Akron Life December 2023

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SHAMMAS MALIK AKRON’S CHANGE LEADER Mayor-elect works tirelessly to create a thriving future for his hometown


DEC. 2023 $4.95




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On The Cover | 22 Akron Mayor-elect | photo by Meghan Winkler



Shammas Malik vows to be a mayor of the people. He is breaking barriers and bringing change to make Akron a city for all. 32 LIFE CHANGING Read about patients who received remarkable treatments that can lead to life-altering improvements. Plus, see which doctors were voted tops by their peers.

Shammas Malik photo by Meghan Winkler


akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023


52 UNTAPPED Cranberry Turbo Shandy Citrus Ale

10 AGENDA [ the essential social digest ]

55 PARTING SHOT Special Delivery


10 AGENDA [ the essential social digest ] 11 Entertainment listings + Calendar of events 14 Flash: W3 Cares Day 49 GOOD EATS [ notable food + drink ] 49 Restaurant listings 50 Uncorked: Firelands Winery 52 Untapped: Cranberry Turbo Shandy Citrus Ale


Special Section

28 FOREVER YOUNG Attend college as an older adult.

07 FROM THE PUBLISHER Top Notch 08 RADAR [ seen + heard ]

09 UPFRONT One for All

55 PARTING SHOT Goodyear holiday blimp


DECEMBER 2023 | akronlife.com



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GLASS PUMPKIN from THE GLASS GARDEN photo by Talia Hodge

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DECEMBER 2023 | VOLUME 21 | ISSUE 12 (ISSN No. 74470 57871) akronlife is published monthly by

Baker Media Group, LLC, 1653 Merriman Road, Suite 116, Akron, OH 44313. Copyright 2023© by Baker Media Group, LLC, All rights reserved. Reproduction or use of editorial or pictorial content in any manner is prohibited without written permission. Unsolicited manuscripts will not be returned unless accompanied by an addressed envelope and sufficient postage. Baker Media Group, LLC and akronlife accept no responsibility for unsolicited material. Subscription rates: Continental U.S., One year —$19.95, Two years —$34.95. Call for Alaska, Hawaii or international rates. Single issues available by calling the circulation department or visiting akronlife.com/store . $3.95 each plus $3.50 shipping & handling. Editorial, adver tising and business offices: (330) 253-0056,




akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023



[ Publisher | Colin Baker | cbaker@bakermediagroup.com ]

Top Notch

Akron’s doctors make a huge impact.

My role was to be there for whatever she needed and take care of the details, so she didn’t have to worry. I felt like I did all the worrying for her. We were blessed with lots of help around us, from babysitting to a meal train. We had so much support, and we accepted everything that came our way. It was much needed, because the last thing we needed to worry about was what was for dinner. The doctors involved in my wife’s care at Cleveland Clinic Akron General were top notch. Dr. Ariel Sindel was her oncologist and was exceptional. He was always there to answer questions and explore alterna tives and cutting-edge treatments. His honesty, positivity and confidence were essential components of my wife’s attitude toward treatment. Dr. Amanda Mendiola was her breast surgeon and was incredible as well. Her expertise, thorough explana tions and empathetic bedside manner couldn’t be beat. Lastly, Dr. Susan Hong was her radiation oncology specialist. She gets another five-star rating as far as we are concerned. Hong was warm and empa thetic. She was a fantastic communicator. Her conscientious care was top of the line. All three doctors exceeded our expectations. My wife has been very fortunate. After getting chemo and radiation, the tumor completely disappeared, with no signs of cancer left. She was able to have surgery with the minimum amount of tissue removed. Currently, she is still on some medications to keep cancer at bay, but she is on the road to recovery. There is still a lot in front of us, and she is still very tired from all that she went through, but her prognosis is very positive overall.

December has always been our health care issue. The Top Doctors list is compiled from doctors voting for other doctors they believe are the best in the area. One of the first things I do every year is scan the list and see if any of my doctors are on it — there are several, and it’s well deserved. Check out the list and our feature on pg. 32. Last November, my family’s world changed. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. After getting over the initial shock, thinking, This isn’t real and, She’s too young and healthy , the reality sank in. Then all our priorities changed to how she can beat cancer. It seemed like there were doctor appointments every day. We explored all kinds of treatment options, and there are so many differing views on treating cancer. But based on her cancer type, we chose the route of chemo therapy followed by radiation. I had no idea what we were in for, and neither did she. We had a 2-year-old at the time, and we knew it was going to be a rough road ahead, but you can only deal with what is in front of you at the moment. Every possibility and scenario would race through my head, and I couldn’t imagine how she felt. I went with her to chemo appointments and stayed through all her treatments, but the side effects hit several days later. Most of the time, she would go back to work the next day after chemo because she felt better, but two to three days later, she was in misery. They gave her a regimen of pills to combat the side effects, but it was tough. The spac ing of getting chemo was three weeks apart, so she would start to feel better right before she had to go in again.

