Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
My Blog


My history book on Hempstead Village has consumed me, as well as the wedding of our fourth child on August 5.
      But nobody can ignore the dreadful events in Charlottesville this past Saturday, when a rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis arose to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee because of its symbolic endorsement of black slavery.
     Counter-protestors gathered in the morning while the alt-right groups also gathered. The encounters between them became so acrimonious that police separated the groups and canceled the rally.

Trevor Noah Talks About Racism He Experiences in the United States

Trevor Noah grew up in South America and moved to the United States after achieving fame as a hard-hitting comedian. He identifies as black, though his features could be mistaken for Hispanic or even Indian. If a man like this gets pulled over repeatedly by police when he has not committed any crimes or suffered car equipment failure, then racism definitely operates in police decision making!

Hempstead School Board Mess

I have not been to a Hempstead School Board meeting since about 2002. I did not put my children into the Hempstead school system and did not give more than a passing shake of the head to articles in Newsday about contentious school board meetings.
     What I saw last Thursday, June 15, the last school board meeting before the year turns over on July 1 to 2017-2018, was embarrassing. The prime element evident was division, and I don't mean heated discussion among board members.

Alive though Not

Yesterday, May 31, 2017, I spent 3.5 hours poring over Hempstead Village births and deaths records, 1890-1910. Afterward, I returned home so hungry that I could barely expend the effort to heat food, and once I ate, I fell asleep for two hours.
     Why the intensity? To my amazement, entering the records caused me to enter a living dream, wherein these people from more than 100 years past came alive. Their children got born, while their mothers' ages and the number of living siblings revealed the wild joy and heartrending trauma surrounding a growing family, and the fathers' occupations -- laborer, farmer, butcher, reporter, banker -- shaped the home in which the family constructed daily life.

Death Blow from the Inside Out

Once upon a time, someone I had trusted as a friend back-stabbed me. Since then, the places where I had encountered that friend became cues for remembering the pain of betrayal. I avoid those places and keep my face forward, disallowing those memories.
      But what if your cue for betrayal is your whole nation?
      I say this in reference to African Americans, but it surely applies in any location where a group has been singled out as the one to demean with impunity.

My Letter to the Editor of Long Island Newsday 4.19.17

Newsday is a terrific newspaper. In my role as Hempstead Village Historian, I find that my research is made easier because past historians have preserved countless Newsday clippings. The faithful detail with which Newsday reports on our village is awe-inspiring.
      But I don't agree with everything that the Newsday editors say about our village. In rebuttal to a Newsday editorial that approved the addition of many apartment units as part of our village revitalization, I wrote the following (and have recieved many compliments on it):

Guilt and African American Teen Gangbangers

I have just read a lengthy qualitative study of 50 African American male teen gang members. Eleven of the 50, while not denying their membership in their gangs, nonetheless stopped gang-related activity to continue their education, with future career goals in mind.
      The other 39 did not do so. They did not spend time studying, but spent a lot of time watching television and playing video games (both of which are activities that I call "zoning,"  which temporarily numb inward pain but never resolve it).

The Symbiosis between Hempstead Village's Reputation and Its Fortunes

On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, in the Hempstead Village elections, Mayor Wayne J. Hall, Sr., mayor for three terms (12 years), was not re-elected; more votes went to Don Ryan. A commentator in Long Island Newsday attributed Hall's loss to villager anger over potholes, as if all Hempstead residents -- at least, the ones who voted for Ryan -- are village idiots who would give up a good mayor over a few potholes.
     The reality is that more villagers believed it was time for a change of leadership than for a continuation of leadership, not for some potholes, but for a number of long-term and complex reasons.

Asking of Hempstead Village the Impossible

I love Hempstead Village. I've lived here since 1993. It is irregular. It is diverse. It is profoundly historic. It is ill, a dying dwarf star that needs to believe in itself if it is ever to heal, not believe that it must become what it cannot become.
     "To cross the border from Garden City into Hempstead and not see any difference" is one stated goal for the $2.5 billion revitalization that has finally broken ground at a location on the upper half of Main Street.

The Downfall of Hempstead Village Public Schools

As I research my village -- my officially 55,000 but really thousands more village -- I keep coming to the awful question: What on earth happened to the school system?
    I can see that the demographics changed. By 1961, two of the six elementary schools were so heavily black compared to the other four that outsiders denounced the school board, claiming de facto segregation and demanding that the schools be integrated. The school board genuinely deliberated a solution. Its members then released a thoughtfully worded bulletin explaining that integrating so that each school reflected the overall percentage of black and white in the village would mean moving 100 black students from this school to that, and 90 white students from that school to this other, and so forth.
Website Builder provided by  Vistaprint