

What did you learn from making “20 Million Minutes?”

What was notable in the making of that film was the impact that JCC Rockland had on the world in bringing to light the issue of the Munich 11 and the lack of the victims being remembered at the Olympic Games where they participated and died. We didn’t expect the worldwide coming together of support of remembering these guys that we saw come about. After all, for 40 years their families were dismissed.

How far and wide has the film been distributed?

That particular film had a very narrow distribution and, in fact, that was a motivation to do a sequel, “There Was No Silence,” which premiered on Sept. 5, the 47th anniversary of the Munich Massacre. It tells the story of the 2012 Olympics, which the first movie focused on, but on all the things that have happened regarding the Munich 11 heading into the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Where “20 Million Minutes” ran at just under 90 minutes and was overwhelmingly Rockland County-centric,  the sequel runs at around 50 minutes to make it more palatable for younger people in schools, senior citizen groups, civic groups and others and to make it more acceptable to a national and even worldwide audience.

When did you pick the Brook School for Colored Children as a topic?

Cliff and Wylene Wood came to see my film about Hudson Valley Honor Flight, which was being shown in the Rockland Community College Theater in December 2015. Cliff Wood was president of the school at the time and Wylene was extremely well known in corporate responsibility circles, teaching civil rights circles. Shortly after they saw the film, Wylene called me and asked if I would be interested in doing a short video that could be shown in Hillburn at the dedication of the Main School as both federal and state historical place.

I began to do the research for that short video and realized what an important story it was, not just to Hillburn, nor to Rockland County, but to the entire country. For one, it brought a young attorney named Thurgood Marshall to Rockland to litigate the case and make the appeal to allow children of color to attend the all-white school. More than that, the Hillburn case taught Mr. Marshall many of the things he would need to know about Jim Crow (separate but equal) laws and attitudes as he prepared for Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka, KS 10 years later. If the so-called Brown case is one of our country’s most important cases, then Hillburn was the place where he learned how to argue it.

Any thoughts on Thurgood?

Thurgood Marshall was a trailblazer for sure. He was part of the pre-civil rights legislation efforts that really laid the groundwork for what LBJ did in the early to mid 60s. But more than that, Thurgood Marshall was still one of the people who had a really difficult time making their way through really tough, segregated parts of both the South and the North in order to argue cases. Obviously, I didn’t know him so I can’t say things like he was fearless, but he and along with so many others of his generation appear to be fearless and were role models for those who came after them. They believed what’s right is right and that the effort get to what’s right should know no bounds.

His son, John, told me a story of not really knowing that his father was such an important man until one day he found himself on LBJ’s lap in the Oval Office, right when his dad was about to become a Supreme Court Justice–and only then did he figure that his dad was a pretty big deal. I also learned Thurgood Marshall had an affinity for model trains and, in fact, had a sophisticated train set-up in his apartment in New York. There were times when his interns would drop something off to his apartment and Thurgood would answer in full train regalia, hat and all.

Did the film making process reveal anything about the case that was not widely known?

The whole story was not widely known, I had lived in Rockland County for many years and I didn’t know about it. Many other people who worked in the media here also didn’t know about it. Some of the old-timers or some of our historians in the County knew about it, but the most surprising thing was that a case that was so essential to our entire country got very little airing and had very little publicity about it. The people in Hillburn knew about it but it wasn’t well-known in the county.

How are you feeling about the state of racial equality in American schools in 2019?

I believe we are standing on the edge of a very high and very narrow cliff these days. And while it’s true that there are laws on the books which will help to prevent inequality, it does feel that we are retreating and retrenching into some very bad historical portals. The gap between rich and poor  and the tribal nature of our behavior is making us turn to our neighbors and viewing those that don’t look like us or spend like us or enjoy what we enjoy or see America the way we see America as being part of the “other.”