We are so fortunate to have such great hospital systems in Akron. Having so much health care in a city our size is a real blessing.

[ Publisher Colin Baker is a retired racing driver and gearhead. ] Comments? Email them to Kelly Petryszyn [kpetryszyn@bakermediagroup.com].


DECEMBER 2023 | akronlife.com



by Ashley Caudill and photo provided by LeBron James Family Foundation

seen + heard

+ 3 Fun NYE Parties Rock in the New Year with Mr. Pink Blast to the past with cov ers of Bad Company, Led Zeppelin and more by Akron-based Mr. Pink at Jilly’s Music Room. Opt for a ticket including a Champagne toast and food like mahi mahi skewers and spinach artichoke-stuffed mushrooms. Dec. 31, 8 p.m., 111 N. Main St., Akron, jillysmusicroom.com New Year’s Eve Formal Royal Masquerade Ball Dress in an elegant suit or gown and mask to celebrate with intrigue at Royal Docks Brewing Co. Dance to Cleveland-based Pop Fiction performing hits ranging from Dua Lipa to Earth, Wind, & Fire. Break to enjoy an open bar and hors d’oeuvres. Dec. 31, 8 p.m., 5646 Wales Ave. NW, Massillon, docks.beer New Year’s Eve Rainbow Ball Ring in the new year with Akron-based Ladies Night’s pop diva covers and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant Nina West’s performance at this fourth annual Akron Pride Festival party at the Akron Civic Theatre. Fuel up with hors d’oeuvres and toast with Champagne. Dec. 31, 8 p.m., 182 S. Main St., Akron, akroncivic.com

All Star

Walk through NBA legend LeBron James’ prolific life at the world’s first museum ded icated to him. Opened Nov. 25 at House Three Thirty in Akron, LeBron James’ Home Court journeys you through his milestones including his Fab Five years, the 2003 NBA Draft, his championship games in Cleveland, Miami and Los Angeles, and his gold medal-winning Olympic Games. The immersive museum takes you into

re-creations of his Spring Hill Akron apart ment and the St. Vincent-St. Mary High School Akron arena with the original back board and rim he played on. See memo rabilia including the all-white 2003 NBA Draft suit and original sneakers he wore. Appropriately priced at $23 for admission, proceeds support House Three Thirty’s innovative job training program. 532 W. Market St., Akron, housethreethirty.com

Start Over

The pandemic prompted Canton native Macy Gray to rethink what matters. That led to her new album, “The Reset,” which she wrote with her band, the California Jet Club. See the Grammy Award-winning singer at the Kent Stage Dec. 16, and listen as her uniquely recognizable, raspy voice dances through disco-inspired songs like “Every Night” and “The Disco Song,” which

will get you moving and singing. The album addresses societal issues like police brutal ity on “Mr. Policeman” and a cover of Ice-T and Body Count’s controversial “Cop Killer” and division on “America.” As her cover art of different skin tones making up a part of the American flag suggests, she calls us to reset toward unity. 175 E. Main St., Kent, kentstage.org


akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023



[ Managing Editor | Kelly Petryszyn | kpetryszyn@bakermediagroup.com ]

One for All

Shammas Malik is working to be the people’s mayor in Akron.

out with the people is that he is grounded, and he gets that from the strong example set by his mother. “She was really down to earth. She didn’t ever get caught up in chasing people’s approval,” he says. “There’s a community meeting, and I’m putting away chairs. The mayor should be willing to do every job that anybody else does.” Malik and his team tirelessly worked to campaign throughout every city ward, knocking on thousands of doors and meet ing with hundreds of people. He is driven to get the pulse of what the people want and the changes that need to be made. “Whether in a nice neighborhood or they were in a more difficult neighborhood, people are talking about safety, making sure their kids had a good education and pros pects,” he says. His ability to relate to everyone might be what got him elected and is what shapes his platform of equity as well as his vision of a diverse cabinet. “It’s always important to try to be looking for that thing you can connect with some one on,” he says, “so you can step in their shoes and try to understand people.” I related to him talking about seeing his friends leave Akron. I went to Kent State University, and naturally, people go their separate ways after college, but it stung every time a friend moved away. Northeast Ohio has always struggled with brain drain and being a place people leave for seem ingly grander prospects in bigger cities. Malik left to attend The Ohio State University and Harvard Law School and to do internships in Washington, D.C. — but

he came back. Luckily, some of my friends did too. We’ve always had the elements to live a fulfilling life here, and we just need to keep improving them. Malik sees you and every one else as a part of Akron’s story. Perhaps for the first time, we can all feel reflected in Akron and truly remember why it is home.

