2021 Press Coverage

Freedom Square Installation Bringing Community Together

By Erika Leigh Troy

The Emerging From Darkness Art Installation has been in Freedom Square in Troy since Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, but many members of the community are just starting to learn about it.

“I do a lot of baking and we’re not going to parties or anything right now, so this is a way to kind of indulge in the craft but do good at the same time,” said Chris Severance of Watervliet.

“So we decided to start putting food in there,” said Mia Nilo of Watervliet.

Severance and Nilo say when they first saw the installation had free food boxes, they wanted to get involved.

“During this time helping out your neighbors, being a resource for your neighbors has been the most rewarding thing and the thing that you’re really starting to pay attention to and appreciate,” Nilo said.

So a few weeks ago they went into action, baking and delivering different treats and they’re not just for people facing food insecurity.

“Even the distribution boxes will hit all of the nutrition but it leaves out a treat which is the kind of thing that makes life worth living,” Nilo said. “[It’s] the thing people look forward to. So what it doesn’t have any nutritional value? It’s the thing you remember at the end of a meal, so we want to make sure those are in there and available for people, regardless of need.”

On this week’s menu? “Sweet cornbread, knishes; I have a pack of frozen waffles and the applesauce cakes,” Nilo said.

Nilo and Severance package up all the goodies with ingredient labels. Milo said a lot of their friends have food allergies or intolerances, so they’re used to baking carefully.

“I’ve done vegan, I’ve done gluten-free, so it doesn’t intimidate me,” Severance said.

Then it’s time for the money shot. A perfect photo is what Nilo needs to post on social media. She regularly posts about what they’ve made in multiple garage sale groups and other local groups on Facebook.

“You eat with your eyes first,” she said.

Then, it’s time to drop off. The pair pack up Nilo’s truck and head to Freedom Square. While they’re filling the food boxes, a passer-by stops.

“What are you guys doing?” he asked.

“We’re filling the free food box,” Nilo said.

“Is that what this is?” he said.

“Yeah!” Nilo said.

The altar and installation in Freedom Square are sponsored by a number of community groups, but was organized initially by the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

Nancy Weber, an environmental artist, says the weather hindered the launch a few times.

“In November, I first had this vision of a community altar where people could express their grief for this year of unprecedented losses,” Weber said.

“It’s not just about grieving, it’s also about resilience,” said Aileen Javier, of Media Sanctuary.

In the spring, they hope to create a permanent memorial in Freedom Square for the community. Javier says it’s important to have a space to come together as a community when people can’t be together right now.

“Coming here you can say, ‘OK, other people are experiencing the same thing and we will survive together,’ ” Javier said.

“The best thing about these is, I think that the altar is meant to be a space for people to grieve, and I think the free food boxes and the treats inside are a reprieve,” Nilo said.

Nilo and Severance say they usually drop off their goodies each Sunday around 1 p.m., but you can look for their posts with details and drop times in the Troy Garage Sale group on Facebook. Nilo says she hears from people who stop by, and the treats are typically gone by the end of the day on Monday.

The space is open to anyone in the community throughout the week, to stop by and enjoy what’s left in the food boxes, to grieve, to add to the altar and more. There are often free books and art supplies at the installation as well.

For more information about the installation or to find out how you can get involved, visit

Black History: Capital Region Youth Rise Up!

Black History: Capital Region Youth Rise Up!
Saturday 02/27/2021 - 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Exploring the minds of youth in the Black History that they are part of and continue to create.  Learn from the voices and vision of our younger generations, as they [...]
2021 Press Coverage

Vigils mark grim Covid milestone


Dan Levy
Updated: January 19, 2021 11:39 PM
Created: January 19, 2021 11:34 PM

TROY – At Freedom Circle in North Central Troy, there was an alter built by youth in the community to shine a light, not just on the loss of 400,000 lives from Covid-19, but also for those who have died as a result of gun violence, or other social injustices.

“This community is mainly composed of low income and people of color and so this is the community, as are other communities in the Capital Region, who are most impacted by this pandemic,” said Branda Miller, Professor of Media Arts at RPI, and advisor to the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy.

The belief in the Collar City is that at this moment in time, if people could show compassion, if they could feel what it’s like to be in a community that is suffering loss, maybe that sentiment can become the impetus for healing the nation.

“Until you lost somebody, maybe you don’t have that compassion,” Miller suggests, “Until you hear somebody’s story, maybe you don’t understand, but we need to come together as a human family.”

“The only way to really make a difference is to show people and to have people learn about what’s going on around them,” said Shansanique Pollack, a 15-year old community volunteer who helped to build the Freedom Square alter.

On the streets of Troy that encircle Freedom Square, 14-year old Genesis Cooper says gun violence is more concerning to her than the threat posed by Covid-19.

“Where ever you live you should feel safe,” she asserts, “I shouldn’t walk down the street thinking I’m going to get shot by a cop or someone who has a gun that they shouldn’t have.”

Gabby Espada, 14, another community volunteer, says her goal is to bring awareness to as many people as she can.

“Having your voice heard, especially when you’re so young is very important,” Espada states, “So that way I could impact people of my age and around my age and around my school to do the same.”

