akron, city spotlight

Akron2Akron: North Hill Walking Tour

{I am a Neighbor t-shirt from Neighbor’s Apparel}

I’ve always had this simple philosophy: it’s sort of silly to not love where you live. I’m not saying we all need to be walking around with neighborhood pride bursting out of our pores, but in order to live a fulfilling life, we need to make the most of our surroundings. My personal vision with Akron2Akron is to fulfill this simple first step: let’s get people excited about where they live and see where that takes us.

 

This month for our Akron2Akron walking tour, we visited North Hill. This tour was led by the North Hill Community Leaders group and they truly did an outstanding job showcasing their neighborhood. Dubbed as the unofficial International District of Akron, North Hill is a vibrant, diverse community with over 25 spoken languages and several immigrant owned businesses. I honestly felt like I was out of town while on this tour, and left feeling incredibly inspired after meeting my North Hill neighbors.

Over 50 people showed up at Urban Vision on a sunny January day to begin the tour. Urban Vision is a local ministry that offers many educational and outreach programs to the community, including the ever-growing immigrant and refugee population in North Hill. Programs like the Set on Success after-school program match community volunteers with students for in-depth help with school work. This isn’t just any after-school social club, SOS takes a deeper dive into homework help, providing many students like Ma Rian and Bobbi, both refugees and high school students, with the confidence and tools to tackle tough subjects. Ma Rian and Bobbi gave a moving testimonial about how Urban Vision not only helped make their transition to Akron a smooth one, but also helped to develop a sound and trusting network for the girls.

Next, we heard from Tessa, co-founder of Neighbor’s Apparel, which is housed at Urban Vision.   Tessa continually impresses me with her business smarts and commitment to the community. By employing refugee women, Tessa is promoting unity and starting an important dialogue in our neighborhoods. Not to mention, their clothes are pretty awesome.

{Owner of Morris’ International Market, Louise shows us around the store located at 216 E. Cuyahoga Falls Ave.}

I can’t tell you how many times my fiancé and I wished we had an African restaurant nearby. Although not a restaurant, Morris’ International Market is owned by Louise, a kind woman who moved here from Liberia. Louise’s face lights up when she talks about all of the unique ingredients and foods in her store. If we can’t open a Liberian restaurant in Akron any time soon, you better believe I’ll be stopping in to ask Louise for recipes.

{Coconut juice, ginger beer, and snacks for everyone to sample}

 

{David Swirsky, community advocate creepily winks at the camera}

If you ever visit North Hill, make sure you meet Naresh.  A refugee from Nepal, Naresh is one of the kindest, smartest, and funniest people you will meet in Akron. His warm smile is contagious and he will graciously welcome any neighbor to his store, Family Groceries on North Main Street.  Naresh has a Ph.D. in nuclear physics but recognized the need for a market in his community and decided to fulfill it by opening Family Groceries. Be sure to make your way to the back of the store for a mouthwatering bowl of Chat Pattey for only $2.

{Namaste, from Naresh in his store, Family Groceries located at 768 N. Main Street}

We made our way to the Redeemer Methodist United Church where we learned about their deep ties to the community and the many ways they are helping their neighbors. We visited the clothing and home appliance distribution room, and learned that the church is always need of men’s clothing, jeans, new undergarments, children’s clothing, and toilet paper. You can donate any of these items to the church on Fridays and Tuesdays from 11-1:30. We wrapped up the tour at The Office Bistro with appetizers, drinks, and great conversations.

{Buddha Subba prepares samples of Chat Pattey}

Akron2Akron is hosting February’s tour of the Historical Culture District downtown in partnership with the Knight Foundation and we hope that you will join us. As an Akronite living in these neighborhoods, we each have a valued voice in the community; so the more new faces and voices we can have joining us, the more we can continue to foster diverse opinions for the bigger conversation about making Akron an even better place to live, work, and raise families.

To hear a portion our interview on WAKR about Akron2Akron, click here. Follow on Facebook and Twitter for updates.