Common Cause on “Redistricting, Gerrymandering, and the Independent Syracuse Redistricting Commission”

Join the Strathmore Speakers Series and Onondaga Free Library for an evening with Abbey McHugh and Heather Cogan of Common Cause NY, as they discuss gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the recent work of Syracuse’s independent Redistricting Commission. Syracuse is one of only a handful of governments in the nation to adopt an independent redistricting model and is believed to be the first city east of the Mississippi River to do so. Onondaga County’s process was largely criticized as partisan and messy, resulting in district maps that are currently facing legal action. Ms. McHugh and Ms. Cogan will highlight the importance of Syracuse’s independent model, its potential impact on Syracuse’s voting districts, and ways average citizens can engage in this unique, once-in-a-decade process.

This event will be held on Thursday, June 2 at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEvc-GhrDksHdeNegZTHC36tYPjxT8SQa0a

About Common Cause

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. Common Cause works to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process. Common Cause New York is one of the most active state chapters in the country, representing tens of thousands of New Yorkers throughout the state. With over 64,000 members, Common Cause NY is a leader in the movement for election administration reform, campaign finance reform and upholding ethics laws to impact systems that undermine people’s faith in democracy.

Dr. Brian Taylor on Russia’s War in Ukraine

Join the Strathmore Speakers Series and Onondaga Free Library for a timely discussion of the ongoing war in the Ukraine, featuring Syracuse University Political Science Professor and Russia expert, Dr. Brian Taylor. Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine on February 24, 2022 sent shock waves through the international community and threatens to irrevocably upset the existing geopolitical order. What does the ongoing war mean for Europe? For NATO? And for the United States? Is this the start of a new Cold War? And if so, how will Putin respond? What impact will Russia’s actions have on the norms of international behavior? Can we ever go back? And, perhaps most importantly, how will this conflict end? Is there a peaceful solution to be found? Or must force be met with force? You won’t want to miss this incredibly important lecture. A brief Q&A will follow Dr. Taylor’s talk.

This event will be held on Thursday, May 19th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZItce-hrTgpGtIysL-dnB6TwzIZFnM_t3Y7

About Brian Taylor

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Brian Taylor is a Professor of Political Science in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Taylor is the author of three books on Russian politics: The Code of PutinismState Building in Putin’s Russia: Policing and Coercion after Communism and Politics and the Russian Army: Civil-Military Relations, 1689-2000. He received his B.A. from the University of Iowa, a M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

M. C. Antil, “Floor Burns: Love, Passion and the 1967 Syracuse All-City Championship”

Join the Strathmore Speakers Series and Onondaga Free Library for an evening with author and Syracuse native M. C. Antil as he discusses his most recent work, “Floor Burns: Love, Passion and the 1967 Syracuse All-City Championship.” A riveting account of a high school championship game in which two teams—one large and public, the other small and Catholic—fought for bragging rights in a small, hard-working town in the industrial northeast, “Floor Burns” is more than simply a basketball tale; it’s the the story of a small working-class city, its people, and the turbulent times they shared. Over time, the 1967 Syracuse All-City Championship—which pitted an all-white team of boys from a tiny Polish school against a racially mixed team from a sprawling new public facility overlooking the city—would become a metaphor for the kind of radical social and cultural changes small blue-collar factory towns like Syracuse were undergoing all across the industrial northeast. It’s a metaphor that has lost none of its relevancy or potency. A brief Q&A will follow Mr. Antil’s talk.

This event will be held on Thursday, May 12th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZItdOGvqDstH9BVD5lcuFlInf5D0wwhdpxn

About M.C. Antil

M.C. Antil is a born-and-raised Syracuse native and current Chicago-based writer, baseball junkie and self-styled pop culture omnivore who has fed his addictions over the years by successfully holding down a series of day jobs, most notably as a communications and marketing strategist in the competitive and often hyper-kinetic worlds of television, new media and professional sports.

BRIDGE STREET: CNY Native Pens New Book “Floor Burns” About 1967 Syracuse All-City Championship

ESPN SYRACUSE: M.C. Antil “Orange Nation” 12-15

Baseball Coach and Public Speaker Alfonzo Whitehurst on “Motivation and Finding the Wisdom”

Join the Strathmore Speakers Series and Onondaga Free Library for an evening with motivational speaker, coach, Syracuse City School District physical education teacher, and CEO of “Find the Wisdom,” Alfonzo Whitehurst. No stranger to struggle, turmoil, and pain, Mr. Whitehurst was able to triumph over his early adversity, and turn the hardships of life into strength, wisdom, and positivity. Now, he has made it his mission to guide others toward a path for success and, using the motivational tools he developed for “Find the Wisdom,” helps at-risk kids to stay on track to achieve success in school, on the athletic field, and in life.

