Cynthia Kirk


Cynthia was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 12. She is a kind spirit who believes in making the world a better place. She is a Christian, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, and a grandmother.

Growing up in the era of Civil Rights in the United States, she was civically aware at a very young age. Cynthia remembers that everyone seemed to have the same print on the wall with Martin Luther King Jr., John Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy. She recalls stories of her aunt marching on Washington with MLK Jr. and him later being assassinated. She has spoken about the assassination of JFK, even going around the corner from her home to see the train carrying JFK at 4 years old. This awareness led her to wanting to care for others by volunteering as a candy striper at Hahnemann University Hospital while in school, which was also the beginning of her nursing career. After high school, at the age of 19 she worked on her first campaign for Congressman William Gray in Philadelphia.

Cynthia began her professional career as a Nursing Aide at St. Agnes Medical Center after she enlisted in the National Guard and then the Army. In 1978 women were not actually allowed in the armed services, so she was part of the last class of the Women’s Army Corp (WAC), which was an auxiliary branch of the U.S. Army. In 1978 the WAC was abolished and women were fully integrated into the U.S. Army. Cynthia served in the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserves for over 20 years. It was here that her medical training advanced from 91A a Combat Medic to 91B a Medical NCO (Non Commissioned Officer). Cynthia became a 91C Licensed Practical Nurse and eventually a Ward Master during the Gulf War, which means she ran a whole ward in the Mobile Hospital. She did a 10 month tour in the Middle East serving in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. During this tour she volunteered and joined a Missionary Campaign to go into Turkey and set up a temporary facility where the local people could receive medical treatment.

After she and her husband left active service, the family moved to Broome County in 1997. Cynthia attended the Decker School of Nursing and got a job in the Neuro-Science Step-down Unit at UHS Wilson hospital. This is where she worked 22 years until retirement in 2020. Cynthia has always believed that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution, so in 2016 she decided to be the solution. She noticed that the youth selected to work in the City of Binghamton Summer Job Program did not reflect the community. So she went right to the source. She started meeting with the City and was told the youth selected were better candidates. Cynthia led the way to making it the task of BT-NAACP Economic Development Committee to recruit, train, and support youth of color so they can access the Cities Employment Program. This was the birth of the YEPP, Youth Employment Preparation Program. YEPP has increased the number of participating employees from marginalized groups to the City and Vines. This program has grown over the years receiving grant funds from the United Way, partnering with SUNY ATTAIN Labs and the UL to offer Microsoft Certifications for participants.

A mantra Cynthia lives by is to leave things better than the way you found it. We can all agree that Cynthia has left Broome County a little better than the way she found it.

Dara Silberstein


Dara Silberstein grew up in Jackson Heights Queens which is considered to be one of the most diverse communities in the world (over 167 languages are spoken and it is now considered the epicenter of the queer community in Queens).  Her mom was active in the community and local politics, running for and served on the local school board.  Some of Dara’s earliest political memories are of campaigning for local candidates for the state assembly and for George McGovern during the 1972 election year.  Dara got her love of travel from her father who traveled quite a bit for job as a fashion director for a department store in the NYC area.  Dara’s younger brother was also very engaged in politics and has spent his career working to better the NYC area for all its residents.

Dara received her undergraduate degree in political science from Binghamton University and studied law at the State University of New York at Buffalo. After passing the NYS Bar she worked as an attorney with what was then called Broome Legal Assistance Corporation (which today is The Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York). She initially practiced disability law (this was before passage of the ADA) primarily in the area of special education, accommodations, and benefits.  She then worked as the pro bono coordinator, working primarily with attorneys from the organization’s pro bono panel, to help women in abusive marriages to get divorced from their abusers. While working at Legal Services she returned to graduate school, earning a PhD from Cornell in Industrial and Labor Relations. 

Dara became Program Director of Binghamton University’s Women Studies Program in 1995, and continued in that role until she became Associate Research Professor in 2017. Dara also served as Associate Dean of Binghamton University’s Graduate School, where she implemented a seminar for graduate students of color to support those writing dissertations and other publications; support they often weren’t receiving from their departments.  She has maintained her law license, and over the years has assisted a number of students on a range of matters including housing issues and criminal charges resulting from student activism. Throughout her career at Binghamton University, Dara has worked to empower her students through her teaching and mentorship, and has maintained a commitment to social justice and experiential learning as central objectives in her pedagogy. 

Almost a decade ago she began teaching a course on activism, social justice and feminism, during which students work together to identify, develop and carry out activist projects that affect them and their communities, while learning organizing skills and strategies for social change. For example, during one semester Dara’s students drafted and introduced legislation to Binghamton City Council that would require the City to provide feminine hygiene projects in all City public bathrooms. During another semester, that took place during the pandemic, students organized a successful online forum to address sexual assault and violence on campus.

