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  • NYS Writers Institute

Two conversations on racial justice in Troy

We conclude our Time for Reckoning series of events with a two-part discussion on systemic racism with Troy public officials and community members.

Times Union Editor-at-Large, Rex Smith moderated a panel featuring Troy Mayor Patrick Madden, Police Chief Brian Owens, and City Council President Carmella Mantello.

Following that taping, five Troy residents -- Jessica Ashley, Robert Doherty, Debra Garrett, Daquetta P. Jones, Luz Marquez-Benbow, and DeSean Moore -- watched the discussion and shared their viewpoints.

Jessica Ashley has worked in Human Services for over 30 years. She was previously President of the Troy NAACP, spent 5 years on the Objective Review Board, and has been a Community Activist in Troy for over 40 years. She holds associate degrees in human services and chemical dependency counseling.

Robert Doherty, a Troy resident born and raised in New York City, is President of the Justice Center of Rensselaer County. A Vietnam era veteran, he served as a Military Police officer at Leavenworth prison running a rehab program. Doherty is a retired career Social Worker, who developed and led hospital-based addiction and behavioral health treatment systems in New York City, Rochester and Albany. Doherty served on the Troy City Council (Downtown, District 4) from 2012-2018.

Debra Garrett is a former member of the Troy City Council. She co-chairs an advocacy group for parents in the New York State Charter Schools Association. She is an advocate for Black and Brown education—for both students and teachers-- to help disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.

Daquetta P. Jones, BS, MBA was appointed as a NYS Executive in April 2019 to support executive leadership in achieving its mission to build tomorrow's workforce today by promoting a diverse, inclusive, and talented workforce. She possesses nearly 20 years of human services experience serving runaway and homeless youth, victims/survivors of domestic violence, homeless women and families, individuals with severe and persistent mental health, and advocating for Social, Racial and Gender Justice and Equity. She previously led YWCA of the Greater Capital Region, Inc. in Troy, NY as a first-time Executive Director (first African American Woman Executive Director on the record of an organization with over a 130-year history) for over 5 years with unwavering passion, devotion, strategy, vision and remarkable success.

Luz Marquez-Benbow, is an adult survivor of child sexual abuse, incest, and rape; and has been an anti-rape advocate since 1998, where she worked on statewide anti-sexual assault issues at the NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault. In 2003, Luz co-founded the National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA). Locally, Luz is one of the co-founders of Troy4BlackLives (T4BL), formerly Justice for Dahmeek, founded to demand accountability and transparency from the entire City Government, for the Troy Police shooting of Dahmeek McDonald in August of 2017, and the police murder and official cover-up, in the murder of Edson Thevenin in 2016. On June 7, 2020, and in solidarity with the national Black Lives Matter risings across the Capital region and nation; T4BL, with other allied organizers across Troy, held a historic Troy Rally for Black Lives event that brought 11,000 people to affirm Black life. Currently, Luz is the lead co-founder of Aya Rising: A People of Color-led truth telling project focused on Troy and Albany as a reconciliation process towards transformative justice processes to address violence.

DeSean Moore is a local business owner in Troy, a RPI graduate, and an advocate for social justice and community building.

We previously posted a similarly-formatted event with Schenectady public officials and residents, and a special edition of New York NOW with Albany elected officials and community members.

And, following up on yesterday's post, we've extended the deadline for application for Time for Reckoning community microgrants. Proposals are encouraged from local activists, creative artists, grass-roots community groups, writers, filmmakers, and students who are actively engaged in collaborative efforts to address systemic racism and to create work and actions to overcome it. Application form.

The Time for Reckoning: Troy Public Official Panel

The Time For Reckoning | Troy Community Voices Panel

About The Time for Reckoning

The recent killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and numerous other unarmed Black people at the hands of white police officers touched off a volatile period of racial unrest across the Capital Region, the nation and the world. This moment of collective outrage and action against systemic racism feels as powerful and potentially transformational as the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The Time for Reckoning: Confronting Systemic Racism, Seeking Justice and Reimagining Society strives to create an ongoing dialogue between community members of color who live in urban communities where tensions with police run high and elected officials whose job is to protect and serve the public.

The symposium and its website -- -- offer a multi-media, interactive and collaborative forum for all voices to be heard and a portal to distribute informational materials and resources that can change the hearts and minds of our communities while offering suggestions for further study and calls to action.

The Time for Reckoning is a production of The NYS Writers Institute and The Center for Law and Justice and collaborators WMHT, the Times Union, the Justice Center of Rensselaer County, All Of Us, Youth FX, Amnesty International USA, and other community partners.

Themes for the Time for Reckoning series

Week 1:

The impact of systemic racism in Capital Region communities.

Week 2:

Issues of trust between community members and the government officials who serve them -- particularly police.

Watch video: Susan Burton, the founder and executive director of A New Way of Life, and co-author, with Cari Lynn, of Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women.

Watch video: Amnesty International USA's Roger-Mark De Souza in-conversation with Paul Grondahl

Week 3:

Possible avenues of reform to ameliorate systemic racism.

Watch video: Main Street: How a City’s Heart Connects Us All with Mindy & Robert Fullilove and Alice Green

Week 4:

Accountability --- how can the community monitor government actions to guard against further injustices due to systemic racism?

A New York NOW special edition: Time for Reckoning panel discussion. Visit

Watch video: Derik Smith, executive board member for Albany’s Center for Law and Justice, in conversation with Paul Grondahl



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