Corcoran players on the field during rain. Photo by Dennis Nett for Syracuse.com

Today, Mr. Whitehurst is the head coach of Corcoran’s modified baseball team. The team is comprised of twelve players, eleven of whom had never played the sport before they were recruited to be on the team. Many had never even watched the sport on television. In the six years leading up to Mr. Whitehurst taking the helm, the team had won only a single game. The idea of playing a sport where most of the players didn’t look like the Corcoran students, just didn’t occur to them. With the guidance of Mr. Whitehurst and his assistant coach Andrés Miranda, the players are slowly learning the game. But perhaps more importantly, they are learning to celebrate their successes, keep their disappointments in perspective, and focus on what they can control. A brief Q&A will follow Mr. Whitehurst’s talk.

This event will be held on Thursday, April 14th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMrcu-qrj4uEtb8TUuKkc4zXGGZwb_NKTJE

About Alfonzo Whitehurst

Alfonzo Whitehurst is a public speaker, coach, and physical education teacher in the Syracuse City School District. He holds a BS and MS in Physical Education from Utica College, and is currently the physical education teacher, football coach, and baseball coach at Van Duyn Elementary School.  In 2020, he was recognized as the First Year Teacher of the Year by the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. As the face behind “Find the Wisdom,” he has brought his story of triumph over adversity, and the lessons learned from it, to many throughout Central New York.

Learn more about Alfonzo here:

Some Syracuse middle school rookies take a chance on baseball. And learn something more.

Raised amid struggle, sheer joy on graduation day

Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders: Alfonzo Whitehurst ’18

Conservationist Holly Grant on “Backyard Birding”

Join the Strathmore Speakers Series and Onondaga Free Library for an evening with conservationist and Cornell Lab of Ornithology project assistant, Holly Grant. In this informative talk, Ms. Grant will focus on ways to make your backyard more wildlife friendly with feeders and nest boxes, offer tips for successful bird identification using the Merlin Bird ID app, and will discuss ongoing citizen science projects at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, including Project FeederWatch and NestWatch. A brief Q&A will follow.

This event will be held on Thursday, March 10th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUod-yrrzMvEtcQ4i1jH6aBG6VGggw_Rk1C

About Holly Grant

Holly Grant grew up in the Catskill mountains, where she was inspired by nature from a young age. She earned a degree in Conservation Biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and later worked with endangered Karner Blue butterflies and American Woodcock and Golden-winged Warblers. She is now a project assistant for Project FeederWatch and NestWatch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Eric Persons on Central Current and Local Journalism

Join the Strathmore Speakers Series and Onondaga Free Library for an evening with Central Current, Inc. co-founder, Eric Persons. Central Current is a new nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent digital news agency based in Syracuse. Eric will discuss the Central Current project and the role of local journalism in creating an informed and engaged citizenry. A brief Q&A will follow.

This event will be held on Thursday, October 14th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAkduGqqD0sGdQ-FmYa2igggXKbp79yUW8O

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

About Eric Persons

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Eric is supporting Central Current, Inc. because of journalism’s renewed focus on citizenship and community engagement. As a broadcast journalist, he witnessed violent crime, economic failure, and a decline in social capital, and he became frustrated that his work had little impact in helping his hometown of Buffalo, NY address those conditions. Now, local news can no longer survive and thrive without having a strong, responsive relationship with its audience. He believes that online journalism provides opportunities for innovation and creative storytelling that can strengthen an understanding of issues, create engaged citizens, while also preserving journalistic objectivity and integrity.

Eric stepped into a newsroom over 30 years ago with interest in covering sports, local news and politics. As a television photojournalist, he covered breaking news overnight while spending his days covering the NFL, NHL and college sports. His news stories involved countless homicides, weather events and car accidents while also contributing to stories on local government, the economy and cultural events. In 1996, his coverage of a suspect’s death in police custody contributed to an investigation and homicide charges filed against a Buffalo police lieutenant.