Slowly but surely that attitude will erode the very symbols upon which we fought so hard to achieve together. It’s very difficult to say the state of racial relationships in schools and in society is a whole lot better now than it was. We are very lucky and at the same time cursed that there is such a plethora of media and commentary around us at all times. It’s much harder to miss an act of racial insensitivity or violence when everyone’s got a cell phone or camera and the media essentially is everywhere. That means what we do may be out there for all to see, forever–and when our behavior is bad that’ll be all over the news and all over the social media sites very quickly. Add to that, having a President who revels in that fact and endlessly stirs the pot and you have two sides who grow increasingly angry trying to find ways to deal with one another. The president’s zero-sum games all too often become our zero-sum games. You either support the police or you support entities like Black Lives Matter. But it’s never one or the other and yet we’re being forced to declare which side we are on? And we’re endlessly trying to put a square peg into a round hole by behaving that way.

Two of your topics engage in tolerance toward the Jewish and African American communities do you perceive parallels between these two communities?

Both those communities have felt the sting of stereotype and hatred through the years. Anti-Semitism and racism are found at the bottom of the same boiling cauldron of hate that our country unfortunately has as part of its very being. Our original sin of slavery and our original sin of displacing Native Americans fit in squarely with anti-Semitism.

I always believed that groups who have been ostracized and hated for what they are and then marginalized would be better in a unified approach to overcoming all that. I remember growing up with a lot of progressive Jews that were closely aligned with the civil rights struggle. I’m guessing they still are, so I don’t know why African Americans and Jews are not more tightly wound together.

I know you are actively engaged in the community through your work with People to People and other nonprofits.  Have you and your camera lens taken on the issue of hunger in America? What is your next project and where can we see it?

The newest project is the sequel to “20 Million Minutes.” As I said earlier, that film is called “There Was No Silence.” That film has a director’s cut premier on September 5 and will be widely released a bit later in the fall.

Now as far as hunger in America, we are down the road on a film called “Empty Cupboards.” It is about hunger in America and the way different communities are relying on their own capabilities and wherewithal to stay ahead of it without relying on the federal government for the solution. Government can pay part of the solution, but they can’t provide all of it as that gives too much power to the feds to solve the problem local communities. Organizations recovering food, changing raw materials in food production, presenting innovative ways of growing food and distributing what we grow, are in my opinion, leading the way in which we are going to solve the problem of hunger in America.

We throw away 40% of all food manufactured in the US. That alone is enough to feed everyone and what we’re throwing away isn’t the bad stuff, it’s the stuff that wasn’t perfectly shaped or perfectly colored or too much of which was put out in the buffets and now can’t be used. We need to think smarter and we need to think how to save our communities that are at risk for hunger. That film will be out in the first half of next year. You can expect that film to have a very wide distribution!

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Joe Allen, Documentarian“© 2019 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.

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Nyack Sketch Log: Women Who Dine, For a Cause

by Bill Batson

When non-profits faced across the board reductions in funding in 2014, a group of women came together to break and raise some bread. Women Who Dine For a Cause have held almost 30 fundraising gatherings in the last five years. Their no-frills affairs are in stark contrast to traditional fundraising, where organizations must spend big bucks to raise bigger bucks. With Women Who Dine for a Cause, you go to a private home, bring a dish and a check, made out to a charity, and the community group receives the nourishment.

Nyack Sketch Log met with one of the founding members, Paula Davis, to learn more about their low-overhead, high-return community-based fundraising paradigm.

How did women who dine for a cause start dining?

We got started five years ago when the Rockland County decreased funding for all non-profits.

A few women got together to brainstorm how we could help. The founders were myself, Emily Dominguez, Liz Kallen, Donna Schmidt, Rochelle Spooner, and Enid Weishaus.

Where and when was the first gathering?

It was at my house. At first, we didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t take into account what happens if it rains, what do we do with the extra food, how many people will come. It was all a mystery, but it was spectacular because over 100 women came. Marla Pasquale sang and she was fabulous and Caroyln Fish spoke for Center for Safety and Change. And most importantly, we raised money to support the Center’s work.

How many dinners have you held?

We’ve had almost 30 dinners, that average about 80 women at each and we’ve raised over $80,000 for Rockland County non-profits

What happens at a dinner?

