Disclaimer: The following is a work of realistic fiction for our special 2050 issue, published in June 2021. These stories are meant to spark imagination, not forecast the future of Akron.
Name: Jordania “Jordy” Sheppard
Occupation: Student, Saint V! Don’t let the halo fool ya.
Age: 17, well, I’ll be 17 in a month so I’m practicing saying it.
Hometown: Akron, Ohio
Current Neighborhood: Uhm – the slippin-est* neighborhood in Akron. West Hill.
What do you wish was more on Akronite’s radar? I wish more Akronites came to the games at Saint V. Like, it’s a Catholic school or whatever, but that doesn’t mean we’re soft, ya know? The sky-hockey games are slippin’, for sure. The battle of the bands! This electro-banjo and flute hip-hop duo won last year. Tons of action. Slip worthy*. Check us out!
What is your favorite local cultural asset? I think my favorite local, cultural asset is the community fire pit at the bottom of the Glendale Steps. They say those steps are super old, or whatever. Across from the steps, there’s a huge pit that the community helped to build. It’s HUGE. Like big-big. At West Fest, it’s really cool. We all walk down and tell stories, play music, dance, make wishes. It didn’t used to be there…it’s been there as long as I can remember tho. Ma’ always says it came around at the right time, when West Hill was discovering itself, ya know? West Akron got a splash park, and we got a huge fire pit. Can’t play in a splash park in the winter tho, so jokes on them! LLAH!* I don’t like them anyway, our schools are rivals and they beat my equestrian team in the high jumps last year. It’s fine.
When did you fall for Akron? That’s easy. My family took a trip to Detroit when I was like 12. I hated it and wanted to go back home immediately. I knew then that Akron was home, and everywhere else was trying to be like us. Why leave?
Where in Akron do you like to escape? I can’t tell you that, or my mom would come snooping! BUT I really like to ride my horse, Blossom. I got her for my 15th birthday. She’s pretty great. Kind of a jam, but still great. I like to take Blossom out on walks at night. The click-clack of her hooves is relaxing. Is that weird?
Why should everyone try your favorite restaurant? My favorite restaurant is obviously going to be Donuts and Dialogue. Like, yes, my mom owns it. But also, like, I’ve met some slippin’ people there. You can go in and just drink coffee and get school work done OR you can go into the chat rooms and meet random people. I walked into the chat room last week and met this guy Kev from the sky-hockey team at my school and we talked about some slippin’ stuff. He collects relics of the past…like comics! I didn’t even know what a comic book was! We have comic chips now, but a long time ago, they used to like…print stuff on paper for people to read! It seems so inefficient, but slippin’ too.
Occupation: Retired Teacher, Currently Community Garden Volunteer
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Current Neighborhood: Cascade Valley
What do you wish was more on Akronite’s radar? I think Akron has done a really good job with its own sustainability efforts, but I think there could be more emphasis on wild food cultivation and native and local food production. We have a lot of successful community gardens in the area, but I think we should be paying more attention to growing foods that are from this land to help restore the nutrients and help support the local ecosystem of native wildlife. If we want to continue to repopulate the Earth’s ecosystems, we have to start in our gardens. And more fruit trees! West Hill has an entire orchard! We should all have orchards of local fruit growing in our neighborhoods to pick as we please. So I’m working on that.
What is your favorite local cultural asset? The North Hill Language Network (NHLN), hands down! They are so beneficial to this community. I truly believe there should be more people in Akron with 3 to 4 languages that they can navigate at a beginner level. Like me, I can now understand a little bit of French and Burmese because I go on their market tours once a week where they teach you how to ask questions and listen in the various languages in North Hill. They even have an intermediate class they offer where they allow you to improve your conversational skills in different languages! Now I’m in North Hill at least once a week negotiating the price of fufu and trading dragon fruit for cabbage. It’s remarkable!
When did you fall for Akron? I visited my mom before she passed a few years ago. I came up to finally deal with her estate. She was in Kenmore. I met her neighbors and realized why she liked living here. I kept trying to convince her to move to Arizona, but she always refused. Her neighbors helped me clean her house and sort her things. I was a complete stranger, but they knew my mother enough to help me. And I thought, this is where I should have been all along. You don’t get community like this in the desert!
Where in Akron do you like to escape? I love Summit Lake. Being near water after being in the desert for so long does something for me. People canoeing. Feeding the ducks. Reading a book (a physical book, I haven’t gotten into this virtual reading they do now). It’s nice. Sometimes I like to go to the Summit Lake Tunnel-rarium. It’s a local ecosystem aquarium. The Community Development Corporation built these windowed tunnels underground where you can walk down and see the fish. I heard it was built to negate the rumors about alligators in the lake, but it’s pretty cool to go down there and sit and watch the fish. They keep me company while I read!
Why should everyone try your favorite restaurant? Oh there’s this Nepali-Soul fusion place in Highland Square now called Nah-Imma-Stay. It’s only take out, which I always find hilarious, but they have these Colla-kora bites (they’re greens and onions, fried into small appetizers) and Mac-mosas (Mac & cheese samosas)! SOOO good. They have other options if you are cutting back on fried food (as I should be).