Informed citizens were firing off many well-formed questions to then-presumptive Akron mayor Shammas Malik, and it was clear by his responses that he had a different, more hands-on approach than most politicians. Speak to some of the ideas you have to cre ate jobs so people will want to come to Akron, stay in Akron and move to Akron , said one resident at the Sept. 14 Yours and Mine Akron United Communities Civics Organization meeting at Robinson Community Learning Center. “I went down to the Goodyear airdock. They took me up on the roof. I’m afraid of heights. A company that is funded by Google, Lighter Than Air, is building air ships in that building, and it’s going to bring hundreds of jobs here by building the largest airships in the history of the world,” says the 32-year-old Northwest Akron native and resident. “This is happen ing right here. I’m not saying everyone can work at Lighter Than Air, but these are the kinds of things we can pursue.” Malik is not just a figurehead. He goes out into the city, talks to all types of people and sees what’s going on firsthand so he can determine how to address it. Read about his vision for Akron and jour ney to being the youngest and first mayor of color in Akron in our feature, “The Equalizer,” on pg. 22. Akron is on the brink of one of the big gest changes it’s seen in years, and it’s an exciting time when a younger, more diverse generation is leading our city. One of the things that pushes him to be

[ Managing Editor Kelly Petryszyn is an adventure seeker, forever a dreamer and an avid supporter of #TeamFiona. ]

Akron mayor-elect Shammas Malik, photo by Meghan Winkler


DECEMBER 2023 | akronlife.com



Agenda the essential social digest

photo provided by City of Akron

Through 2/19 Winterblast Enjoy the season with an ice skating rink, ice bumper cars, ice bikes, Archie the Snowman, vintage holiday displays and more family-friendly holiday fun. Between the State Street bridge and Canal Park stadium, Akron. Wednesday Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. & Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. lock3live.com


akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023

SUBMIT YOUR EVENTS on akronlife.com or email asobczak@bakermediagroup.com.

Through 12/23 Ohio Christmas Factory Get immersed in a new winter

Through 12/17 “Posing Beauty in African American Culture” See over 100 photographs spanning the 20th and 21st centuries and focusing on African and African American beauty. Kent State University Museum, 515 Hilltop Drive, Kent. Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. & Sunday noon-4 p.m. Free, students, sta ff and all on Sundays, otherwise $6 general public. kent. edu/museum Through 12/17 “Shakespeare in Hollywood” Enter the Golden Age of Hollywood in 1934 and follow Shakespeare’s fairies as they get into the movie business with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” during this laugh-out-loud comedy. Greystone, 103 S. High St., Akron. Thursday Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m. $5-$35, pay what you will Dec. 3, free students Dec. 7. ohioshakespeare.com

NOTE : Dates, events, locations, times and prices are subject to change. Please call ahead.

wonderland where you can visit Santa, stroll through Christmas trees, look at a gingerbread mansion, meet holiday characters, partake in an indoor snowball fight, play with the kiddos in a fun zone, go on a holiday bar crawl and more on select dates. Attend an adults-only ugly sweater party Dec. 14. 4125 Mahoning Road NE, Suite B, Canton, Fridays 6-11:30 p.m., Saturday noon-11:30 p.m. & Sunday noon-9:30 p.m. and Tuesday-Saturday the week before Christmas, times vary. $17.95 children 4-12, $23.95 adults. ohiochristmasfacutory.com

Through 12/16 Fall Exhibitions Peruse exhibits such as “Anywhere” by Lizzi Aronhalt and group exhibits “Imagine Infinite: Where Wonder Meets Transcendence,” “Blurred Lines” and “Too Dark.” Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St., Akron. Friday noon-7 p.m. & Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. summitartspace.org Through 12/16 Winter Exhibitions Take in exhibits like poet Raja Belle Freeman’s “Consider This Your Trigger Warning” and artist Debra DeGregorio’s “co ≈ rrelate.” Akron Soul Train, 191 S. Main St., Akron. Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. akronsoultrain.org


Through 1/14 “Elena Masrour: Bingo! I’m the King Now!” See ink drawings by Elena Masrour. Massillon Museum, 121 Lincoln Way E, Massillon. Tuesday-Saturday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. & Sunday 2-5 p.m. massillonmuseum.org Through 1/14 “Stark County Artists Exhibition” Discover two- and three-dimensional artworks at this annual juried exhibit. Massillon Museum, 121 Lincoln Way E, Massillon. Tuesday Saturday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. & Sunday 2-5 p.m. massillonmuseum.org Through 2/19 Winterblast Enjoy the season with an ice skating rink, ice bumper cars, ice bikes, Archie the Snowman, vintage holiday displays and more family-friendly holiday fun. Between the State Street bridge and Canal Park stadium, Akron. Wednesday Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. & Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. lock3live.com

Through 12/29 Wild Lights Tour past over 1 million lights and fun photo ops throughout Akron Zoo on select dates. Visit Santa until Dec. 23 and the Grinch. Enjoy sweets, beer or hot cocoa or co ff ee with an adult jolt. Akron Zoo, 505 Euclid Ave., Akron. 5-9 p.m. Member adults $11, member children 2-14 $8, nonmember adults $15, nonmember children 2-14 $11. akronzoo.org Through 1/7 “Artwork by Members of the Boys and Girls Club of Massillon” View artworks in mediums like watercolor, pastel, acrylic paint, collage, mixed-media and more by young artists. Massillon Museum, 121 Lincoln Way E, Massillon. Tuesday-Saturday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. & Sunday 2-5 p.m. massillonmuseum.org Through 1/7 “A Way to Win: Paul Brown’s Innovations” Catch this exhibit at the Paul Brown Museum. Massillon Museum, Paul Brown Museum, 121 Lincoln Way E, Massillon. Tuesday Saturday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. & Sunday 2-5 p.m. Free. massillonmuseum.org