Each guest brings a dish to share. These are great opportunities for people to network or reconnect with people you haven’t see for awhile. We have delicious fun…for a cause!

What are some of the memorable moments over the last five years?

I think the most memorable moment was when we recognized United Hospice of Rockland. So many attendees had cause to use in their services in their personal lives. There were so many heartfelt testimonials.

It was amazing when Meals on Wheels showed up with a truckload of food. They are so super generous.

And when Tom Chapin performed with Michael Marks. It was such a crowd pleaser. They were just so friendly and stayed and had dinner and spoke to everyone.

It’s overwhelming to me the generosity in this county

So many women open their homes to us. We’ve seen the goodness of people, which is so important at a time like this, locally and nationally.

Do any men dine?

No. They park cars, and carry in food if we need help.

They get nice shirts to wear that say “schlepper.”

How did your experience in education inform your work?

I worked with special needs children, so I’ve always known that people, all people, need some extra help.

What other philanthropic efforts are you involved in?

My husband Steven Abel has been involved with Center for Safety and Change for over 35 years. I always tried to help out.

Would you like to see Women Who Dine happen in other communities?

I welcome anybody’s efforts to contribute to our county’s non-profits.

What’s next for Women Who Dine for A Cause?

This is the 40th anniversary of the Center for Safety and Change and the 5th anniversary of Women Who Dine for a Cause. They will be our cause when we dine next on September 25th. It’s going to be at a wonderful location and the Old No.7 Band will perform. It is a full circle occasion, as we celebrate our fifth anniversary with the first group that we supported.

In November, will be dining for Helping Hands, who are really in need of support. They have a tremendous breakfast program in the county.

What would a woman do if they wanted to dine with you for a cause?

They would register at www.womendine.net, bring a dish…and a check (in whatever amount they can contribute

And the future?

Going forward, we are fortunate enough to have young women joining our committees. I think they will take the mantle.

Special thanks to George Pejoves for the wonderful picture over the years.

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Women Who Dine, For a Cause“© 2019 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.

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Nyack Sketch Log: TRØN & DVD

by Bill Batson

Poets, performers, social commentators and town criers, rappers are the ultimate American media makers. The influence of the MC, with the generations hip to their frequency, crosses racial, gender and class boundaries. Rooted in African American urban culture, rap has become the sound track of almost every zip code in America. 10960 gave birth to the flow of TRØN & DVD ten years ago.

TRØN & DVD will be at Main Street Beat,  on Thursday, September 13 (7p, free) for an in-store signing and album listening party of their latest release Manhunt. On Sunday September 15, (8p, free) TRØN & DVD will perform at Defiant Brewery in Pearl River.

Meet brothers TRØN (Norvin Van Dunk) and DVD (Darian Van Dunk), two artists who are mixing the Rockland vibe into Hip Hop.

What was your first lyric?

DVD: Snitches get stitches, and liars catch fire.

TRØN: DVD is referring to a song we did when he first came back to rapping again (after the cassette tape era). So my first line on that song, I think, “if there’s one thing I despise, it’s these stool pigeons.” The song was about snitches. Ha Ha. We were in middle school.

What was your most recent?

DVD: Iced coffee on an empty stomach, nights got me feelin’ hella sluggish.
TRØN: Stomach Growling, the wolves howling up at the moon.

How’s Idea was all this?

TRØN: We always rapped together. When we were younger, with our cousin and older brother but I guess when we decided to be TRØN & DVD after a buncha name changes and technology advancements. It just happened naturally.

How many songs have you recorded?

I think 500

If some one hasn’t listened to your work, what should they listen to first?

Depends on if they are going to give us more than one listen. If someone is willing to dive in I would say start at the beginning but if they only give us one shot I’d say the newest album.

What comes first the words or the beat?

Most of the time, the beat.

Do you write in a book, or on scraps and do you save the original draft?

photo by Janette Beckman

DVD: Electronic on Evernote. Save every draft since 2010.
Tron: Same. I love Evernote. Before that it was just note pad on mac and before that paper.

