Other Voices


Mohammad Yadegari — hard truths in an immigrant's experience

Mohammad Yadegari of Guilderland has written a book, “Always an Immigrant: A Cultural Memoir” that describes his life in three parts: as a child, growing up in an Iranian family in Iraq; as a young man, learning about life on his own in Tehran; and as a newcomer to America where he studies in Albany, marries, and becomes a teacher. He spent a decade writing the book, crystallizing a lifetime of experiences into compelling stories, which reveal some hard truths. As a schoolboy, he was told by his teacher, describing empires that had over history, risen and fallen, that America did not build an empire but brought many people together and melded into a nation. Deep down, he is sad seeing the news now because he cannot understand how someone feels better than another because of the color of his or her skin. He writes, “We are what we observe, learn, and experience in our momentary journey on earth. The degree that separates us from one another is the way we come to regard our perceptions as facts.” — Photo from Mohammad Yadegari

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Frank Beretz — “escape the modern time" at the Gas Up

Frank Beretz operates an antique machine once used to roll roads. It is one of hundreds of historic steam, gasoline, and oil engines that will be displayed along with antique trucks, cars, and military vehicles this weekend, June 12 and 13, and next weekend, June 19 and 20, each day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the Gas Up, at 130 Murphy Road in Schoharie, is free. The annual event — back this year with safety precautions after a year on hiatus because of the pandemic — is run by the Hudson-Mohawk Pioneer Gasoline Association of which Beretz is president. “It’s like stepping back in time,” he says of the Gas Up in this week’s podcast. The Gas Up features live music as well as ice cream cranked by a hit-and-miss engine, a barbecue, and souvenirs for sale. At age 73, Beretz has a barn full of antique tractors he’s restored — 22 to be exact, ranging in age from 1937 to 1959. Every one is special to him — he brought each of them back to life. His passion began when a friend had a tractor “all in pieces” that he was going to take to the dump. Beretz paid him for the worth of the metal and put the tractor together so it would run again. People who used the old machines and repaired them for a living are gone, Beretz notes, so members of the association, which has about 200 members with about 50 active members, help each other. “We’re trying to preserve history,” said Beretz, noting members are eager to explain their machines to visitors. The Gas Up, he said, is a way to get out after COVID had “everyone boxed up” and is also a way to “escape the modern time.” He concluded, “It’s like it used to be before computers took over the world.”

Savanna Jiang and Maxine Alpart, Guilderland High School activists

Activists Savanna Jiang, left, and Maxine Alpart, right, both Guilderland High School sophomores, organized a May 21 anti-hate rally at their school. In this week’s podcast, each reads the speech — powerful words about painful and true experiences — she gave at the rally and talks about the kind of change they believe is needed. “Our school likes to say stuff but doesn’t take action,” said Jiang. However, once they spoke out about their pain, they felt “so much love” in return from the 100 or so in the crowd on May 21 who applauded and cheered. Jiang’s French teacher hugged her and said she hadn’t known what Jiang had suffered until she heard her speech. Alpart named a long list of students and advisors who helped with the rally. During the pandemic, and the forced isolation that came with it, the activists said, separate people came together through social media, not just in Guilderland but from far-flung places, like New Zealand and Hawaii. “You can meet people and spread awareness,” said Jiang. Alpart said that silence can be worse than a negative response. “Allies need to be there,” she said, noting that, if someone shows up, that person can be shown how their opinions are harmful. Alpart said their motto has become, “This is just the beginning.” The two activists along with other students at Guilderland are now hoping to organize a larger rally with neighboring schools in Albany and Niskayuna. “The change is going to happen,” said Alpart, urging people to “be on the right side of history.”