Nyack Sketch Log: Lake Deforest, Where Eagles Have Landed

This week, Nyack Sketch Log has its  first guest writer in our 8 year history.

I have lent this space to my friend Ray Wright, a passionate naturalist, who wants to put his opposition to a proposal by the Suez Water Company to build a new headquarters near Lake DeForest on the record.

This Nyack Sketch Log will be submitted as testimony at a public hearing at Clarkstown Town Hall on Wed May 22 at 7:30p. We are hoping to others will attend and share their concerns.

Ray joined Wright Bros. Realty in 1962, a firm founded by his father and uncle in 1929. In addition to expanding the company’s stake in the real estate and insurance business, Ray became the official photographer. After selling Wright Bros. in 2000, Ray has dedicated himself full-time to wild life and jazz photography and wooden boat building.

Lake DeForest, Where Eagles Have Landed

by Ray Wright

In 2012, I was one of a first photographers to witness the return of the bald eagle to Rockland County. For many years, there were no eagle sightings in here. The reemergence of the eagle was made possible by the federal government banning the pesticide, DDT.

Every year from January until early March, eagles come to the lower Hudson Valley. During these winter months, eagles come south so they can hunt for fish in unfrozen waters. A small number of eagles decide to stay year-round. I saw one carrying a fish over High Avenue at the corner of Midland just yesterday.

Attend the public hearing on Suez Water Company’s proposed new headquarters on Lake DeForest

Please attend the next planning board hearing at Clarkstown Town Hall scheduled for Wed. May 22 at 7:30p.

Suez is proposing to clear cut and pave over 60,000 square feet of forest for parking lots and accessory buildings.

This development would cause contaminated storm water and fuel to enter Lake DeForest Reservoir during catastrophic storms, and also, in typical showers from leaking trucks and vehicles.

The development will also adversely impact historic Old Mill Road and the bucolic character of our community.

I have photographed eagles in West Nyack, Lake Tappan and throughout North Rockland. However, some of the most exquisite images I have captured have been around Lake DeForest, including an eagle perched on a tree stump, turning his head as if shouting a command, and another, about to lunch on a fish caught near the outflow of the dam.

One day, I photographed an eagle’s nest off Strawtown Road, on land owned by Suez. The photograph also documented an Orange & Rockland employee cutting trees within approximately 200 feet of an eagles nest, something that should not have happened.

I gave a copy of the photograph to some residents who live across from the lake and were protesting the extension of some fencing. They gave the photo to the Clarkstown Supervisor at the time, who passed it on to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Over the years, I have taken close to a thousand photos of eagles. In many pictures, you can see the state and federal bands affixed with an expandable sleeve to their legs. Occasionally, I have seen a small antennae that allows GPS tracking. The eagle population is tracked because they are protected under federal law.

I photograph eagles because I am drawn to their majesty and grace. But I am aware that as a nature photographer, I also have a civic role to play. My photos help document the habitat that eagles, and all of us, depend on for our survival. The photos I take have to speak for the eagles, who do not have a vote in our elections or a say at our public hearings.

From what I have witnessed at Lake DeForest, any development of parking lots and buildings near this pristine area, the habitat for the eagle and other birds and wild life, is inappropriate. A rigorous environmental impact review should arrive at that same conclusion.

We lost our eagles once before, let’s not let that happen again.

Eagle Photos by Ray Wright.

Sketch by Bill Batson based on a photo of an eagle over Lake DeForest by Ray Wright

See more of Ray’s nature photography at these upcoming events:

New City Library, Wednesday July 24, from 7:30 – 9p. The New City Library is located at 220 N. Main Street, New City, NY 10956-4000

Nyack Public Library, Thursday, August 22, from 6:30 – 8pm. The Nyack Library is located 59 South Broadway, Nyack. Registration begins June 22nd at 8:00a

See also:

Protect Our Water from Proposed Suez Construction on Lake DeForest by Laurie Seeman

Nyack Sketch Log: Wright Bros. Real Estate by Bill Batson

Local Arts Index: Ray Wright by Bill Batson

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Lake DeForest, Where Eagles Have Landed” © 2019 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com  



Diana Green and the Children’s Shakespeare Theatre

by Bill Batson

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” says the King of England in William Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part II. After 20 years as the director of the Children’s Shakespeare Theater, Diana Green will stage Henry Part II  starting on May 10th as her 90th production. For that accomplishment, Green should be crowned, and after that coronation, she could deservedly feel a bit weary, if not uneasy.

But Diana Green, like spring, and her beloved bard, “hath put a spirit of youth in every thing.” (Sonnet 98, 1-3)

Meet the founder of Rockland’s Children Shakespeare Theater and recent recipient of awards from both the Rockland County Legislature and the Rockland Arts Council, Diana Green.

When did you meet the bard?

I began reading Shakespeare around a kitchen table with my mom’s friend, Jean Brock of Palisades, and her 5 kids. They were going to see a production of Macbeth and wanted to know the play better before going. I loved the show and we went to see many together over the years, at the Delacourte Theater in Central Park. In those days, you could just walk up at 6:30pm and get a handful of tickets.

After a few such readings (maybe a year of this?), I raised my hand and asked “Why can’t we do a play?” And the first CST was born in in 1972 with Jean Brock directing. She did 5 plays over the course of 5 years, but then the group fizzled out and Jean went on to direct the shows at Tappan Zee High School. She died in 2003, but got to see a couple of productions of the new CST before she went. I started CST in 1999 because I wanted to provide this experience for my own kids. It has grown far beyond the dreams we had in 1972 or in 1999.

What brought you to Rockland County?

My mother moved us to Palisades in 1966 after divorcing my dad. Her mother, my grandmother, lived in Nyack since 1949. I have lived in Rockland for almost all my life, excepting years away at college and a brief move to North Carolina.

Heard you’ve been busy lately?

Yes, I thought I’d be living the life of Riley by this point in the season, but that’s never realistic. I had to take over our final production, Henry IV, Part 2, for one of my directors who just had a baby. Henry IV.2 is the final show in the Season of Our History, our 20th season of plays.

It’s a coming-of-age story of a prince growing into a king. I think that’s appropriate for our 20th season. We have come a long way and learned so much. We just won the Arts Leadership Award from ACOR and it’s great to feel that our peers see our progress and reward our efforts! CST is also a hugely collaborative entity, sending kids and directors to teach and perform in many venues and for many groups. I am currently teaching a short workshop for the NYC Allstars, a group that offers free theater instruction to kids from the 5 boroughs.