Any other art forms that either of you use for expression?

DVD:I edit videos on the side, including some of our own.
TRØN: I do a lot of the graphic design for us. i would like to write more (short stories, poetry, etc)

Who directs your videos?

We go back and forth depending on concept, or if we hire someone.

What bar was “Me Time” shot it?

The local.

What are some of your creative influences that might surprise people?

DVD: My favorite genre of music is Alternative Pop. I get a lot of inspiration from some of those bands and artists. Watching B-Horror movies inspired a whole mixtape we did once and a lot of songs we do now are titled or influenced by them. Also, I watch a lot of anime.

TRØN: I listen to a lotta artists that are more popular than us in the same genre but not super popular,  so it makes me think of achievable goals. I am also super inspired by all the bands I listen to, Coheed and Cambria, Twenty One Pilots, and people we’ve met and played with. I think that connection to someone whose art I admire really helps me believe i can also do what they do.

Any other musicians in the family?

TRØN: besides our brother Lynk, cousin Travislike, our mom used to be in like a Hip Hop R&B group and my wife sings really well.

Would you care to tell me how each of you got your name?

DVD are my initials.

TRØN: I was norvatron5000 as like a joke and people started to call me that as a nickname so it stuck. I like it cause i will always be called TRØN regardless of rap.

Are any of your songs political?

DVD: I wouldn’t call it political. I would just call it songs that are about society, and doing what is right and condemning what is wrong. But technically, yes.

TRØN: Yeah a bunch but like not so topical. like it’s general political beliefs despite the climate we are in. We’ve always felt certain ways no matter who is in charge.

How does where you’re from shape your sound?

TRØN: Rockland is a diverse area so we listen to all types of music. A lot of artists here do different things. there are definitely a lotta artists competing with each other in the county (for no reason) and I think that is motivation to be better, you know it’s a hiphop thing you always want to be better.

Also, I think it hurts the scene. no one wants to work with each other. I kind of like the fact we outshine everyone though but i would like to mix it up.

How does it shape your lyrics?

TRØN: I think the journey of doing this in a certain area and your resources really shape the lyrics because you can vividly describe what’s going on and what’s around you. a lot of Indie rap and pop punk talk about leaving your hometown and doing things in a big way.

Sometimes, there’s struggle to get out and sometimes you miss it when you leave. I think everyone wants to prove to people they’ve grown up with how good they’ve become at something or how well they’ve done in life.

photo by Mikaela Barish

The music business seems tough. What would you say to someone trying to get into the industry?

TRØN: depends on what they want, if they want fame, do what it takes, learn from already famous people and don’t let anyone get in your way.

If you want to be good, practice and put things out as much as you want.

If you want money, hustle and learn the product you want to sell, don’t try to sell prog rock to edm fans. Be a businesses person. Us, we like to create, the things we achieve we get by creating what we want so we are happy with our outcome of work.

photo by Janette Beckman

How did you get signed by Kiam?

When the record store opened up my dad told Jen we were rappers and gave her our cds we had out at the time. She liked them enough to work with us.

What is the one question you haven’t been asked in an interview that you wish had been? Please ask and answer it?

DVD:

“What are some struggles as an ‘upcoming’ artist?

I would say that the things you want to achieve seem to haunt you, especially when you are online looking at other people achieve those things. You can’t let that mess with your mind, because you will end up discouraged, changing your art, or becoming depressed that it’s not you. Nobody talks to non famous people about not being famous, but it’s definitely a thing in your head. My thing is, I don’t want to be famous for work I’m not proud of so I’m happy because I’m proud of my work.

TRØN:

Favorite cheese?

TRØN: It’s Muenster.

DVD: Swiss, man.

What’s next for TRØN & DVD?

We have our album release with weekend shows, on September 13th at defiant brewery with impossible colors, and the foxfires. Defiant is also coming out with a beer named after our new album “manhunt.”

That Saturday is Haverstraw Riverwide Arts festival that we are playing and then Sunday, the 15th is our album release show with some of our fellow Indie Hip Hop artists, Elucid, SB the Moor, Brain Orchestra, and Cunabear.

