Despite appearing to be my ideal work environment—dynamic, community-minded, visionary—I never intended to spend more than a year with Northside UP. Fast-paced barely begins to describe the atmosphere here. Until I began writing a farewell, I never had time for nostalgia, so I never fully understood the breadth of what I was a part of. Just now, I am digesting all the events and changes that have flown by.
When I first put pen to paper, I tried to convince myself that I would take these experiences with me as I started over in another city. I tried to chalk it all up to a learning experience and keep packing. It did not take much effort to convince myself that this year had prepared me to pursue the future aims I put on hold a year ago. Yet, logic did not seem to be enough, and I wrestled with my decision.
As my grad school plans became more concrete, I found myself telling people I was from Syracuse more often. I spent sleepless nights thinking about when I would ultimately leave the neighborhood which has become my home. As I sorted through my memories, I kept dwelling on the fabrics, and imaging countless designs. I began sewing again, and I produced some of my best work. In my mind, the vibrant cultural fabrics I enjoy sewing with are a key to recognizing the beauty and potential in the Northside.
Proud as I was of my designs, I had to show Devi*, a friend and fellow seamstress. Her eyes lit up and she expressed enthusiasm. She then went on suggest ways to improve the design. Noticing the fabric, a friend from West Africa approached, eager to see how I was using her cultural fabrics. That night, I recalled their reactions, and thought of more fabrics and more designs.
Suddenly, I recognized what I had been missing. I sat bolt upright and felt pieces fall in place. I finally felt I had a reason to pursue a long time goal and the ability to realize it. Having spent the last year at Northside UP learning about social enterprise development and building relationships within the community, I knew I had the foundation needed to start a business.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a part of something larger than myself. Until recently, I assumed the means to that end was a job with a prestigious global entity. After working with Northside UP, I know that the size of an organization does not necessarily correlate to its impact. Through witnessing Northside UP’s work first-hand, I have come to recognize this area as the ideal place to pursue new ideas.
The things I have learned and the connections I made while at Northside UP may logically lead to developing my own social enterprise, but my esteem for the Northside solidified my decision. Starting out with accessories, I will combine the many fabrics of the Northside to promote cross-cultural and cross-generational transfer of trades and traditions. Ultimately, I aim to provide sustainable employment which celebrates artisans’ skills and crafts while allowing them to make quality garments. Had I not experienced the work of Northside UP, I would not be embarking on this venture. Working with a group of people who embrace opportunities to think outside the box has inspired me to look for my own way to drive change. This year was more than a means to an end; it was a chance to find what is truly important and how my skills can affect the greatest impact.
Although Northside Messenger will start small, if my social enterprise succeeds, the impact will be far-reaching. Like many refugees, Devi divides her meager pay check to support herself, her children, and family members still awaiting resettlement. Creating another means of fulfilling, sustainable employment will benefit people around the world. Yet, I may never leave the Northside. Here marks a new beginning with no good—bye.