I have also partnered with the Hopper House to bring a workshop to alumni from an organization called Rehabilitation Through the Arts. I’ll be guiding a group of formerly incarcerated adults to write, direct and act a series of monologues and scenes based on Hopper paintings for a performance on June 9 at the Hopper House.

I just met the new kids in town, The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, when their founders came to see our most recent show and were bowled over by the professional quality of our production. They recruited several of our actors for a reading at the Nyack Library and I will be directing a staged reading for them on June 6th starring their two founders.

Lastly…for now… I am working toward my director qualification at The Elmwood Playhouse. To that end I’m assistant stage managing for the upcoming show Little Foxes which opens in July. Whew! I’m exhausted just reading this…

Being so multi-talented, this must change all the time for you, but currently, what do you like to do most, act, write, direct, teach, lead your non-profit?

My favorite part of the whole elaborate machine is and always will be directing. I love the collaboration with other energies in the rehearsal room, the discoveries, the text work and the cooperative camaraderie. The actors inspire me to want to help them with all of my resources and that is an exciting challenge.

How do these different skill sets/passions overlap?

I do love acting as well and much of my method for directing comes from stepping into the shoes of a character. Lately I’ve returned to writing and I find that playwriting seems the most natural extension of all that I’ve done in the past 20 years. I wrote and directed a series of monologues for last year’s Artwalk. I did the same for 2 presentations at the Hopper House. I hope to continue as a playwright as I figure out my next move.

Have many of your students become professional thespians?

We’ve had maybe 10% of our kids go on to careers in the theater. Perhaps the most notable is Anna Baryshnikov, who has been in films and on TV. She gave CST a great shout-out during her appearance on Colbert’s Late Night The others are working in technical theater or in small theaters around the country. They have done such cool things as start Shakespeare companies on their college campuses, direct productions in abandoned sections of Kosovo, and joined Renaissance faires. They’re still young. Give them time.

For those that don’t, how do student benefit from drama education?

My step-brother is a partner in a Wall Street firm and he swears that all his salesmanship comes from his early training with CST. Most report, like him, that they are far above the herd in their comfort in speaking with others, be it in an interview or in front of an audience. The ones who are still in High School report elevated scores in English classes and on SATs, not to mention an ease in the Shakespeare units that no one else has.

What are some of your memories from the first year of CST?

We really did not know what we were doing, but with an army of volunteers we got it all done. We rehearsed for 6 months (which I would never do again) and took it slow with lots of games and time spent outside. In the end we put together a charming show. I loved how much the kids loved doing it.

How many productions have you staged?

CST will be completing its 90th production with Henry IV, Part 2. I, myself, have directed 65 of those.

How do you manage to stage all of these plays? Who are your key supporters?

We have wonderful venues – The Palisades Presbyterian Church and The Tappan Manse – who are beautifully cooperative. The key supporters are always the parents who help in so many ways. As far as the financial end, the kids pay tuition, just like any other after-school entity, and we receive some assistance from The Jerome Robbins Foundation and The Kent-Allan Foundation, among other one-time donors over the years. It’s always the biggest part of the challenge of doing community theater – to get those who are not actually participating in the creative end to come out to support us, be it as donors or just audience members.

I saw this incredible set of 20 pins that celebrate your anniversary. Can you tell me who made them?

Daniela Pescher and Greg Falkner are jewelry makers. Their daughter, Emilia, joined us 3 years ago and has been a passionate company member ever since. When her parents heard we were going into our 20th season they wanted to do something to celebrate that in a lasting way. They have come up with a gorgeous line of custom-made pendants and charms that supporters and alumni of the company can buy as commemorative keepsakes.

What is your favorite play by Shakespeare?

Ha! Don’t make me choose. But usually I respond “The one I’m currently working on.” Funnily enough the history series has been so exciting. Of course my long-term favorites are probably Macbeth, Hamlet, Richard 3, Midsummer, Winter’s Tale…OK that’s too many favorites.

Favorite non-Shakespeare play?

I just saw Burn This and loved it so much. I also love Lettice and Lovage and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.

Favorite Character?

Queen Margaret currently…although she’s usually not so likeable. Richard 3. Benedick. Rosalind.

Favorite Line?

Nope. Too many.

Favorite Scene?

Boy…also hard to choose… Malvolio coming to Olivia in yellow stockings? Othello and Iago in a battle of wits? The lovers in the forest? Almost anything from Twelfth Night…Margaret & Suffolk’s parting scene in Henry VI, Part 2! So romantic!

Favorite CST production?

Also impossible to choose. I think they just keep getting better. OG companies – Midwinter Night’s Dream, King Lear, Measure for Measure. Current companies – our most recent Romeo & Juliet and Winter’s Tale.

Favorite Shakespeare company production?

Hudson Valley Shakespeare’s 5-person Midsummer!! (3 years ago?)

Favorite Shakespeare inspired movie?

Shakespeare In Love!

Have you been to Stratford on Avon?

Yes, 15 years ago! We saw a 4.5-hour Hamlet at the RSC. My son was 11 and may have nodded off a little. But seeing the town was magical!

What is the biggest life lesson you’ve learned from the bard?

Take a risk. Speak truth to power and hope you have the autonomy of the Fool.

What’s next?

I have been renovating a school bus into a tiny home and will be traveling the country as a visiting artist in other companies. I hope to find collaborators who want me to write, direct, teach or make costumes. I will be directing for CST in the fall (starting with Othello next season) and then off on my nomadic adventures winter/spring/summer. Look out for my upcoming Kickstarter this summer!

Henry IV, Part 2 will be performed Fridays and Saturdays, May 10, 11, 17 & 18 at 7:00pm at the Palisades Presbyterian Church, 117 Washington Spring Rd, Palisades, NY. Tickets are available at brown paper ticket

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Children’s Shakespeare Theater” © 2019 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com  


Nyack Sketch Log: Pat Hickman’s River Teeth

Riverteethmodifiedversiontwoby Bill Batson

Pat Hickman allows us to communicate with rivers, volcanoes, and wind, forces that shape our physical existence. Fabric, steel, wood, membrane, the ubiquitous material that surround us, have become mostly silent to western ears. As materialistic as we have become, oddly, we are not on speaking terms with the natural world. Pat Hickman can translate.

