Sara Foss

Albany Proper

Coalition addresses ‘period poverty’ in Schenectady

The old newspaper vending box has been remade, painted purple and decorated with pictures and words that proclaim its purpose to all who pass by. The phases of the moon, encircled by a wreath of flowers, painted in crisp black-and-white. A uterus. An assortment of period products, hearts and teardrops floating around a statement: “Menstrual hygiene is a human right.”

The contents of the box, called a period pantry, reflect this spirit. Inside is a neatly-sorted array of menstrual supplies, all free and available 24-7. Anyone can take what they need, no questions asked. So far, demand appears to be high: The box I visited, at 839 Albany Street in Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood, was emptied out in just a week.

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West Hill is a food desert. This market works to change that.

The people who frequent the West Hill Farmers Market live in the neighborhood, usually just a block or two away. Many of them discovered the small-but-busy market while walking down the street, headed elsewhere. Perhaps they passed by a few times before opting to stop, curious about what it had to offer. “They’d been here for some time before I decided to come in,” said Tinesha Hooks, a West Hill resident who gets fresh produce from the market. “I get a lot of fruit here. It’s expensive at stores.” 

Tucked between Clinton Avenue and First Street, the farmers market occupies a once-vacant lot on Quail Street. It’s a welcoming and relaxed enterprise, where friendly staff greet the many regulars who arrive each Saturday afternoon looking for healthy, nutritious food. The West Hill Farmers Market, now in its second year, is part of an ambitious effort to make one of Albany’s poorer areas into a greener and more entrepreneurial place, where residents grow their own food, eat fruits and vegetables harvested in the neighborhood and sell fresh produce from their own garden plots. 

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DakhaBrakha concert in Schenectady a must-see event

The Ukrainian folk band DakhaBrakha defies easy categorization – yes, it’s folk music but with elements of punk, jazz, drone and dance that shifts quickly and suddenly from fist-pumping, high-energy harmonies to slow, mournful ballads. The band has long served as ambassadors for Ukrainian music and culture – I discovered them in 2016, when the rapturous

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New Schenectady sculpture park celebrates art and culture of African diaspora

The Sankofa Sculpture Park sits on a formerly blighted parcel of land in Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood. The garbage and run-down buildings that once marred the site have been replaced with art celebrating the culture of the African diaspora, while also expanding the footprint of a longtime non-profit organization, the Hamilton Hill Arts Center. A project several

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Documentary film tells story of Albany terrorism sting

Nearly two decades have passed since Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain were arrested. They’re older, wiser, sadder. Years behind bars robbed them of the opportunity to see their children grow up. Now free, they have readjusted to life outside prison. They can reflect on what happened to them. But things are not, and will never be, the same. The long, strange and often maddening saga of Aref and Hossain, Albany Muslims apprehended in an FBI sting operation in 2004, is now the subject of a compelling documentary, titled “Witness.”

The film screened earlier this month at a well-attended, sometimes emotional screening at The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy. Hossain and his family were in the audience, as was Aref’s daughter. Locally, the details of the story are well-known: Aref, an imam at a mosque on Central Avenue and Hossain, owner of a nearby pizzeria, were sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2007, convicted of money laundering and terrorism-related charges. But the case against them was controversial almost from the start, with many observers – including this writer – coming to believe they were wrongfully prosecuted. Outraged Capital Region residents joined forces to support Aref and Hossain – a network of friends and helpers that exists to this day. 

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