Through 3/30 “Habitat” This exhibit examines the need for diverse habitats and what we can do to protect them. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, 800 McKinley Monument Drive NW, Canton. Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. mckinleymuseum.org Through 4/24 “A Life in Style: The Wardrobe of James E. Mulholland” Follow the personal story of fashion industry insider James Mulholland’s life through selections from his wardrobe. Kent State University Museum, 515 Hilltop Drive, Kent. Tuesday Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. & Sunday noon-4 p.m. Free, students, sta ff and all on Sunday, otherwise $6 general public. kent.edu/museum


akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023


The King’s Singers Bring Holiday Cheer from Across the Pond

Through 4/27 “Beyond Camelot: The Life and Legacy of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis” Peruse never before-seen artifacts that provide perspective on the life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. First Ladies National Historical Site, 205 Market Ave. S, Canton. Tuesday Saturday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. firstladies.org Through 8/1 “Knitting Beyond the Body” Browse pieces that highlight innovation and technological advances in relation to textiles and knitting. Kent State University Museum, 515 Hilltop Drive, Kent. Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. & Sunday noon-4 p.m. Free, students, staff and all on Sundays, otherwise $6 general public. kent.edu/museum 12/3, 12/10 & 12/17 Distillery Tasting Tour Go behind the scenes of the distillery at Gervasi Vineyard during a tour, then enjoy three spirit tastings and take home a shot glass. Gervasi Vineyard, the Still House, 1700 55th St. NE, Canton. 3 p.m. $21. gervasivineyard.com

A holiday concert by the King’s Singers of Great Britain is up next for Tuesday Musical’s Akron Concert Series on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. at E.J. Thomas Hall. Listen to festive music from their recent travels across the world, remember their spiritual home at King’s College in Cambridge, and celebrate some of the most important musical anniversaries of the past year — including 400 years of the great English composer William Byrd and 100 years of Disney magic. Their grand finale features the Symphonic Choir from Akron Public Schools’ Firestone Community Learning Center. Available at tuesdaymusical.org and 330-761-3460, tickets start at $19.

Visit us online for all things 330.





photo by Tylar Calhoun






DECEMBER 2023 | akronlife.com



Cares Day Over 30 W3 Financial Group employees took part in the company’s semiannual Cares Day Nov. 14 to give back to the Akron community through various service projects. One team headed to Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to help sort and pack over 4,000 fresh, hot meals for delivery to local individuals and families in need. In addition to Cares Day, W3 also challenged its employees to come up with creative ways to give back all month, including hosting food drives, donating clothing to shelters and giving blood. “We are so proud of our dedicated employees who truly embody the spirit of giving,” says Steve Catalano, managing partner for W3 Financial Group. “We are committed to continue finding impactful ways to assist those in need.” 1. Le ft back to front: Amy Cassel, Sharon Brustoski and Stephanie Seese; Right back to front: Parker Doerrer, Nate Zappola, Nick Benson and Jasem Jwayyed 2. Top le ft to right: Ben Severence, Lisa Meany, Amy Vaccaro, Kelly Galambos, Sandi Reeves, Michael Guban, Alicia Lazzaro, Jim Koney and Leah Thompson; Bottom le ft to right: Pamela Moore, Tyler Labas and Ben Gommel 3. Le ft to right: Jasam Jwayyed, Nick Benson, Parker Doerrer, Amy Cassel, Kelly Galambos, Nata Zappola, Stephanie Seese and Sharon Brustoski Photos provided by W3 Financial Group




akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023



DECEMBER 2023 | akronlife.com


12/1-12/3 Dance ’23: One World See performances by dance faculty and guest choreographers Micaela Taylor and Michael Utho ff . Kent State University, Center for Performing Arts, 1325 Theatre Drive, Kent. Dec. 1 10 a.m. & 7:30 p.m., Dec. 2 7:30 p.m. & Dec 3 2 p.m. $18 adults, $14 faculty, sta ff and seniors, $10 18 and under. kent. edu/theatredance 12/1, 12/8 & 12/15 Lunch with the Grinch Dine at the Bistro and enjoy a special appearance by the Grinch. Gervasi Vineyard, the Bistro, 1700 55th St. NE, Canton. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. gervasivineyard.com 12/1-12/17 “Paddington Saves Christmas” Watch the play adaptation of the Michael Bond book that follows the famous accident-prone bear as he sets out to save the day in time for the holidays. Magical Theatre Company, 565 W. Tuscarawas Ave., Barberton. Friday 7:30 p.m. & Saturday-Sunday 2 p.m. magicaltheatre.org 12/1-2, 12/8-9, 12/15-16 & 12/22 23 Carolers Enjoy dinner at the Bistro and also listen to carolers, who are outside. Gervasi Vineyard, the Bistro, 1700 55th St. NE, Canton. 7-9 p.m. gervasivineyard.com 12/1-3, 12/7-23 & 12/26 30 Deck the Hall Take in 1.2 million holiday lights and the manor house decorated for the holidays. Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, 714 N. Portage Path, Akron. 3-9 p.m. Monday Thursday $16 members, $20 nonmembers & Friday-Sunday $18 members, $24 nonmembers. stanhywet.org


akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023


12/1-1/6 Centennial Christmas The Summit County Historical Society of Akron, Ohio is turning 100 and celebrating with this look back at holiday memorabilia and decor. Summit County Historical Society of Akron, Ohio, 550 Copley Road, Akron. Wednesday- Saturday tours at 1, 2 & 3 p.m. summithistory.org 12/2 & 12/3 “Nutcracker” Celebrate the season with this performance of this classic holiday story by Ballet Theatre of Ohio. Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St., Akron. 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. $45-$55. akroncivic.com

12/2, 12/9 & 12/16 Lunch with Santa Eat at the Bistro and visit with Santa. Gervasi Vineyard, the Bistro, 1700 55th St. NE, Canton. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. gervasivineyard.com 12/2, 12/18, 12/19, 12/20 & 12/21 Holiday Movies View holiday classics including “The Polar Express,” “Elf,” “Home Alone,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Canton Palace Theatre, 605 Market Ave. N, Canton. Dec. 2 11 a.m. sensory screening & 3 p.m., 12/2-3, 12/8-10, 12/15 17 & 12/20-23 Holiday Lantern Tours Go on this lantern-lit walking tour of Hale Farm & Village decorated for the holidays. Hale Farm & Village, 2686 Oak Hill Road, Bath. Tours depart 5:20-9 p.m. $15-$25. wrhs.org Dec. 18-21 7:30 p.m. $10. cantonpalacetheatre.org


akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023


12/5 Holiday a Cappella: The King’s Singers Listen to festive a cappella music from the King’s Singers’ recent travels as well as big musical moments from last year including Disney’s 100th anniversary and the 400-year anniversary of music by English composer William Byrd. E.J. Thomas Hall, 198 Hill St., Akron. 7:30 p.m. $19-$65. tuesdaymusical.org 12/6 Sleigh It Ain’t So Dress to the nines for photo ops and sip a Sleigh It Ain’t So cocktail, munch on a holiday cookie and enjoy a night out. Gervasi Vineyard, the Distillery, 1700 55th St. NE, Canton. 5-6 p.m. $21. gervasivineyard.com 12/6 Vino Musica at the Cave Hear music from Rolando inspired by four wine selections you can taste. A small bite is included. Gervasi Vineyard, the Cave, 1700 55th St. NE, Canton. 6-7 p.m. $34. gervasivineyard.com 12/6 Whiskey Myers & Friends See the genre-bending band known for its energetic live shows. Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St., Akron. 7:30 p.m. $39.50-$109.50. akroncivic.com style target archery and flex your marksmanship skills at an indoor range. Must be at least 9 years old and 50 inches tall. Registration required. Firestone Metro Park, Coventry Oaks area, 40 Axline Ave., Akron. Dec. 6 6:30-8 p.m., Dec. 17 & 28 10-11:30 a.m. & 12:30-2 p.m. $10. summitmetroparks.org 12/6, 12/17 & 12/28 Intro to Archery Learn international

12/7 Wellness Through Art: Printmaking Use printmaking

techniques to make holiday cards during this workshop that starts and ends with a time of relaxation or meditation. Ages 14 and up. Akron ArtWorks, 1684 Merriman Road, Akron. 6:30-7:45 p.m. $27.50. akronartworks.com

The Billow Funeral Homes & Crematory Family owned and operated since 1875, with chapels in Fairlawn and Cuyahoga Falls. Now celebrating the sixth-generation of family leadership in dedicated service to the city of Akron.

Complimentary Live Streaming. Virtual Arrangements. Digital Tribute Wall and Guestbook

Fairlawn • Cuyahoga Falls • 330-867-4141 • www.billowfuneralhomes.com


DECEMBER 2023 | akronlife.com


12/7-12/8 School of Art Holiday Sale Shop unique gifts made by Kent State University’s School of Art clubs, including ceramics, glass, print, textiles, jewelry and more. Kent State University, Center for Visual Arts, CVA Gallery, 325 Terrace Drive, Kent. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Free. kent.edu/art 12/8 Procession of Advent Lessons & Carols Witness the annual holiday concert featuring vocalists and instrumentalists sharing the story of Advent. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 50 N. Prospect St., Akron. 7:30 p.m. Free. artsholytrinity.org 12/8-12/10 “The Nutcracker” Experience the classic holiday ballet performed by the Canton Ballet. Evening performances feature the Canton Symphony Orchestra. Canton Palace Theatre, 605 Market Ave. N, Canton. Dec. 8 7 p.m., Dec. 9 2 and 7 p.m. & Dec. 10 2 p.m. $18-$45. cantonpalacetheatre.org

