A New Form of Community Organizer
Did you ever meet someone whose work stood out from a whole host of others mainly because it was a) so well thought out, b) contained the best information in a form that made it easy to use and c) conveyed such a love for the topics that the work came across as effortless and honest?
Meet Alia Akkam, the founder and editorial director of The Q Note. The Q Note is a Queens-focused website devoted to the arts, food, shopping, and culture of this most interesting of boroughs in New York City. Ms. Akkam is a Queens native who at 30 is full of the energy and enthusiasm it takes to make something this labor intensive come alive on the screen.
We met recently as she took a break from her day job to talk. It was a cold day and downtown Manhattan felt its own crowded, congested self. The way commercial space is used in Manhattan especially near Wall Street is the antithesis of Queens. This less favored borough is more residential but also less congested in the airways. The level of diversity though is greater in Queens where over 150 languages are spoken, the most of any area in the entire country.
This is part of what intrigues Ms. Akkam, a native of Queens who speaks quickly and with great precision about what her goals are: She is creating a site that will show the cultural diversity inherent to Queens and that fills a much-needed niche for the community.
The site is quite handsome and easy to navigate. Ms Akkam adds content not as a reviewer but almost as a consumer, or with an eye as to what the consumer of good information about food, events, theatre, restaurants, bakeries, bars, whatever it is that one who loves Queens would want to know to plan an outing.
Are you interested in the musical history of Queens? Recently there was a great article on the house Louis Armstrong lived in and the museum across the street built to keep his house from being destroyed by the number of visitors who come there.
Are you interested in celebrating the recent Chinese New Year? Ms. Akkam provided a long list of places to go and what to eat and when to show up in Flushing for this most magical of times.
As a purveyor of all that Queens has to offer she is in the unique position of being able to get the message out --as to what's happening, who's running it, when to be there and what to expect. Her goal is never to critique anything but to get the news out of all that there is to do in Queens. Her journalism background allows her to give the facts in as excited a voice as you would want to read to make you buck the cold and get in the car and drive to all these interesting places she reports on.
Queens is a huge place, you do need a car to get around and I am sure that most Queens natives never heard of most of these places Ms. Akkam reports on. The wealth of things happening in Queens escapes the notice of the press in Manhattan or Brooklyn. Yet Ms. Akkam never runs out of things to report on.
Having previously lived in South Carolina where she got her degree in journalism, she has shuttled back and forth between Brooklyn and Queens for the past nine years. She much prefers Queens. There are a couple of reasons for that.
The first is the obvious, she is originally from Queens. The second is her love of the diversity in Queens and how it offers a range of events from flamenco to Chinese music to Indian films to the new art galleries, the music scene, fashion etc. But I think more than that Ms. Akkam personifies what the new community organizer is going to be like.
The new community organizer will be interested to the point of obsession with where they live and what is going on there and what has happened there in the past. The future looks good for those like Ms. Akkam who want to tie together their obsessive love for a place with the relative cheapness of doing this on the web. At this moment in The Q Note's existence, Ms. Akkam provides the best reporting available on what is happening all over Queens and not just the events but the history of those events and what they mean to our large, diverse community. Were it not for her dedication and fierce work ethic, The Q Note would not exist.
Those in Queens involved in the arts and cultural affairs have already become dependent on The Q Note to get the word out on our events or publications. This type of interdependency will be essential to keeping our work alive during these harsh economic times. A year in the life of The Q Note has meant a great deal to this borough. Long may it thrive.