Her work reveals the universe that exists beneath the bark of a tree or below the surface of water, or the language a muslim woman in Turkey speaks through the edging of her scarf. Like the creative process that John Updike described in the Blessed Man from Boston, as an artist, Hickman walks through volumes of the unexpressed and like a snail leave(s) behind a faint thread.

Meet Pat Hickman.

Could you say a few words about your current show at Ray Lagstein’s Galllery, Floodlines: Water Rises?

I live above the Hudson, in Dutchtown, high enough that I don’t expect the Hudson to rise to the level of my house. But after recent hurricanes, here and there, and frequent news of water rising, ice melting, and many subsequent disasters due to climate change in so many parts of the world, I feel that we must heed the warning and not ignore what is happening. My installation of river teeth suggests water surging with rivulets of river teeth pouring across the gallery floor. Drawings of individual river teeth fill the walls. These drawings are not treated as precious, but layered and attached in an almost helter-skelter way, disordered and confused, almost as birds flying in retreat, as water rises. The bottom two layers of drawings have been sprayed with water, establishing the floodline, allowing the walnut ink of some of the drawings to drip down, tear-like.

When did you first discover river teeth? How long have they been featured in your work?

When I was at Haystack Mountain School in Deer Isle, Maine in 2008, I overlapped with artist Dorothy Gill Barnes, who introduced me to a river tooth found there in the woods. She had used a very few river teeth in her sculptural baskets. She also pointed me to the writer, David James Duncan, and his “River Teeth: Stories and Writings.” I became intrigued with the idea, function, shape and potential meaning of river teeth and collected them on subsequent times at Haystack when I was there either teaching a workshop or as part of an open studio residency. I exhibited my first installation of them at the Tovin Gallery in Nyack in 2011. Over the past eight years, I have created several reconfigured, different installations, of river teeth at other venues.

Pat Hickman: Staying Time; Nyack, NY

Was your studio at Garnerville damaged by the floods after Hurricane Irene?

No, my studio on the second floor of my building was not damaged, but the impact was felt. Images of water rushing through the complex from Minisceongo Creek overflowing were shocking and meant damage for so many tenants there—loss of equipment, of artwork, of work space, of the gallery. For two months, we had no water or heat. Even if we didn’t know all those affected, it had a huge influence on the community and that historic site. We wondered if flooding could happen again, if Garner could bounce back. There was a sense of loss.

Did you acquire any material for your work from that flood?

When water was released upstream from Harriman Park, debris from higher up the creek jammed up the flow, causing damage below. By the time it surged through the Garner complex, this debris was crashing against the old brick walls and buildings. Before that, I had molded gut (skin membrane) over a 19th century elevator door that had been saved and attached to the outside wall in Brick Alley. I loved that door and wanted to pick up (transfer onto the gut) the memory of the rust marks, making reference to the history of Garner. I created a piece I called “Calicoed by Rust”, thinking of the rust marks almost like small printed designs as on the calico the factory made. After the hurricane, after the damage—even though that elevator door survived, I felt the piece needed to reflect what had happened with water pouring through that narrow alleyway. On top of the calicoed surface, I added layers of molded shapes of rusty railroad plates, for holding down railroad ties—as heavy metal had come loose and floated down the creek. I didn’t literally acquire those railroad plates from the flood, but what I did with them made reference to the flood damage, changing that place forever. I entitled the reworked piece, “Downriver Ravages”

What are some of the other seen and unseen natural forces that shape your work?

I think about “life force” and the miracle of bodies working mostly as well as they do. When I first saw a gut parka from Alaska, made of seal or walrus intestine, I found the idea of the translucent membrane beautiful, transformed into a wearable, protective outer waterproof garment. I became interested in that which is unseen, in the interior of a body, that it can become seen, given new life. I wanted to experiment with skin membrane that might be accessible to me. I started exploring what I might do with sausage casings (hog casings) which I now get from http://www.sausagemaker.com A lot of my work addresses the fragility of life, bringing ideas of life and death together with the use of this skin membrane. In covering river teeth with skin membrane, I take that which is inside a tree, invisible from the outside—the river tooth which is holding a branch to the tree trunk—and make it visible, combining the unseen from the plant world with the unseen from the animal world, bringing them together, making both visible. My father was a butcher. As a child growing up in small town in rural CO, I had trouble watching dad butcher animals for relatives who raised cattle. Perhaps the idea of giving another chance for life grew out of those childhood memories of such family gatherings.

Having lived and taught in Hawaii for 16 years, I remain awed by the force of the volcano on the Big Island and massive flowing lava, resulting in incredible formations in black lava fields. I’m moved by that unseen power and energy when it’s made visible, sometimes in horrific, destructive ways. I have not found ways to have this shape my work, as it seems impossible to imitate or duplicate the beauty and power of nature, though designing the monumental entrance gates for the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (1991-1994) and working with the foundry at the University of Tasmania, is the closest I’ve come to fire and molten metal in casting.

In addition to Updike’s quote about the “volumes of the unexpressed,” that you shared at the Nyack Center Pecha Kucha event in 2016, who are some of the artists that inspire you?

At the University of CA, Berkeley, where I did my graduate work, I was fortunate to study with and have as mentors: Ed Rossbach and Lillian Elliott. They and their work had an impact on my thinking, my way of working. I also consider Katherine Westphal a mentor.

I’m inspired by the work of Ann Hamilton, Doris Salcedo, Kimsooja, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Sonya Clark, Joyce Scott, Jim Bassler, etc. The list could go on much longer.

What are some of the places that inspire you?

Where I live by the Hudson. Istanbul (on the Bosphorus) and Cappadocia in Turkey; the Big Island of Hawaii, the Northern CA coast, the Maine woods AND cities and museums almost everywhere.

What are some of the materials that inspire you?

I come out of a textile tradition and respond to the expressiveness of cloth, of fibrous materials, of flexible linear materials, of making something out of seemingly nothing, of forgiving materials. I use natural materials, reeds and branches, found materials, rusted materials, paper—that which speaks of time and memory, of materials which feel close to life. I create structure out of stiff materials which I can manipulate, sometimes covering structures with skin membrane. I find materials which express what I’m trying to say in my artwork.

who are some of the people that inspire you?

James Baldwin, Nelson Mandela, Jacinda Ardern

In addition to termites, who are some of your other collaborators?