12/14 Wellness Through Art: Winter Landscapes and Textures Explore winter colors and textures during this workshop that starts and ends with a time for relaxation or meditation. Ages 14 and up. Akron ArtWorks, 1684 Merriman Road, Akron. 6:30-7:45 p.m. $27.50. akronartworks.com 12/15 Holiday Dinner Stroll back to the early 1900s with this event featuring holiday shopping, a dinner from That Little Italian Kitchen, cocktails and entertainment by East Canton Echoes Choir. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, 800 McKinley Monument Drive NW, Canton. 5:30-8 p.m. $55 members, $60 nonmembers. RSVP by Dec. 2. mckinleymuseum.org 12/15 Ugly Sweater Night Hike Don an ugly sweater and do a short hike and then head to the campfire for s’mores, hot cocoa and games. F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, campfire area, 1828 Smith Road, Akron. 5:30-7:30 p.m. summitmetroparks. org

12/15 & 12/16 Vocal Fusion: All I Want for Christmas Enjoy innovative a capella arrangements of holiday favorites. Canton Palace Theatre, 605 Market Ave. N, Canton. 7 p.m. $20-$25. cantonpalacetheatre.org 12/16 A Celebration of Christmas This Brass Band of the Western Reserve holiday concert also features Summit Bells and the Medina High School Concert Choir. Medina Performing Arts Center, 851 Weymouth Road, Medina. 7-9 p.m. $12-$15. bbwesternreserve.com 12/16 Santa Cookie Plate Drop-in Event Decorate a cookie plate. Akron ArtWorks, 1684 Merriman Road, Akron. Drop in between 3:30 & 5:30 p.m. $15 per plate. akronartworks.com 12/20 Vino Versity at the Cave Get an interactive educational overview of Gervasi Vineyard’s wines, sample lambrusco, prosecco and Franciacorta, and nibble on a cookie. Gervasi Vineyard, the Cave, 1700 55th St. NE, Canton. 6-7 p.m. $29. gervasivineyard.com 12/20-12/22 Noel, Noel This concert pairs festive Baroque music, carols and poetry with soprano Amanda Powell as part of Les Delices’ 15th anniversary season. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 50 N. Prospect St., Akron. 7:30-9 p.m. $28-$45 general admission, $10 students. artsholytrinity.org 12/21 Winter Solstice Hike and Fire Celebrate the shortest day of the year by strolling past luminaries on the quarter mile Maple Loop Trail, learn about the meaning of winter solstice and reindeer in the folktale, “Mother Deer.” Afterward, sip hot cocoa by a fire inside. Liberty Park, 9999 Liberty Road, Twinsburg. 7:30-9:30 p.m. summitmetroparks.org 12/23 TubaChristmas Listen as tuba players ring in the holidays. E.J. Thomas Hall, 198 Hill St., Akron. Noon. Free. uakron. edu/music 12/29 Red Wanting Blue: End of the Year Bash 2023 Celebrate the end of 2023 with the indie-rock band from Athens, Ohio, and special guests the Labra Brothers. Opt for a VIP sound check experience to make it extra special. Kent Stage, 175 E. Main St., Kent. 7:30 p.m. $40-$50. kentstage. org

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akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023


The Magazine of The 330

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MAY 2021





ON A MISSION Locals persist against the odds


Meet KIMMY HENDERSON of the Bipolar Butterfly Project photo by Tylar Sutton

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DECEMBER 2023 | akronlife.com

by Kelly Petryszyn

EQUAL IZER THE EQUAL IZER THE EQUAL IZER THE EQUAL IZER THE EQUAL IZER THE EQUAL IZER THE EQUAL IZER THE Shammas Malik vows to be a mayor of the people. He is breaking barriers and bringing change to make Akron a city for all.

Shammas Malik photo by Meghan Winkler


akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023


DECEMBER 2023 | akronlife.com

photo by Tyron Hoisten

BEFORE HIS SPEECH ON EQUITY, SHAMMAS MALIK joins the people in the crowd. Wearing a crisp white button-down shirt and dark slacks, the then-presumptive Akron mayor shakes supporters’ hands and introduces himself to new faces at Robinson Community Learning Center Sept. 14. While he is only 32 and younger than most people at the Yours and Mine Akron United Communities Civics Organization meeting, he speaks with firm confidence and a deep understanding of Akron when he takes the stage. He pleads for more community policing to stop violence, more ways to invest in youth and more jobs so people stay in the city. Afterward, several audience members’ hands shoot up with questions. Do you have a plan for the middle generation, ages 25 to 45? How do you get them more involved in the community? asks one woman. “My whole life I’ve watched a lot of my friends and classmates leave,” says the Northwest Akron resident and native. “I was over at [Archbishop] Hoban [High School] Monday because we need to get these young kids inspired and excited about civics. Now, they are excited and inspired to leave. We have to push back on that.” Malik won the Democratic Akron mayoral primary May 2 with 43 percent of the votes over six other candidates. With no Republican or independent challengers, it made him the presumptive mayor, and it became official in November. He is shattering barriers — he is the youngest mayor, first Muslim mayor and first mayor of color in Akron. His election represents a turning point from the old guard of previous Akron mayors — including 60-year-old Dan Horrigan and Don Plusquellic, who served before him for 28 years and was 65 years old at the end of his term.