I (TRØN) want to take a break personally, and work on a solo project. I think DVD does too.

I want to go back to having some fun and not stress too much about success, ya know. A little practice maybe. Kind of like pick up basketball when your’e in the NBA. Stress free.

To pre-order signed cds or for dates visit kiamrecords.com

Sketch of TRØN & DVD’s first cassette based on a photo by Luis Bruno.

Read more:

Nyack Sketch Log: Main Street Beat, May 1, 2018 , by Bill Batson

Label debut for Nyack Rappers TRØN and DVD, September 3, 2107 by Chris Stanton

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “TRØN & DVD“ © 2019 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.

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Nyack Sketch Log: Thurgood Marshall Comes to Hillburn

by Bill Batson

Before Thurgood Marshall helped dismantle discrimination in education by his successful argument in  Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, and literally changed the complexion of the Supreme Court by becoming the first black Justice, he came to Rockland County to argue a desegregation case.

I am excited to be teaching a course entitled “Thurgood Marshall Comes to Hillburn,” at the Learning Collaborative in New City that starts today.  In additions to covering research material collected for my column on the subject, I have speakers including Travis Jackson, who was one of the 49 children at the center of a successful desegregation case in Rockland County in 1943.

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Dr. Travis Jackson

Like most public school students of color in mid-20th century America, Travis Jackson did not have a white classmate for a significant portion of his education. This demographic detail was not coincidental, but by design and accomplished with the pernicious misuse of public funds to maintain separate schools for black children.

Jackson, and his father before him, attended the Brook School for Colored Children in the Village of Hillburn. Less than a mile away from the Brook School stood the Hillburn School, where only white students were enrolled. The Brook School was an unheated wooden structure with a small rocky playground in the front. The Hillburn School was modern and well equipped.

NSL_141_Hillburn

Rockland County Courthouse, 1943. Mrs. Van Dunk in the center with a coat draped over her folded arms. Marshall is the tall gentlemen to her left.

In 1943, Brook School parents, led by Mrs. Marion Van Dunk, engaged the services from a young attorney with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense Fund. When Thurgood Marshall came to Hillburn to defend the constitutional rights of elementary school students, Travis Jackson was entering the fourth grade.

Parents withheld their children from attending the Brook School in September of 1943 to protest the separate and unequal elementary school system. By October, their tactic and their legal counsel prevailed. The New York State Commissioner of Education closed the Brook School and ordered that all 49 children be admitted into the Hillburn School on Mountain Avenue.

Nyack resident and First Lady of the American Stage Helen Hayes was quoted at the time as having said: “I look forward with hope and prayer to developments in Hillburn…I am sure that the white people in Hillburn will have faith in democracy and…meet the situation with tolerance  and understanding. Their audience today is as wide as the world.”

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Brook students being turned away from the Hillburn School

In Hillburn, white families must have gotten a different memo. In the aftermath of the integration order, one parent told a reporter about a new committee that had been formed: “We’ll call it the Association for the Advancement of White People,” the parent said. “The Negroes have their association. We are forced to have ours.”

When a nine- year old Travis Jackson reported to school on the first day of integrated education in Hillburn, only one white student remained, briefly. Even though the desegregation of the school system was instituted during his fourth grade year, it was not until the seventh grade that the racial composition of the student body began to diversify.

Memorial Highway Highlights Civil Rights History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On May 17, 2019, Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee was joined by Rockland County Executive Ed Day, Senator David Carlucci and Assemblymember Kenneth Zebrowski to announce legislation (A-5939/S-521-A) to name a section of Rte.17 in Hillburn Justice Thurgood Marshall Memorial Highway. Enacted on June 24 with a pen stroke from Governor Andrew Cuomo, this distinction, bestowed on the first African American United States Supreme Court Justice, will represent the culmination of an enduring partnership between Jaffee and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity to acknowledge the role that an overlooked case in Hillburn played in the shaping American history.