I consider “Ripples”, a piece I created with found or gifted dead geckoes in Hawaii, to be in collaboration with them, with their tiny life-like gestural bodies which I stitched around and which led to the shape and meaning of the work. And yes, responding to the work of termites, I have created a couple of pieces responding to their creations—to the beauty of chewed lace-like wooden beams (above piece is entitled “Hunger”) or to a mound I found termites had made in the bush in Australia. I had a long term eleven year artistic collaboration in the ‘80s & early ‘90s with Lillian Elliott, a mentor and colleague in Berkeley, CA. We exhibited collaborative work for those many years but always did our own individual work during that time, sharing a studio. I sometimes now collaborate with David Bacharach, an artist in Baltimore, who creates structures in metal which I cover with skin membrane, each bringing our own materials and way of working to the artwork.

You’ve referenced Hawaiian and Alaskan myths and practices in your work, could you describe those two and a few others cultures that inspire you?

In Hawaii, from native Hawaiian students and others, especially from the Pacific Islands, I came to understand a deep connection to the living earth, and all that is on it—knowledge that has been understood by indigenous peoples from the beginning—but I had not experienced it or taken it in, as much as I did the years I lived and taught at the University of Hawaii. I became much more aware of non Western ways of thinking, realizing how my own perspective was from a Western point of view, from Western based education central to my view of the world. I saw first hand what damage colonization had done in Hawaii and the complicated history of that place, still burdened by tourist stereotypes of “paradise” and needing to believe a place like Hawaii exists. I learned a lot by living there.

Over several summers, I taught workshops in Alaska at the University of AK Fairbanks. For the San Francisco Craft & Folk Art Museum, I guest curated an exhibition “Innerskins/Outerskins: Gut and Fishskin”, borrowing objects from provincial museums in AK. Through my research for that exhibit and catalogue, I gained a keen sense of respect native Alaskans have for other animals, for example when seals gave their lives to a community, Yu’piks saved and inflated the bladders from those animals and ceremoniously offered them back to the sea as a thank you for those animals who had given their lives to sustain the life of the community.

I am fortunate to have lived in Turkey for seven years, going there originally to teach in a Turkish Girl’s school. I became very interested in the language of communication, silent communication among women, understood from the edging on their headscarves—needlelace edging in tiny shapes—which conveyed innermost feelings of the wearer. For example, edging a woman wore could say that she was pregnant, that she was arguing with her husband, that her son was going to the army, etc. Meaning could be communicated through barely visible 3 dimensional minuscule net-like structures.

Artwork by Pat Hickman in her studio .

I have taught textile history and world textiles, believing that to be the core foundation for any program in Art in the Fiber Medium. There are cultures in so many places in the world that I/we learned from. Through their textiles and what was conveyed in others’ making and the role their work played in their own lives, I believe there are strong connections to the present.

What are some of the things on your current to do list?

I am a list maker, have daily lists, things that get checked off, things that get moved to the next day’s list. I actually have saved and used those lists as art materials. I still save them. The black crossed off lines remind me of running stitches, lists become almost like a daily log, a diary of comings and goings throughout a day—a plan of what “to do”. Not always urgent, just how I think through what I might do each day. It’s a mark making habit—black/white pattern on a little notepad, pages then tucked away, for something that might come in the future. Mostly to anyone else, these appear as scraps of paper to be thrown away. I see them as “pure potential”, waiting to see what’s next. This phase of my life is about seeing what I can do with my time in my artwork, in the studio, in relationships with family and friends, finding my way in a place that still seems new to me, traveling, going into the City as an adventure, experiencing new things, new places, new people. Even though those don’t get put down on a “to do” list, that’s what is there, unwritten.

Are there more peoples and places that you wish to learn from?

Yes, always, wherever I go, whenever I have the opportunity to experience something new.

What’s next?

I have a solo exhibit opening May 3 at Buster Levi Gallery in Cold Spring.I have a residency scheduled for two weeks in July in Monson, Maine. I’m going, not knowing what I’ll do there but want to use that time to find the next direction, possibly new materials, just to see what will happen when I have uninterrupted time, without the distractions of daily life. Even though that’s a bit scary, I trust something will happen with this gift of time.

Pat Hickman: Floodlines: Water Rises is on display at the Lagstein Gallery until May 13. Founded by painter Ray Lagstein in 2014, the contemporary art gallery is located at 85 South Broadway. For more information visit lagsteingallery.com

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Pat Hickman’s River Teeth” © 2019 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com  


Nyack Sketch Log: Phyllis B. Frank

by Bill Batson

When Hillary Clinton came to Nyack last February for the first public event at the Rockland Pride Center, she stood next to Phyllis B. Frank. On Thursday, April 25,  2019 at the 60th annual NAACP membership gala, Nyack Branch President Frances Pratt will call Phyllis B. Frank to stand next to her to be recognized. Why do leaders like Clinton and Pratt stand next to Frank? Because for over 40 years, Frank has stood on the side victims of domestic violence and people of color in their pursuit of racial justice and equity in America.

“As an organizer of undoing racism workshops, founding board member of Rockland Pride and Associate Director of VCS, Phyllis Frank is an institution in this county. She has added so much to our beloved community,” said Pratt.  Frank is not only an institution, she’s an institution builder. “If you think about it, Phyllis had a hand in creating the first domestic violence agency and the first pride center in the Rockland county and is instrumental in bringing an analysis of racial justice here. Remarkable isn’t even the word'” said Rockland Pride Executive Director Brooke Malloy.

Frank joined VCS in 1979. The organization  promotes social justice for individuals, families and communities through mental health counseling and community change. VCS has developed programs to confront heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia, racism and sexism with a particular focus on violence against women. Under Franks leadership, VCS has launched a wide range of LGBT family services, support programs and professional training including evolving expertise in relation to transgender children, youth and adults.

Nyack Branch NAACP 60th Anniversary Membership Recruitment and Renewal DinnerEvents

Tickets still available for the 60th Anniversary NAACP membership gala at the Pearl River Hilton on April 25th at 6p. Phyllis B. Frank, Dustin Hausner, Lonnie Leonard and Lynnette Eubanks Marshall are some of the honorees. For reservations contact Voncile Oliver at (845) 268-6626 ASAP.

Donations are welcome and are not tax deductible.