Meanwhile, outside Niskayuna Town Hall, several dozen gathered for a candlelight vigil to honor the lives of people who were living in their community at the beginning of 2020, but who no longer live there because of Covid-19.

“It’s amazing to think about it really that today is the first time we’ve ever as a nation acknowledged the loss (of 400,000 Covid) lives, the loss of our economy, and to come together. I think it really says a lot about what we expect from this new president.”

Creators of the Troy alter are hoping people stop by on their own time to reflect on the loss of life of so many of their neighbors and friends.

Clearing the Air in Coeymans: Community Forum on Clean Air vs. Tire Burning

Clearing the Air in Coeymans: Community Forum on Clean Air vs. Tire Burning
Tuesday 02/09/2021 - 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
This event is over, but you can see the video here and the chat window here! Lafarge/Holcim wants to burn millions of tires every year at their Ravena cement plant [...]

MLK Holiday Labor and Community Celebration: Rise Up! The Struggle Continues…

MLK Holiday Labor and Community Celebration: Rise Up! The Struggle Continues...

Monday 01/18/2021 - 11:00 am - 1:30 pm
The theme of 2021's twenty-second Capital District MLK Holiday Labor and Community Celebration was "Rise Up! The Struggle Continues..."  The virtual event is over now, but you can watch the [...]

Memorial Altar: “Emerging from Darkness”

Memorial Altar: "Emerging from Darkness"
Sunday 01/17/2021 - 05/01/2021 - 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm
EMERGING FROM DARKNESS: MAKING SPACE FOR GRIEF An installation to honor personal, community, national and global loss We welcome you to visit Freedom Square, at the corner of 101st St. [...]

Uptown Summer 2020: Gardening at Collard City Growers

Uptown Summer 2020 – Media & Design

Uptown Summer 2020 participated in media and design projects as part of their work for the Sanctuary. Lead by Uptown Summer coordinator Jamel Mosely, the youth conducted “brand storming” sessions.

In designing a brand, there are a lot of questions. First and foremost is the question, What are the values? Other questions that were asked are: What is the story? What problem does the brand solve?

In answering these questions, the youth used various media tools. The Sanctuary’s mission of using art and participatory action means that our work is driven by the people in our community space. So before they began their work of developing branding for Health Autonomy Clinic and Nature Lab, they used their artistic talents to produce a visual representation of their brands as individual people. Words the youth used to express their values included expression, inclusion, togetherness, freedom, justice, family, and creativity.

The youth designed the flyer that was used for the Health Autonomy Clinic’s Black August People’s Clinic. In the garden, they used recorders to capture “found sounds” of the Sanctuary’s environmental education campus, which they then mixed in an audio work station. And at the future North Troy Art, Technology, and Urban Research in Ecology (NATURE) Lab site, they led a design charrette to guide the architect on what elements the space should have.

Against All Odds with Messiah Rhodes and panel “Incarceration in the Pandemic: Break the Cycle”

Against All Odds with Messiah Rhodes and panel "Incarceration in the Pandemic: Break the Cycle"
Friday 11/20/2020 - 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Register for this event here! Join us for a screening and discussion of Against All Odds with filmmaker Messiah Rhodes followed by the panel with local incarceration activists Nicole Cook-Reed, [...]

Chris Hedges “The Politics of Cultural Despair”

Chris Hedges "The Politics of Cultural Despair"
Friday 10/16/2020 - 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Chris Hedges will present a new talk examining the cultural and social forces that have given rise to extremism in the United States. He will explore the myriad of factors [...]

NYS Assembly District 107 Candidate Forum

NYS Assembly District 107 Candidate Forum
Wednesday 09/30/2020 - 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Join us and the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County at the free online Candidate Forum for the position of New York State Assembly District 107 Legislator. Click here [...]
2020 Press Coverage

Troy kids research Hudson River water quality


WNYT Staff
Created: August 21, 2020 08:27 PM

Young people from Troy are taking on the water quality in the Hudson River.

A new collaboration between Riverkeeper and the Sanctuary for Independent Media is giving Troy kids a chance to learn more about the Hudson.

The group is called Water Justice.

Teens will be testing the water for bacteria and tracking health and safety standards in the Hudson River Watershed.
Genesis Cooper, 14, tells NewsChannel 13 she became interested in the water issue after seeing the lead contamination story last year in Flint, Michigan.  Now she wants to affect change in her own backyard.

“Taking how we can solve the problem of its pollution and make it better so that everyone can have clean drinking water and clean bathing water,” explained Genesis.

A physical lab for the Water Justice program is being built now in North Troy and will be done some time next year.

Copyright 2020 – WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

Anneka Knoll

Anneka Knoll is a junior majoring in Film and Television with a minor in Advertising at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She is the summer 2020 video ninja who edits video content for
Sanctuary TV. At the Sanctuary, she has learned about indigenous communities, the issues surrounding the Cohoes Norlite plant which produces toxic waste, and how COVID-19 disproportionately affects minority communities. Anneka also works for the Siena College Research Institute where she makes telephone calls and interviews people about political, social, and environmental issues. In her free time, she likes to go hiking and swimming.