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Faces of Kingston: Shaniqua Bowden

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What organization(s) are you involved with in Kingston?

I'm the founder and host of the Nubian Cafe, a discussion series mainly featuring women of color expressing their views on such topics as health, wealth, relationships, politics, race, spirituality, business, life achievements, and more. When we're not filming live, the show airs weekly on Radio Kingston, every Thursday from 1 to 3pm.


Along with my husband Frank, we co-founded MyKingstonKids, an organization created to help the parents of Kingston find children's events and activities in a central location. I'm actively involved in Black History Month Kingston, in which Frank is the lead organizer. And I'm also the outreach coordinator for the Kingston Land Trust, an organization that protects environmentally and socially significant land for the common good.


Where do you go in Kingston to recharge?

Often times, I love to visit the Vanderbilt Mansion when there's ample time to go for a drive. But in Kingston, I often visit Kingston Point Beach so the kids can enjoy the water while I take in the view.


What is the biggest challenge facing Kingston?

I believe the biggest challenges facing Kingston are the traditional challenges involved with running a city in general and the allowance of exploitation of our uniqueness. Everyone loves it here because we have a diverse population with an atmosphere that resembles southern hospitality. But we need to honor and nurture that and figure out how to use our attributes to thrive and continue being forerunners of progress, and not allow in projects that seek to destroy or deplete our natural resources and change our landscape far beyond what makes Kingston such an attractive city in the first place. The money is not that important of an exchange for something so precious.


What is the most woke thing Kingston could do?

As a model city, I would like Kingston to develop a reparations package and ensure every family has a home. Recognize climate change to the point of updating zoning laws and codes to embrace green living and tiny houses. They could also adopt the Hudson Valley Current as our official currency to solidify a stronger local economy.


Where is your favorite place to go in Kingston for a bite or a beer? What do you like about it?

I often visit Top Taste for the best Jamaican food in town or Ruby Mae's for catfish or shrimp and grits. And the Mac n' cheese is to die for. Whenever I'm in Top Taste, I intersect with all kinds of people and have the best conversations.


Why does your organization's work matter?

The work of the Nubian Cafe is instrumental to the change that we need to see regarding communities of color being acknowledged and celebrated and embraced to expand our narrow views of societal norms. The work with MyKingstonKids celebrates, nurtures, and shares positive opportunities with our most relevant population—the children, who are our future. And at the Kingston Land Trust, I get to be part of a mission where social and environmental justice work meet. Also what is very significant is the decolonizing component that needs to be accomplished in order to fulfill the mission of our tagline: land for all, all for land. I feel kinship between all of these organizations.


What challenges/pain points does your organization face?

Fundraising is often a challenge, because there are so many organizations that do good work, but all of our funding sources are the same. The other challenges include participation and activation. Organizations need to be able to affect a person's bottom line-their bed and breakfast-to invoke participation from the communities they're trying to reach, and without that, they remain in an extracurricular category that our government and systems work hard to keep people from experiencing equally across the board.


What is one service/offering/event your organization offers that the community might not know about?

The Nubian Cafe is an open forum, and I encourage more people to come take part in our discussions so that we may learn from each other.


If you could change one single thing about the city, what would it be?

I'd beautify Uptown, Midtown, and Downtown equally.


Where do you see Kingston in 5 years?

I hope to see Kingston become one of the most progressive cities in the nation and not a small replica of New York City or Albany, a place that maintains its perfect balance of that city/country feel. I'd like to see that Kingston listens well to support and uphold the needs of all its citizens, not just to those who pay the most taxes but also to marginalized citizens in order to address the systemic catalysts that create marginalization to begin with.


Tell me about living at the Lace Mill, it looks amazing.

I feel so privileged to live in the Lace Mill. Helpful, caring, and super talented people are readily available. And the aesthetics of the apartments themselves are works of art. They're like faces, each must be loved and appreciated individually.


You work with your husband Frank on a number of different organizations, tell me about the power that comes from working together.

Because we are of like minds, we support one another through challenges in a way that is aligned with our beliefs. Regardless of the perceived benefit, if the love and excitement is not there, a project is obsolete. We keep each other grounded from the ways the world seeks to sidetrack you with challenges and distractions. We laugh a lot and remind one another that we're deeply supported on this journey and to stay focused on what we choose to acknowledge as our authentic goal.

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