The premise behind VCS is that community lay people can provide high-level counseling for clients with a wide range of serious social problems. The model called “Volunteer Family Counseling Project” was initiated by Dr. Stephen Shapiro and Martin Eisman of the Family Service Association of Rockland County and funded by The Ford Foundation in 1970. The first group of 16 volunteers were recruited, trained and assigned to work with 34 families. The program quickly expanded to 426 families and individuals by 108 trained volunteers. Later that year, the agency moved into offices at 151 South Main Street in New City.

Over forty years later, VCS  provides an array of services including child abuse prevention programs, services to older adults and their families and low cost counseling to Rockland residents for a variety of life issues such as separation, co-parenting children, unemployment and domestic violence.  VCS conducts a widely acclaimed counselor training program, administers a nationally recognized NY Model for Batterer Programs, and various social justice programs that included launching Rockland County Pride.

In the late 1990s, if you lived in Nyack and wanted to attend one of the major Gay Pride celebrations that are held around the country each June, you had to travel to Manhattan. Frank enjoyed the annual pride pilgrimage to the city, but thought aloud to others that “even if we had just a group walking behind one sign, we needed to do something for Gay Pride here in Rockland.”

Over 1,000 people gathered for the first Gay Pride Rockland event in Nyack in 1999. As if to prove the positive force that this public affirmation of sexual identity can have, a Village of Nyack Trustee named John Shields, who would later serve four terms as Mayor, publicly came out of the closet that day.

The Pride celebrations that are held throughout the world each June commemorate protests that followed a raid by New York City Police Officers on The Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969.  The uprising in Greenwich Village against a pattern and practice of harassment by public officials is widely regarded as the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement. On May 9, 2016,  a meeting was held in New York State concerning the status of an important landmark in the LGBT community. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis met with New York officials to advance a proposal to make The Stonewall Inn a national monument.

On Wednesday, May 31, 2017, New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul and the Board of the Rockland County Pride Center celebrated the fact that the center had received a $250,000 grant from New York state. “Phyllis is a founding board member and she’s on the Executive Committee. She played a lead role in putting the board together. She went to various people in the community and asked it they wanted to do this. She put it together,” said Malloy.

A thread that runs through both VCS and Rockland Pride is a proactive and exhaustive effort to apply a racial justice analysis to civil rights work. “Shortly after bringing the ground breaking documentary on race, “The Color of Fear” to Rockland, I attended an “Undoing Racism Workshop, presented by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond,” said Frank  “That was in 1995.  Since then, VCS has administered Undoing Racism Workshops in Rockland County, at least once a year, and in some recent years as many as six times.”

Executive directors, police, non-profit personnel, community members, students, public and private school administration, teaching staff and other educators, and faith community leaders have attended the Undoing Racism Workshop. VCS estimates that we have presented the workshop approximately 35- 40 times.  Each workshop has between 40 and 45 participants. Some session have had 60 in attendance. VCS estimates that nearly 2000 Rockland residents have participated.

“The reason I have my  job as Rockland Pride Executive Director is because I chased down Phyllis after taking the Undoing Racism workshop over ten years ago. I was so drawn to her conviction. She’s has an unwavering approach to her work, ” said Malloy

Her exemplary efforts over the years resulted in her being inducted into the Rockland County Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2012. And on Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the 60th annual NAACP gala, another honor will be added to Frank’s distinguished resume.

Hillary Clinton photo credit: George Pejoves

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Phyllis B. Frank” © 2019 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com  


Nyack Sketch Log: Coplan’s Cool Ride (to a Lower Carbon Footprint)

by Bill Batson

Science tells us, unequivocally, that the behavior of billions of humans has created an existential threat to the earth called climate change. According to Professor Karl Coplan, if humans change their behavior and reduce their carbon footprint, we might have a chance to bequeath a living planet to future generations. Coplan also demonstrates through his life style, that the journey to a lower carbon footprint can be a cool ride.

I think that an individual direct footprint of four tons per year is defensible as sustainable for a middle class citizen of a developed nation during the phaseout of all fossil fuels over the next few decades.

In November 2019, Coplan will release Living Sustainably Now: A Low-Carbon Vision of the Good Life. His credentials, academic, legal and practical, are extremely impressive. A professor at Pace University School of Law, he directs their Environmental Law Center and has been outside counsel for Riverkeeper, and clerked for United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Berger. And to practice what he preaches, he has kayaked and biked to work, retrofitted his home, and found a way to make vacations intermittent energy fasts for over 30 year, reducing his carbon footprint to half of the average American.

Tonight, April 16 at 6:30p at the Nyack Center, Karl will present some of what he’s doing to reduce his carbon footprint. If the weather’s good, Coplan may ride his Zero Series S electric motorcycle to the venue, navigating through the crowded crossroads of the environment, science and the law. For the sake of our future, stop by and learn to walk a mile in Karl’s low carbon shoes (or ride a mile on his low carbon motorcycle, or row…you get the picture!)

Where does your passion for the planet come from?

How can anyone not have a passion for the system that sustains all life? But, more personally – growing up as the skinny kid who was not very good at sports, I found in nature both an inner peace and physical challenges and confidence that sustain me to this day.

What was it like clerking for United States Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger?

It was a very heady experience to be on the inside of every Supreme Court case and discussion for a year, just one year out of law school. Not only were there the conversations with the Chief, but the give and take discussions in the clerks’ network of law clerks for all nine Justices. No other legal experience in my career has been at that level.

What are some of the most important cases that you have brought to protect the planet?

The great thing about working with Riverkeeper and other Watekeeper organizations is working from the ground up to protect the ecosystem one stream, wetland, or watershed at a time. So instead of counting national cases, I can look around the Hudson River Valley and point to individual ecosystem battles that are interconnected to the global whole, like the hillside in Fort Montgomery we protected from development, or the nitrogen discharges to Long Island Sound we restricted, the toxic lead shotgun pellets we got removed from Long Island Sound, or the permits we forced the state to issue to limit the pollution of a trout stream in the Catskills. Some of these efforts are still ongoing, like the environmental cleanups we sued to force in Newtown Creek and Hastings on Hudson.

The fossil fuel industry has a huge war chest, are there enough law students choosing environmental law?

There are plenty of law students – but they need jobs that allow them to support themselves and pay their student loans. Litigating NGOs like Riverkeeper here in the Hudson River Valley and NRDC and EarthJustice at the national level play an important role providing a career path for lawyers who don’t want to represent the ExxonMobils of the world. But they rely on contributions from supporters.