After the 2016 election, she felt it was imperative to provide her students with opportunities to address the xenophobia and racism dominating our mainstream political landscape. She and her students worked together in detention centers in New York and Texas to assist with pro bono legal work for migrants. They also traveled to the Tijuana/San Diego border to assist those seeking asylum. And in response to the increasingly vitriolic ways in which Muslims were being targeted in the U.S. she and students from her Queer Critical Legal Theory seminar travelled to Morocco to gain a better understanding of how gender and sexuality manifested in a Islamist country.

One of the achievements Dara is most proud of is the founding of Binghamton University’s Q Center. Working closely with April Thompson, the then Dean of Students, she wrote the proposal for the center and lobbied upper administration for their support. The Q Center has become a great success at Binghamton University and provides an important resource for LGBTQ+ students and their allies.

Dara has always been someone Binghamton University students can count on for support. She has advised student organizations; participated in student-led social justice protests; and has spoken at activist events on campus like “Take Back the Night”. Her commitment to her students has led many of them to choose careers as social justice advocates, such as attorneys, social workers, educators, etc.

Dara’s commitment to public service hasn’t only focused on the campus community. Given the recent crises at the border, she felt a moral obligation to use her legal training more directly to do what she could to assist those seeking asylum in the U.S.  Although she never practiced immigration law before 2017, she worked with legal advocacy organizations to assist in interviewing and prepping clients for their asylum hearings and participated in a number of legal actions challenging immigration policies of both the Trump and Biden administrations.

Dara has served on boards of the Rape and Abuse Crisis (now Crime Victims); Southern Tier AIDS Program; ACCORD; Legal Services, Binghamton Human Rights Commission, Binghamton Civil Service Commission, and Citizen Action of NY (CANY). She was one of the co-authors of the Police Modernization Bill and worked with the Ryan mayoral administration to implement progressive policies and practices for City residents, including a collaboration between the City of Binghamton, CANY and the WGSS program to apply for and implement a neighborhood assembly project funded by Americorps. The goal of this program was to democratize government by empowering neighborhood assemblies to organize on their own behalf and address issues affecting them at a very local level.

Finally, Dara ran as progressive candidate for the Binghamton City Council and Binghamton School Board. Although unsuccessful, both campaigns allowed her to highlight many of the important but often neglected issues facing residents. She remains committed to engaging in social justice efforts to improve the lives of our community.

DAROC (Divestment, Accountability, and Reinvestment in Our Community)


On May 25, 2020, the world was rattled by the homicide of George Floyd.  Protests erupted around the nation, calling for increased police accountability and an end to police brutality.  Local groups already engaged in de-carceration and police accountability work decided it would be best to combine their efforts and form a coalition, thus named Divestment, Accountability, and Reinvestment in Our Community (abbreviated DAROC).  DAROC’s name highlights Binghamton and Broome County’s over-inflated police department budgets–money that would be better spent on community programs to enhance safety and prevent crime in the first place.

DAROC’s focus is on grassroots community engagement, allowing those traditionally marginalized voices to come to the forefront of the conversation to crowdsource solutions.  The members of DAROC are fierce advocates for defunding the bloated police and jail budgets, de-militarizing the police, and implementing policies to help keep police accountable to the communities they “serve.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 203 in June 2020, which required municipalities to develop and implement a Police Reform and Reinvention Plan.  In direct opposition to the hasty and secretive operations of the mayor’s Collaborative formulating the plan, DAROC organized hundreds of community members in parks across the city to develop a list of community demands which were delivered to elected officials who would later vote on the Collaborative’s plan.  The list of demands and accompanying letter highlighted the shallow and haphazard nature of the Collaborative’s plan, and invigorated the community to pressure elected officials to make meaningful changes to the police department.

Additionally, DAROC activists organized events where dozens of community members aired their grievances with both the City of Binghamton and Broome County budgets, citing their disappointment in the amount of money dedicated to the police department and Broome County Jail.  Those who spoke offered alternatives where they thought the money would be more useful.  DAROC’s work brought the city and county budgets’ focus on punishment rather than safety promotion to the forefront of the conversation, garnering wide news coverage.

DAROC continues to organize in the community, shedding light on the unjust practices perpetuated by our investment in our carceral state.  There is hope for a future in which we invest in our communities in a meaningful, safe, and helpful way.  Advocates like those in DAROC ensure that we will have a future that is safe for children and communities that thrive.  Thank you!