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Albany City Auditor raises profile with overseas trip

Chief City Auditor Dorcey Applyrs has been spreading "Albany goodwill" around the world.

Since being appointed by Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan on January 1, 2020, Applyrs has taken her role as Chief City Auditor more public than her predecessors had. She has examined city practices and conducted a racial bias audit of the Albany Police Department, and has often appeared at Sheehan's side at public appearances.

This week Applyrs is in Nijmegen, in the Dutch province of Gelderland, commemorating the 75th anniversary of its sister city relationship with Albany. Applyrs attended a ceremony marking the anniversary of Nijmegen's 1944 liberation from Nazi occupation at the end of World War Two.

Albany and Nijmegen have been sister cities since the delivery of a 300-ton humanitarian shipment initiated by Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd on behalf of the residents of Albany, which provided vital supplies, from toys to building materials, to help the war-torn city rebuild. To thank Albany, Nijmegen sent back a crate of tulip bulbs, which were planted in Washington Park and are now annually commemorated at Tulip Fest.

The Netherlands mark the latest stop for Applyrs, who recently was invited to visit the Middle East.

“As a woman of faith, I've heard and read about some of the holy sites that I was blessed to visit in my lifetime, never really even thinking that one day I would have this opportunity," Applyrs said. "So outside of my own faith and spiritual journey, learning about some of the places that we visited in Israel. We've never thought of, you know what this place looks like today. Because my context has always been thousands of years ago. And so the only thing that I walked into this trip, thinking about was my faith. And that's because of my own experiences here in the U.S. hearing about the conflict in the Middle East. And that conflict is what dominates from my perspective, the media and the narrative when it comes to Israel and how it's situated in the Middle East. “

Applyrs says trip organizers and members of a security detail assured travelers they should feel safe.

“Things were calm and quiet," said Applyrs. "But I will say, given the nature of the trip, what was very clear through our briefings with elected leaders and members of the military, and even some of our visit to some of the border, whether it was the Israel Lebanon border, or the Israel and Syria border, or the Israel and Gaza border, what was very clear from our own experience, as well as the conversations with the presenters was this constant risk and threat. “

On her Instagram page, Applyrs writes of having dinner with activists Ashager Araro and Naftali Aklum, discussing the Ethiopian Israeli perspective on being a minority in Israel.

“And what was interesting, as a Black woman in America, coming from America, and my context as American, I could clearly relate to these two activists who talked about the Ethiopian Jews, and what that meant for them and their family and their ancestors," Applyrs said. "They shared how, in talking to people, when they mentioned that they’re Jewish, oftentimes a comment is, ‘I didn't know that there were Black Jews.’ And so this whole notion of who is Jewish and what, what the face of being Jewish looks like not only in Israel, but from an international context.”

Applyrs also met Brigadier General Nitzan Nuriel, immediate past director of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau at the Office of the Prime Minister.

“I chuckled a few times that how down to earth this well decorated individual was," Applyrs said. "He was able to present the information in a way that I clearly could understand the complexities of keeping peace in the Middle East.”

There were also trips, one to Israel's border with Gaza.

“And to be so close to the Gaza Strip. To see some of the makeshift rockets that had landed in people's gardens, and the cement structures that have been built around the school, we were walking through this community, we could hear children in the classroom learning," said Applyrs. "And we're in at the same time, looking at makeshift rockets and handmade bombs, using balloons that had landed in this community.”

Applyrs says the highlight of her visit was getting baptized in the Jordan River, a moment she describes as "surreal."

“It a was a magical moment. It was a very intense, spiritual moment," said Applyrs. "And as a member the group of us who chose to be baptized in the Jordan. There wasn't a dry eye, everyone unspoken had their own experience and memories and things and the minister who said, ‘whatever you're carrying, you can leave it here in the Jordan. And so it's encouraged that you cleanse yourself and leave it here.' And so for so for all of us to share in that moment. Many of us just wept.”

Applyrs says her travels have been life-changing experiences.

Below: Sunset march to honor the 48 US service members who lost their lives crossing the Waal River via boat in an attempt to liberate Nijmegen from the Germans. In honor of their bravery, Nijmegen veterans have marched every day at sunset since 2014. The bridge was built to memorialize and commemorate these soldiers and others who fought for Nijmegen’s liberation. One by one, 48 lights are lit as the veterans walk across the bridge. Once all 48 are lit, the area under the bridge is lit up and a small ceremony takes place.

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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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