Karl Coplan Speaks at the Knowledge Market at the Nyack Center

April 16, at 6:30p at Nyack Center, Karl will give a presentation based on his book, Living Sustainably Now: A Low-Carbon Vision of the Good Life, offering practical advice on how to reduce your carbon footprint, including everything from how you eat, commute, and run your house, to life enriching travel and recreation.

A meet-and-greet reception with light refreshment follows the program.

The Knowledge Market is sponsored by Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, NyackNewsAndViews.com, Nyack Center and La Talaye Catering and Event Design.

Tickets are $20. Students tickets are $5. Scholarships are available. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Nyack Center. For more information visit NyackKnows.com.

Students take the Stage

A younger, hipper generation are stepping up to the carbon foot print plate. Emmy Urdy, one of the organizers of Nyack’s participation in the global student climate strike on March 15 has joined the planning of the village’s Earth Day celebration. She is also one of the founders of the Rockland Climate Alliance (RCA). Already her group has helped the village move more smoothly towards full compliance with up coming bans on single use plastic bags.

If you’d like to learn more about future plans of the RCA email rocklandclimatealliance@gmail.com and ask to get on their mailing list.

Urdy, third from left, helping plan Earth Day, Nyack, April 27, 2019.


Sons of Science Perform at Earth Day 2019 in Nyack

Children of scientists that work at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory will perform some of their favorite songs by the RHCP and Black Keys at the April 27th Nyack Earth Day celebration. Sons of Science (SOS) have played locally at Maureen’s Jazz Cellar,The Whiskey Kitchen, and The Great Nyack Get Together. SOS has been playing together since 2015, when the youngest member of the group was 9.

Calvin D’Andrea 16, bass, vocals
Miles D’Andrea 14, drums, vocals
Augie Davi-Fiondella 13, keys, vocals
Johnan Pollisar 13, guitar, vocals.

Earth Day 2019

For the seventh year running, Nyack will honor Mother Earth on Saturday, April 27 (Rain date 4/28) from 12 to 4p in the heart of the village at the Main Street Gazebo, Cedar Street and surrounding parking area. Kids’ activities will include arts and crafts as well as a fun, interactive Summer Play Camp sponsored by Blue Rock School. There is also live music going on all day, and vendors selling everything from jewelry to plants.

Keep Rockland Beautiful will begin and end their Community Clean-up project at the Earth Day Nyack event site. Interested participants should meet at 9:00am to join a clean-up crew at the Gazebo before Earth Day Nyack kicks off later in the day. Check keeprocklandbeautiful.org for details.

Hosted by The Nyack Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Nyack. Sponsored by Blue Rock School’s Summer Play Camp, Green Mountain Energy, and Casa del Sol restaurant.


Tell us about Environmental Litigation Clinic at Pace?

The Clinic was founded 30 years ago as a partnership between Pace Law School and the then-new Hudson Riverkeeper program. Law students need practical experience practicing law, and John Cronin, the first Riverkeeper, needed legal representation to take on the entrenched companies polluting the Hudson River. Bobby Kennedy was working on his legal masters degree at Pace at the time as well as working pro bono as a Riverkeeper attorney, so it was natural for him to take over running the Clinic.

For over thirty years now, eight to ten Pace law students each semester get real litigation experience representing Riverkeeper in its environmental cleanup battles. They are allowed to appear in court without having passed the bar yet by special permission of the New York court system. I have been co-directing the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic for twenty five years now – since 1994 – and joining the Clinic was the best break of my life, since it has allowed me to combine my passion for the environment with the practice of law and the deep satisfaction of training and mentoring students for careers in environmental law. My former students include DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi, and scores of other students who have gone into environmental law careers ranging from private firms to government enforcement agencies.

Is it true that climate deniers are filing Freedom of Information Requests to harass scientists?

Yes, this is one of many ways that industry funded groups are working to harass climate scientists and prevent public acceptance of climate science. The problem is that in some states, the courts have taken the position that scientists at state universities are public officials, so that their email communications are subject to public disclosure under Freedom of Information laws. Most recently, Michael Mann at Penn State was forced to publish all of the emails from his university account. You probably did not hear much about this, because there was absolutely nothing embarrassing about them. Columbia Law School’s Mike Gerrard has started a climate scientist defense fund project to provide legal representation to climate scientists being subjected to this sort of harassment.

I understand you had an extremely low carbon foot print commute from your home to work, what was it?

For over twenty years now, I have commuted to work in White Plains by paddling kayak across the river from the Nyack Boat Club, then riding a bicycle the eight miles from Tarrytown. I built the kayak myself in 1997 as a project to take my mind off of the monumentally frustrating Pyramid Mall battle we were fighting at the time. It seemed then like a simple antidote to the car culture the mall exemplified. Of course, I could only make my paddle & pedal commute in the warm and light months of the year, and then only two or three days a week. Now that the bike lane on the new Tappan Zee bridge is supposed to open, I will probably hang up my kayak paddle and just bike to work. We need to make sure the Thruway Authority keeps the bike path open late at night – it will be a great non-car commuting option, but not if they close it at dusk like they have threatened to.

If part of having a low carbon foot print being multi-modal, what are some of your transportation modalities?

Cars are killing the planet, so I have tried my best to avoid using them where possible. I went for about a decade without owning my own car (I borrowed Robin’s Prius when I really needed one). When I couldn’t paddle across the Hudson to work, I was a regular rider on the Tappan Zee Express bus, then I bought an electric motorcycle when Zero came out with the first practical model in 2012. When I totaled that motorcycle, Robin prevailed on me to look at an EV- so I ended up with a very affordable Smart Fortwo in 2015. But I bought another Zero e-moto too – they are just too much fun.

Your life partner is a scientist and polar explorer. Who is she and what are some of the things you enjoy doing together?

Robin Bell has been my life partner for pretty much my entire adult life – we started dating at Middlebury College. When we graduated, we built a small sailing dory together with a rudimentary cabin and sailed it down the Champlain Canal and Hudson River, ending up in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where Robin got her first job as a geologist for the US Geological Survey. Robin came to NewYork to get her PhD in geophysics at Columbia while I studied law there, and Robin has gone on to become a leading polar regions science researcher. We both enjoy life, we’re together, so we enjoy life together – Robin shares my love of nature, adventure, and wild places.