In 1997, he traveled overseas to learn more about the political, economic, and social changes occurring in Central and Eastern Europe. The experience turned into a career developing programs in higher education and public affairs. He directed university programs on political and economic reform in Washington, DC, the Czech Republic and Greece until arriving at Syracuse University in 2002. He has been a resident of Central New York ever since, where he has developed community initiatives involving urban planning and design, public health and economic development. He also represented Syracuse University at the local, state and federal levels of government, and has been an advocate for innovation and community engagement in higher education.

About Central Current

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Mission: Strengthen Civic Engagement and Democratic Governance

Central Current, Inc. is working to launch a nonprofit digital news publication that will provide balanced, fact-based news, opinion and analysis about the issues, events and happenings that impact life in Central New York. At a time when commercial interests and political interference are limiting quality journalism, we strive to fulfill a need for independent news with thorough and investigative coverage of issues to help residents be well-informed citizens. Our objective is to strengthen civic engagement and democratic governance, and to foster a prosperous and healthy community.

As a digital multimedia news organization, Central Current, Inc. will take an entrepreneurial approach to online journalism that redefines the relationship between news media and its audience. We will publish quality journalism and produce meaningful stories through writing, video, photography and other forms of media. As a mission‐centered nonprofit organization, we are exclusively focused on serving and engaging the community to enhance civic dialogue and understanding of issues. We will uphold the highest standards of journalistic integrity and creative storytelling while ensuring news coverage reflects the needs and diversity of the region.

Our motivation is our love for Central New York, but knowing we can do better. Our region is an attractive place to live and raise a family. But we also have one of the highest rates of poverty and racial segregation in the country. And while having a strong industrial heritage with dynamic anchors in higher education and health care, we struggle to drive investment and growth in our economy. It is necessary more than ever to have a better understanding of the issues that impact our entire community and resolve any disconnect we have to realizing a better future.

We are also driven by an entrepreneurial spirit that is rooted our region’s diversity and talent. The people we employ and others who support our work will be more than representative of our community; they also will have an ownership in our enterprise. Our work culture will be defined by a collaborative group of individuals and partners from different backgrounds, experiences and skill sets who are willing to try new approaches and learn from each other and from the community we serve.

We strive to be a reliable and trusted resource for journalism and to set the standards for integrity and creativity that other news organizations will want to replicate. Our content will be free and accessible to everyone, and we will offer programs and events to foster dialogue on the issues we cover.

At a time of great transformation in journalism and digital media, we are well positioned in Central New York to make the most of that opportunity. We are rich in talent, and have a young and entrepreneurial generation of professionals living in Central New York who want to make an impact in their community. Our journalists will include writers, photographers and great storytellers, all of whom will be committed to quality standards and practices to advance their craft.

– From centralcurrent.org

Historian Dennis Connors on “The Smith Family Fortunes”

Join the Strathmore Speakers Series and Onondaga Free Library for an evening with historian and former curator of the Onondaga Historical Association, Dennis Connors. Mr. Connors will discuss the history of the Lyman Smith Family, best known for their L.C. Smith Shotguns and Smith-Corona Typewriters. This talk will explore three generations of the Smith family and their residences as well as how the family’s fortune was made, spent, and dissipated. It promises to be an evening filled with interesting characters and images. A brief Q&A will follow.

This event will be held on Thursday, September 9th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAkceGsqzsrHd1MoL8FU_zwkdgx0o4ozBb-

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

About Dennis Connors

Dennis Connors has worked in historical agencies since 1972 and as curator of history at the Onondaga Historical Association in Syracuse, New York from 1999 until his retirement in 2018.  He was employed originally by the Association from 1992 to 1999 as its Executive Director.  Previous to that, he was the Supervisor of Historic Resources for Onondaga County Parks for 14 years, overseeing three historic properties.  He also served as executive director for the Landmarks Association of Central New York for three years. He recently was a contributing author for the New York State Encyclopedia Project and has authored and edited six books on Syracuse area history, the most recent being Syracuse’s Grand Hotel: A History, published in 2017.  Mr. Connors has a history degree from the State University of NY at Buffalo with a concentration in museum studies.

About Lyman Smith & the Smith Family Businesses

Lyman Cornelius Smith was an American innovator and industrialist. He was born in Torrington, Connecticut in 1850 and died in Syracuse, New York in 1910. After several failed attempts to break into the lumber industry, Smith experienced his first entrepreneurial success in 1877 when, along with his older brother Leroy and firearms designer William H. Baker, he helped to form W.H. Baker & Co. Following the departure of Baker and his brother, he would rename the business the L.C. Smith Shotgun Company of Syracuse, before ultimately selling it to to the Hunter Arms Company in 1889.