The event coincided with the 65 anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision ending racial discrimination public schools, a case successfully argued by Marshall. “The foundations for the Brown decision are grounded in Marshall’s work as an attorney in Hillburn to end a local case of public school racial discrimination; those efforts began 11 years prior to the decision in Brown. Marshall’s efforts in Hillburn brought to a close more than a decade of school board intransigence in the assignment of elementary school age children to separate schools based only upon their race,” observed James K. Riley,  Adjunct Professor in Public Education Law in the graduate schools of Long Island University and Pace University.

“Two Schools for Hillburn,” a documentary by Joe Allen, chronicles how a plea from the father of one of the black students, a local Rockland County Attorney Jacob Wexler, brought a 35 year old NAACP Legal Defense Fund named Thurgood Marshall to Hillburn in 1943.

Along with Nyack Branch NAACP President Frances Pratt and Spring Valley NAACP President Willie Trotman, Dr. Travis Jackson, one of the 49 students who were represented by Marshall was in attendance.

Members of Alpha Phi Alpha, led by the late Dr. Willie Bryant have worked for years with Assemblymember Jaffee to bring attention to the historic significance of the Hillburn Case. Marshall was also a member of the fraternity. As a result of the research they conducted Jaffee was able to pass a resolution making May 17 Thurgood Marshall Day in New York State.  A monument in honor of Marshall, funded by the fraternity, was erected outside the Hillburn School in 2002.

“Thurgood Marshall showed us the way – that leads right down this Thurgood Marshall Memorial Highway and down so many other roads that he travelled which as individuals and a society we must follow, ” said Riley.

To avoid an association with students of a different race, white families sent their children to nearby parochial schools. But that strategy had its limitations. “I guess private schools eventually became too expensive, new families moved in and others saw that the world was not coming to an end,” Jackson said. Integration eventually took hold. When Jackson graduated from Suffern High in 1952, six of the 83 students in his graduating class were black Brook School alumni. Jackson went on to obtain his Doctorate in Education and serve as an educator and administrator for over three decades in schools in Suffern and northern New Jersey.

In 1954, Marshall and his colleagues at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund successfully argued Brown, ending segregated public schools in America. The reaction in some communities was similar to the initial response in Hillburn. One of the most dramatic examples of resistance was in Arkansas, where President Dwight Eisenhower had to send in the National Guard to ensure the safety of black students during the process of integrating Little Rock High School.

Supreme Court decisions, like Brown, had a profound impact on America by ending state-sanctioned discrimination. Decisions by the current high court, in areas from voting rights to affirmative action, signal the removal of the legal remedies that were enacted to address a legacy of racial discrimination in our country. Recent comments by onetime Tea Party darling Cliven Bundy and Los Angeles Clipper’s  former owner Donald Sterling suggest that many of the same racial antagonisms that were prevalent before Brown endure.

But for those who may feel dispirited by recent racial discord, near and far, Jackson’s description of Hillburn after public school integration is reassuring.  According to Jackson, the resentments of the adults of that period did not trickle down to their children. “Many of my friends, who are white and grew up in Hillburn, never got why they were dragged out of their school in 1943. Today Hillburn is one of the most integrated areas of Rockland – integrated economically, politically, and socially. It is also a nice place to live,” Jackson added.

Statement from Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee on the passing of Dr. Bryant.

“Dr. Willie Bryant’s life was defined by public service and community activism. Over the years I had the distinct pleasure of partnering with Dr. Bryant, his brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, members of the NAACP and other community leaders, in his outspoken efforts to commemorate with a monument the distinguished career of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the significance of the Hillburn School and the civil rights movement, a watershed period in American history. I am honored and humbled to have worked so closely with Dr. Bryant and proud of our successes in having the Hillburn School listed on both the State and the National Register of Historic Places and to have sponsored legislation designating May 17th as Thurgood Marshall Day in New York State. Our community has lost a pioneer and a driving force in the fight to provide an equal, quality education for all children. Dr. Bryant’s extraordinary vision, dedication and leadership will be sorely missed.”

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Hillburn Case Precursor of Brown V. Board of Education“ © 2016 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.

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