One of our first dates was to go winter camping in the Adirondacks. Our love of sailing and the ocean eventually led us to buying an ocean-capable sailboat, the Mabel Rose. We named the boat after Robin’s great aunt Mabel who lived on Nantucket Island and whose partner Liz taught Robin to sail when she was growing up.

The Mabel Rose usually lives at the Nyack Boat Club. We have sailed the boat on two round trip transatlantic voyages – including a sabbatical trip to Barcelona in 2006-2007.

In Barcelona, I leaned what real paella is supposed to look like, and I brought several paella pans back with me. I make myself popular on camping trips and with our neighbors by cooking a wood-fired paella the traditional Spanish way from time to time.

How early were your children introduced to the low-carbon life style?

Since environmental consciousness has been part of my life since childhood, my own children were introduced to it from birth, of course. That meant they grew up in a house where we kept the heat down in the winter, but a nice crackling fire in the fireplace drew the family together in the living room, especially since there was no television anywhere in the house. Not having television, ironically, may be the biggest thing you can do to reduce your footprint – not because of the juice used by the television, but because television programming and advertising is designed to make us consume more. Every image we see n TV makes us think that we are missing out on a bigger fancier house or a faster car that will somehow raise our status. Skip the television and save the consumption dollars for something more fulfilling and smaller footprint – like used sailboat or something. Both our children were sailing with us from before they could walk. |

My daughter grew up thinking that the only way you could get to the Jersey Shore was by sailboat – when one of her elementary school friends told her their family had been to the beach, Beryl’s natural response was “I didn’t know you had a sailboat, too.”

Your book Sustainably Now: A Low-Carbon Vision of the Good Life is coming out in the Fall, can you share one tip with us?

It’s easy to make big dents in your footprint without a major change in your lifestyle. If you live in a household with two conventional gas powered cars, when it comes time to trade them in replace one with a hybrid and the other with an electric vehicle. If you purchase your electricity from renewable sources, you can cut you transportation footprint by three quarters this way. The EV will have plenty of range for a typical commute, and the hybrid is available for longer family trips when needed.

What is the average American’s carbon footprint?

The most recent numbers are about 16 tons per capita

What is a good laymans explanation of carbon foot?

Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases you are responsible for, converted into the equivalent amount of CO2 (the primary human greenhouse gas).

Your direct footprint is what you emit directly in your activities (burning gas to drive or jet fuel to fly, burning oil or natural gas for heat, buying fossil fuel electricity).

Your indirect footprint includes your share of government activities and the greenhouse gas impacts embedded in stuff you buy.

There is no one definition of direct vs indirect – most people include food choices as a direct impact, some calculators now include goos and service purchases as direct.

By how much have your reduced carbon footprint?

Indirect impacts are roughly equal to direct impacts. My goal is to keep my direct GHG footprint to <4 tons per year – but I include high impact foods (beef and lamb) in this tally. 4 tons per year direct is roughly 8 tons per year total – about half the US average.

Do any municipalities award people who reduce their footprint?

There are no municipal awards or tax credits specifically for lowering your footprint, but there are tax credits for solar panels, heat pumps, and electric vehicles that tend to lower your footprint.

Nyack EV Charging StationI read that oil companies are betting on carbon capture. Any future in it?

Carbon capture is much more expensive than avoiding the emissions in the first place, so it only has a future if we get desperate.

Have you used the charging ports in Nyack? Do you see the program expanding locally?

Since Nyack is pretty much home for us (we live in West Nyack), I never need to charge so nearby. But the availability of municipal charging stations really extends the range of an EV. Having that charging port in Nyack means that someone driving up from New Jersey to visit our shops and try one of the great restaurants knows they can get home without worry. Smart municipalities recognize that EV sales are increasing, and that having a charging station available is just a plus for the local economy.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Karl Coplan’s Cool Ride (to a Lower Carbon Footprint)” © 2019 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com  


Nyack Sketch Log: American History On Fire


An illustration of a world without archival records

by Bill Batson

There will be no sketch in this week’s Nyack Sketch Log. The void illustrates the world contemplated by one or more arsonists when they burnt down the headquarters of an important civil and labor rights center, the Highlander Folk School in New Market Tennessee on March 29, 2019. This crime against humanity was an attempt to permanently redact selective portions of our shared history.

Highlander, founded in 1932, was an important national organizing resource during the heights of the American civil rights and labor movements. Decades of historical documents, speeches, artifacts and other memorabilia from its history were consumed by flames. Although their official archivist, the University of Wisconsin reports that “a majority” of Highlander’s archives are safe,” the suspicious fire intended to burn not a just a building to the ground, but to incinerate the history of those who gathered here including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and Peter Seeger.  Subsequent press reports mention that authorities found a “white-power’ symbol at scene of the fire.

permanently redacted portions of history

Many major civil rights victories have been won in this country, some of them organized by participants who first attended workshops at Highlander. There have also been profound losses, like the assassination of Dr. King on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. This assault signals a new, chilling field of battle, where a combatant seeks to erase evidence of past events. The act is reminiscent of the dystopian future described in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, where “fireman” ignite books in order to censor and destroy knowledge.

There are 10 buildings on a 200-acre Highlander campus, yet only the building that housed the records was destroyed. The sobriety of the act suggests that the match was not struck by a garden-variety bigot on a drunken lark, but someone with a much more deliberate intent.

Imagine historic essays without archival photos

As outraged as I was when Hollywood created a film, Mississippi Burning, that portrayed the FBI, and not civil rights leaders, as the heroic figures in the aftermath of the murders of voter registration volunteers Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman during Freedom Summer 1964, our only hope here, is for a successful federal investigation that leads to the apprehension and subsequent conviction by a jury of the person or people responsible for this fire. (I find myself rooting for the FBI a lot lately.)

Further, we must discover the full malevolent objective of this act and the entire scope of the conspiracy. Was this plan hatched domestically or abroad? What is their next strategic goal? How impactful and purposeful is the silence of our government after such a national tragedy?

Since recent events have seemed to lack any rhyme or reason, I have begun taking intermittent news fasts. I had only a faint awareness that an important civil rights organization had been the victim of an intentional fire. I did not know it was Highlander until Saturday night. When the target of the attack became known to me, I literally doubled over in pain as if a had been kicked by a mule. Tears weld up in my eyes. I watched several people react the same way when I told them what had happened.