Name: Harper Lee-Daniels
Occupation: Architect & Adjunct Professor
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Current Neighborhood: Downtown
What do you wish was more on Akronite’s radar? Preservation is always a big thing for me. One of the classes I’m teaching is Vintage Structures. I’m hoping to educate as many students in architecture as possible about how and why to preserve old buildings. Part of why I like Akron is because I think lots of people agree that the old buildings add to its character. I mean, look at the brick road leveling project being conducted by the city. How many cities do you know that are going through leveling the brick streets in their city? How many people even have brick streets anymore!
What is your favorite local cultural asset? The students. I’m still new, but the young people here are remarkable. Really. They are starting their own initiatives so very young. A lot of my own students are volunteering for the brick leveling project and even interning for community development corporations to help them register their historical buildings. I wasn’t doing that at 20. Definitely not.
When did you fall for Akron? When I came here to meet my wife’s parents for the first time a few years ago. They’ve always lived here, and Samantha had moved to Deland, Florida, which is where I met her. We’d been dating about six months, and she brought me to PorchRokr! It was so cute…it made me feel right at home. So when we decided to move here, it was a no brainer. My favorite part of the festival is the tightrope walker. There is this guy who literally walks a tightrope while playing ukulele songs about the acts you can see each hour! It’s so cool!
Where in Akron do you like to escape? Can you escape in Akron? Everyone knows each other, so it feels a little hard to “escape.” If we are talking about escaping my students, I like to go to the Vintage! It’s a bookstore in West Akron. They think books are obsolete, so I never run into them there haha!
Why should everyone try your favorite restaurant? Honestly, I’m very simple when it comes to food. It’s changed a lot over the years, now everything is spicy and some type of fusion. It’s fine, but it’s just not for me. I prefer a nice, simple pizza. No toppings. Just cheese. My favorite place is a little pizza place in Kenmore on the Boulevard. They’ve been there for years, apparently. Pierre’s. And then I sit out front and watch the kids use the skate ramp next to the library. It’s a nice, simple treat.
What do you wish was more on Akronite’s radar? I wish more people knew about the Pay Rent, Make Art (PRMA – pronounce Perma) program! I love it! My wife, Harper, and I live in the Bowery and we get three months out of the year rent free. As an artist in the building, we sign a lease that says we will create an art installation for three designated months. My last lease was for March, July and December. I created an installation for the downstairs window for the first two months and then did a final exhibition in the foyer in December. There’s a theatre artist who lives in the building, I think he lives on the 5th floor? He creates silent theatre shows for the front window. He leaves the set up in the window, and then posts the times for his window performances! It’s super cool. Last time he did a silent performance called “Disappearing,” a commentary on his mourning the transition from books and paper to digital consumption. It was really moving. My wife really resonated with it.
What is your favorite local cultural asset? Firestone Park’s business district is a nerd’s dream! My wife makes fun of me, but I want them to change their name to the Firestone Virtual District! You can try on clothes virtually, then learn how to use a gizmo through a virtual learning tour. They’ve got virtual horse care courses. Oh! A Walk in the Park Cafe just got that virtual vintage gaming room! I’ve played Tetris there for hours!
When did you fall for Akron? When I was about 15, there was a second wave of the Green New Deal that came out. It was a real adjustment. The rail system went in and everyone was getting money to make their household more green. I don’t remember a lot of the stuff my parents were doing to the house, but I remember a lot of renovations I didn’t understand.. I just thought it was annoying. I was young. Anyway, it seemed really strange at the time, but Akron embraced it the best it could. We worked as a community to be devoted to lowering our footprint. Scooters, bikes and horses were everywhere…and if you didn’t know how to ride, I know I didn’t, each neighborhood set up a community barn and gave riding lessons. It was…it was a weird time, but I think I fell in love with Akron’s ability to adjust as a community. Now riding your horse to the grocery store is normal and teenagers think it’s uncool to drive your family car unless you’re going out of state. It’s wild when you think about it. I’m still really proud of Akron for that. A lot of places are still struggling with the transition.
Where in Akron do you like to escape? My twin sister Sonia and her family live in Maine. I like to take virtual walks with my niece, Zeze. She’s 13 now and since they live in Maine, I don’t see her in-person as much as I’d like. But she’s taught me to use the cloud. She likes to call and virtual chat in the cloud so my sister won’t hear her complaining about her barn chores. It’s nice to get to see her, and it’s a nice escape from the everyday. It’s really neat that you can sit next to each other virtually. I feel really connected to her.
Why should everyone try your favorite restaurant? I don’t have a favorite restaurant yet, but [Merriman] Valley has this cool place, Garden to Glass! They have this greenhouse and you walk through their garden and pick your vegetables and fruits for your smoothie. Then you give them to the clerks and watch them make you a smoothie on the spot. It’s a little pricey and time consuming, but I love how fresh it is. If trying to figure it out for yourself scares you, they have recipes for smoothies on their board. I recommend trying Valley Juice, which is apples, pears and beets! So great.
Josy Jones is a Cleveland native, an active community member and writer.
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