“The vote for someone who is not the traditional white male profile is something that we as a community should celebrate,” says Tracy Carter, one of four Malik transition team co-chairs. “We are welcom ing the next generation of diverse leaders to serve Akron.” The Ward 8 Akron City Council member’s message of transpar ent government that represents all people and parts of the city to make changes in safety, education, housing and jobs resonated with Akronites. His ceaseless hard work brought victory. Impressively, he and his campaign team covered every city ward — and knocked on a staggering 10,000-plus doors. That visibility led to him winning seven out of 10 wards. While some might say his age equates to a lack of experience, residents are looking for a fresh, energetic leader. “A lot of older people said, I want to see young people embracing the city ,” says Malik, who has been on council for four years. “People want change.” With an unprecedented nearly eight months to prepare for his tran sition into office Jan. 1, he and his team have been listening to as many voices as possible — taking over 250 meetings. “He had a hunger and fight,” Carter says. “He had a desire to talk to anyone — executives, laborers, stay-at-home parents, educators, busi ness leaders, officers — so that he can fully understand what Akron wants and needs.” But he takes office as Akron is dealing with significant challenges. It’s still bouncing back from pandemic losses and years of construction, confronting racial tensions surrounding the killing of Jayland Walker by Akron police, reeling from significant job cuts and grappling with gun violence and an opioid crisis. The city continues to redefine itself after multiple rubber factories closed and thousands of workers left decades ago. “There are systems that don’t work well,” he says, adding the city has lost about 1,000 workers over the past 15 years or so. “Responsible,


akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023

thoughtful, systematic change looks like … building a downtown people want to come to and feel safe. … If people feel safe, we can be more of a destination than Cuyahoga Falls, Kent and other places. They’re eating our lunch now.” After decades of status quo leadership in Akron, it needs innovative ideas. Malik is determined to lead the city to its full potential as a place where everyone feels like they belong. “My entire life Akron has lost population, and we’ve struggled. There’s a lot of bright spots, but we don’t have a common vision,” Malik says. “I can put forward a vision — no matter what part of town you’re from, no matter what brings you to the table, you could be a part of Akron’s future.” MALIK AND HIS BROTHER, NAJJAM , grew up visiting The University of Akron, where their mom, Helen Killory Qammar, taught chemical engineering. At her office, Malik often saw her locked in conversation with colleagues, gestur ing and smiling. “Her life was about service,” he says. “Her life was about doing some thing you loved and using it to give back to other people. That made a huge impression on me.” Growing up as a biracial Muslim kid with a white Irish mom who con verted to being Muslim and a Pakistani immigrant father, Malik felt like he didn’t fit in. “I felt different because I was a different religion,” he recalls. “Then when I go to the mosque, I have a white mom, and most people’s par ents are both immigrants.” When he was 10, terrorists attacked the U.S. on 9/11. “I was trying to understand the terrible thing that happened,” Malik says. “It caused me to learn more about international relations and foreign policy.” That drive deepened on a freezing March day during high school. He waited around the block of the John S. Knight Center for hours to see then-presidential candidate Barack Obama speak, and his words inspired Malik. “He called people to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” he says. “Government can be a force for good.” At Firestone High School, Malik was a standout student involved in the pre-engineering program, mock trial, academic challenge, tennis and the debate team on which he showed off his budding speaking skills. “He was able to cut to the heart of any argument or discussion,” recalls Judith Harrison, his former teacher and International Baccalaureate diploma program coordinator. “Shammas was one of the quieter stu dents but was still able to have his voice heard. He garnered the respect of his classmates as well as his teachers.” While he was excelling, his world was crashing down. During his junior year, his mother — who had been raising him and Najjam alone since separating from their father about seven years back — was battling cancer. And it hurt when it came to light that his dad had a double life. His dad was arrested by the FBI for wire fraud charges that involved blackmail, and he had other children.

