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Albany civil rights icon Alice Green publishes her memoir to acclaim

Dr. Alice Green signs a copy of her memoir at the Albany Institute of History & Art, December 8, 2021
WAMC photo
by Dave Lucas
Dr. Alice Green signs a copy of her memoir at the Albany Institute of History & Art, December 8, 2021

An Albany civil rights icon is looking back on her long life fighting for justice.

Wednesday at the Albany Institute of History & Art Capital Region, civil rights icon Alice Green released her memoir, “We Who Believe in Freedom: Activism and the Struggle for Social Justice.”

“The whole theme of it is and why I chose the title is that we who are a bit involved in the struggle, we cannot rest, it still goes on," Green said. "And this is one way of trying to make sure that that happens.”

Dr. Green's book details her life-long work of advocacy, which she says is far from over.

“We thought that we had come to a point where things had gotten better for us, and in the realm of social justice," said Green. "But there's some things happening in the community now and across the country that are very frightening. And I wanted to go back to what we've been doing for a long period of time, to encourage people to keep doing it. Because we have not gotten to where we want to get to. We're seeing things like voter suppression. We're seeing things like banning books and not wanting to teach about the history of social injustice. We're seeing vigilantism come coming back and, and white supremacy. So I want people to know that we've been involved in the struggle for a long time, and that we have to continue it and learn from what we've done in the past, to see if there's something that we can borrow from that, to help in the struggle that continues.”

Paul Grondahl, Director of the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany, wrote the foreword to Green's book . He says he's known Green for over 35 years, the first 30 or so as a reporter for the Times Union.

“She's really been a north star, fighting for racial equality against systemic racism," Grondahl said. "She's been on the front lines, I've walked with her in demonstrations, I've been with her at makeshift memorials of victims of gun violence. I've seen her over the decades, never wavering, always fighting the good fight, often with a lot of opposition. She stands tall, she's fearless, and she doesn't back down. And I think she is on the right side of history. She has been here in Albany working on these issues since the late 60s. And she's an incredible force for equality and justice and in particular for Black power and Black empowerment, which is, you know, the killing of George Floyd kind of reenergized, reignited this issue. Alice has been fighting this issue for 50 years, and she's an incredible, incredible person. I know her both personally and professionally, and we're very fortunate to have her in Albany.”

Albany Institute of History & Art Executive Director Tammis Groft says over the years Green has kept a focused eye on the prize of social justice in the region.

“And reading her book that she's just published, what I really like about it, is the personal stories with the anecdotes that she tells, but she's really, as a memoir, is telling the stories as she participated in these stories," Groft said. "So as a, a record of the work that she did, along with many other people in the community, is really quite extraordinary.”

A large segment of Green's book is devoted to the work of Albany’s Center for Law and Justice, which she founded in 1985 after Albany police officers shot Jessie Davis to death in his Arbor Hill apartment.

In 1998, Green ran for lieutenant governor on the Green Party of New York State ticket. She ran for mayor of Albany in 2005, garnering 25 percent of the vote but losing to incumbent Jerry Jennings.

For many years, she directed Trinity Institution, a youth and family services center in Albany’s South End. While there, she also did community organizing and founded the South End Scene, one of the longest published Black newspapers in Albany.

And in recent months, as an elder stateswoman in the city’s burgeoning protest scene, she has joined activists at protests like the one outside South Station, where campers were cleared by police in April in a chaotic scene.

Green says she's written her memoir for all ages.

“Especially young people. And I'm talking about a lot of people involved with groups like Black Lives Matter. They don't know that history," Green said. "And we believe that you have to know the history where you came from, what happened, and what you can learn from that the those activities and actions that we took in the past, so that it can help them to go forward. And to be more effective, and to make sure that they're working for the right things. And we're talking about changing systems, OK, which is very, very important. So I want young people to know that, and it's also an intergenerational struggle. They can learn from me, they can learn from the other people that I've worked with, as they go forward in this struggle. It's going to be difficult from here on in very difficult because we believe that there are those who do not want us to attain the freedom and the equity that we must have.”

Her book is available online and in bookstores.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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