Alongside brothers Hurlbut, Wilbert, and Monroe, Lyman formed the Smith Premiere Typewriter Company in 1887. Relying on technology developed by Alexander Brown, who had replaced W.H. Baker as the firearms designer for the L.C. Smith Shotgun Company, the Smith brothers began producing the first double keyboard typewriter in 1884. This typewriter, the Smith Premiere, performed so well that the brothers ultimately traded their gun business to focus exclusively on typewriters. The growing demand for typewriters combined with Syracuse’s role as an industrial and manufacturing center soon led other typewriter companies to setup shop in the City which, by 1904, had been nicknamed “The Typewriter City.”

The company was renamed L.C. Smith and Brothers in 1904 before being renamed again in 1926 when it merged with Corona Typewriters. By then, the newly formed Smith-Corona company was the largest manufacturer of typewriters in the world, producing 155,000 machines annually. Throughout its existence, the company maintained a reputation for innovation and would go on to expand aggressively into mechanical calculators, office products, paints, foods, and paper through the 1960s. The rise of inexpensive electronic calculators in the 1970s and personal computers in the 1980s ultimately led to the decline of Smith-Corona’s business. The company was acquired by Hanson Plc in 1986. It would endure its first bankruptcy in 1995 before enduring a second in 2000. By 2005, Smith-Corona had ceased manufacturing typewriters entirely, instead leveraging their expertise in ribbons and thermal technologies to focus on the growing thermal label business.

L.C. Smith and Bros. employees on the factory floor c. 1920. Photo from the Onondaga Historical Association.

Eddie Brennan on Beak & Skiff: Family Orchard to Tourist Destination

The Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library are delighted to announce our April 2021 event, an evening with Eddie Brennan, President and Co-Owner of Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards. Mr. Brennan will share the story of how this fifth-generation business evolved from a small family farm into regional producer of award-winning ciders, spirits, and wine, and, finally, to a polished, publicly-acclaimed tourist and event destination. Beak & Skiff’s transformation is at the heart of all that makes Central New York agriculture great, and is a shining exemplar of Central New York’s entrepreneurial ethos. A brief Q&A will follow Mr. Brennan’s discussion.

This event will be held on Thursday, April 8th at 7 pm on Zoom. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

You can register for this event here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUqfu2gqzovGdS_NJqXGc-WN3bPJ-O9ljVN

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

About Beak & Skiff

Beak & Skiff has been growing apples for over 100 years. The operation began in 1911 when George Skiff, an onion farmer on the North Side of Syracuse, and Andrew Beak, a dairy farmer, met at the farmers market and decided to join forces and enter the then emerging apple business. They found that the hillside area along Route 20 provided the perfect conditions for growing apples and began planting that very year.

For most of the 20th century, Beak & Skiff was strictly a wholesale apple producer, selling apples to grocery stores such as Victory and A&P. It was throughout this first phase of the business that they developed the culture of creativity and innovation that would set the stage for where the business is today. At first, this culture manifested itself in technological innovations around protecting and increasing the yield of their apple crop. In 1975, the business turned outward for the first time, opening its doors to the public as one of the nation’s first pick-your-own orchards. This was followed a few years later by the conversion of an old dairy barn into the Apple Hill Country Store and the beginning of Beak & Skiff’s foray into cider production. It was during this time that a visit to the orchard first became a fall tradition for many Central New York families.

In 2001, Beak & Skiff launched their 1911 Established line of Hard Ciders, catching a nascent cider revival that was soon to sweep the country. Before long, 1911 Established ciders were available in stores, restaurants, and bars across New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The success of their hard cider line led to a jump into wine and the spirits business via the launch of 1911 Spirits small batch premium vodka and gin and later brandy and bourbon. In 2013, Beak & Skiff renovated their Apple Hill Campus, transforming it into a major regional agrotourism destination and event venue.

Today, Beak & Skiff is in their fifth generation of family ownership and continuing to innovate. Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1911 Spirits distillery switched over to the production of hand sanitizer which was ultimately sold and donated across Central New York. 2020 also saw the launch of Beak & Skiff’s industrial hemp and multi-product CBD business