Image destroyed at Highlander and not preserved at the University of Wisconsin

In 1990, I applied to become the Executive Director of  Highlander. I was considered perhaps too precocious, or too northern, or too unprepared by virtue of my age to lead the facility where Rosa Parks studied passive resistance and creative non-violence before boarding a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955.  (Yes people, Ms. Parks was not simply a frustrated seamstress, who spontaneously initiated a successful year- long bus boycott, but a trained activist. After attending a workshop with Dr. King and others at Highlander, she perfectly played out her role in well-orchestrated courageous plan, organized under risk of death by brave men and women for the explicit purpose of ending discrimination in public accommodation in America. Documentation of this story is what the arsonist sought to destroy!)

Our future if crimes against humanity like the arson at Highlander go unsolved and unpunished

The philosophy most associated with Highlander, and its most prestigious alumni, Dr. King is non-violence. In Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King described the strategy behind his practice this way: ‘Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” So when someone burns down a temple of non-violence, are they seeking to end non-violence: to make the non-violent violent. My first response (and an earlier draft of this essay) was in fact, very bellicose.

Then, I considered how Highlander founder Myles Horton, and Dr. King and others  associated with the folk school and study center would respond. I believe they would:

  • Urge labor unions to hold a one-day national strike to demonstrate that our economic system can not function without men and women who require the protection of civil and labor rights;
  • Support students in occupying every academic office until administrations invested in reclaiming this history and adding it to official curriculum;
  • Appeal to leaders of houses of worship to give sermons on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, that would lead to moral marches the following days and,
  • Organize voters to remove office holders too incompetent, complicit, or corrupt to properly investigate this kind of thought crime and elect representatives who would protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people, and our preserve historic places that form the civic sinews and neurons of our nation.

Let’s transform the flames that pierced the night sky over New Market, Tennessee on March 29th into a beacon so bright, it allows all of us to see the urgency of the hour. It is time to confront the fact that, as a nation, we are descending into a cold civil war. Our history and our future is at stake.

We learned on March 29, 2019 that we have not overcome. We have much work to do. But as the song that was championed and popularly distributed from Highlander suggests “deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.”

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: ” American History On Fire” © 2019 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com  


Nyack Sketch Log: I Am Shazam

by Billy Batson

I have to chose my words very carefully, because of the extremely litigious history of this topic. Simply put, because I am Billy Batson, I am Shazam.

On April 4, the newest blockbuster superhero movie will be released about a teenager named Billy Batson who becomes a full-grown crime fighter when is says Shazam. Here’s the history, legal and cartoonish, of Billy Batson, Captain Marvel and Shazam.

When I was a child, only adults would do a double-take when hearing my name. The Shazam comic strip was more popular than Superman soon after it was  launched by Fawcett Comics in the 1940s. That popularity contest became a legal matter, with decades of copyright infringement litigation brought by the creators of the man of steel.  The owners of the  Superman, DC comics, thought the costuming and powers of the character who said Shazam were too close for commercial comfort to their immortal.

It wasn’t until a live-action version of the Shazam saga was broadcasted during the Saturday morning cartoon marathons of the 1970s that I got the thrill of hearing my name emanate from a TV set. (I was the lead-in to Isis)

Years later, I started to admire the artwork that is the building block of the comic book empire and began attending comic conventions. I got a deeper appreciation for the significance of sharing the name of a cultural icon.

Comic book artists would eagerly give samples of their work to a kid named Billy Batson. Kurt Schaffenberger, who also penned Lois Lane for the other side, was particularly generous with this 1977 effort that he gave me at the old Commodore Hotel. He signed his piece, to Billy Batson, from Billy Batson.

And to this day, when extremely perturbed, I am known to say, “Holey Moley.”

The legal squabbles that commenced in the 1940s  continue to play themselves out in the box office battles of today. In March 2019, a few weeks before the Shazam re-boot, a film about a female fighter pilot who doesn’t really need a plane to fly called Captain Marvel captivated audiences.

Captain Marvel was actually the name of the character that Billy Batson became in the original Fawcett comic. Eventually, worn down by the weight of legal filings, Fawcett licensed the Captain Marvel name to their nemesis, DC comics. That transfer of copyright set into motion the next rivalry. A comic company named Marvel and run by the legendary Stan Lee, sought a hostile takeover of the character of the same name as their corporation. It was finally resolved, by court order, that the story of Billy Batson had to be told without the mention of Captain Marvel. Marvel was now free to create an entirely new storyline.

Rich content remains in the Shazam story and name. Shazam is an acronym for the mythical figures whose powers were conferred on the young protagonist: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury.

In a series of collages that I created in the 1990’s, I blended elements of Shazam with my life, incorporating photos and drawings of my father and images from Edward Hopper paintings that invoked Nyack of the 193os.

Like the original Billy Batson, I was orphaned and adopted as a child. I learned these family secrets later in life. My connection with the Shazam story line deepened. In a more recent drawing, created on a blank cover supplied to me by Funny Business Comics on Main Street, I am the young initiate, and I used a likeness of Frederick Douglass to portray the wizard. (If I was casting the part of an ancient Egyptian wizard, I would look for someone who resembled Douglass.)

In 2018, a super hero movie dominated the box office 33% of the time, from Ant-Man and the Wasp ($595M), to Deadpool 2 ($734M), Incredibles 2 ($1.16B), to Black Panther ($1.34B), and Avengers: Infinity War ($2.04B). In 2019, ten comic blockbusters promise to corner the cinema market.  What do we owe this global obsession with fictional, crime-fighters with mystical powers?

In Shazam, the wizard who confers awesome power into the hands of an innocent child lists seven familiar moral hazards as the enemy of man: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. (I can think of one person in power, who is unfortunately not a fictional character, and unapologetically embraces all seven sins).

In a time when religion and politics can’t be mentioned at divided dinner tables across this country, everyone can talk about the last super hero movie they saw and the next one they eagerly await. In a world where racial and gender discrimination persist, comic book cinema inject Wonder Woman and Black Panther into the conversation.  And for that, I say, Shazam!

This Mental Floss summary leaps over the entire Shazam story in a single read!

Thanks to Funny Business Comics on Main Street in Nyack for the blank cover, Larry Gun Jamieson for sharing his commanding comic book knowledge and William and Daisy Batson for giving me a life, and the name, Billy Batson. 

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: ” I Am Shazam” © 2019 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com