In a stunning moment of vulnerability, Malik spoke about his dad, who he doesn’t have a relationship with anymore, during the second mayoral debate in April and was shaken when answering a question about integrity. “I have a father who is a very dishonest guy. This impacted me a lot as a kid. I talked to my dad through prison glass,” he said. “It has guided my life to live every day with honesty.” Malik focused on his schoolwork and graduated as a valedictorian and National Honor Society member, and earned the rigorous International Baccalaureate diploma, which requires 150 hours of community service. “That’s where he probably learned to give back,” says Robert Zupke, former Firestone assistant principal. His growing interest in politics spurred him to major in political science and international studies at The Ohio State University in Columbus. Malik was an Undergraduate Student Government senator, International Studies Honors Society president and intern for former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s unsuccessful reelection campaign. But trag edy struck again his senior year — his mother died when he was only 21. “That deeply changed him,” says Meghan Meeker, friend and Ward 8 constituent. “She was everything — an example of a brilliant, academic mind but also civic-minded and a teacher.” He threw himself back into his studies and had a bright turn, graduat ing cum laude from Harvard Law School and interning in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Defense Department at the Pentagon, Center for American Progress and Muslim Public Affairs Council. But he wanted to make an impact in his hometown, so he returned to Akron. In 2016, he became a lawyer and assistant director of law for the Akron law department. “In college and law school, I thought I would work in Washington. … But ultimately I thought, Why don’t I do it back home? ” he recalls. “I could have more of a happy, thriving life here than in D.C.” Losing his role model factored into his decision to carry on his moth er’s legacy here. “I’m sure that’s part of him coming back to Akron,” says Meeker, “to honor her and help build up the city that she loved and he loves.” ON A BONE - CHILLING DAY IN 2019 , Malik and Meeker bundled up and knocked on doors in her Northwest Akron neighborhood, canvassing for his Ward 8 council campaign. Residents were inviting them in to share hot chocolate. But he already had so many connections. “He knew every house, every person, what their interests were. It was like a ‘Rain Man’ level of knowledge,” she says. “I love watching people drop their defenses in front of him once they see his genuine interest in them and the city.” Ever since Meeker met him in 2017 while they were in the Torchbearers young professionals leadership group, Malik has been


DECEMBER 2023 | akronlife.com

telling her about changes he wants for Akron. After he won his coun cil seat by a landslide in 2019, Meeker saw him grow into being a politician while beginning to work toward change. In early 2020, he spoke at a Leadership Akron event, and he asked Meeker how he did. Although he spoke with eloquence, she admitted he said “you know” a lot. He quickly fixed that and speaks with charisma and assuredness. “His speaking has changed, his confidence,” says Meeker. “It’s cool to watch how he can control a room now.” As a council member, he had big victories like helping to make the Right to Counsel program, which gives tenants facing eviction legal representation, a line item in the city budget. He also worked to solve even the smallest disputes. When some constituents were getting fined for having a boat in their driveway, Malik helped them find a solution. The homeowners were registered Republicans in their 50s who had never voted for a Democrat, but Malik made such a good impression that they donated to his campaign and even put up his campaign sign in their yard. “It was cool to see change in those hearts and minds,” Meeker says. “That’s the magic of him —talking to somebody and finding common ground is his superpower.” While shoe-leather campaigning for mayor, he kept hearing residents’ repeated concerns about wanting to feel safe. He listened, making safety the focus of his platform. Malik still thinks about when he asked middle schoolers at a Summit Lake summer camp, What would make you feel safer? He got a sobering answer: A middle school girl said , I wish we could all carry guns. “It knocked me out,” he says. “If young people don’t feel safe, we’re not going to make any progress.” Another pivotal moment for Malik came in the wake of the 2022 kill ing of Jayland Walker, a Black man involved in a chase, by eight Akron police officers, who a grand jury declined to indict. After Walker died and following the release of the body cam footage, unrest broke out in Akron. “I’ll never forget those weeks,” Malik says. “It was difficult for the whole city.” It spurred him to help get Issue 10 passed, which created the Citizens’ Police Oversight Board to provide an external and independent review of Akron policing practices. Malik also fought for a co-responder model, in which plainclothes officers and a fire medic are accompanied by mental health or social workers on nonviolent, mental health related calls. It has been successful in Cleveland and Columbus and is set to be rolled out in Akron. His vision for equity also includes education. Akron Public Schools received 2.5 stars overall out of five on the Ohio Report Card. “We cannot be satisfied until our kids are getting the same number of stars they’re getting out in the suburbs,” he says at Robinson CLC. Plus, Akron is the only major Ohio city without a plan for universal pre-K, so that’s needed, he adds. The city is still paying off debts for its community learning center schools, and Malik vows to utilize them as intended community centers with activities for youth, health and legal clinics as well as vocational learning, bringing those resources within walking distance of all Akronites. He also hopes for Akron to plug into Summit Connects to bring fiber-optic internet to all residents. Malik wants to see downtown better serve people, including nearly 2,000 downtown residents, which is the most in his lifetime. He plans

to get a child care center and a grocery store built and find sustainable reuse for historic buildings and vacant offices. Malik wants to see equi table developments and get public feedback. “We should not be moving forward with any big initiatives until people have an opportunity to weigh in,” Malik says at Robinson CLC. He’s been meeting with Horrigan weekly to understand the inner workings of Akron’s government and plug into ongoing tasks like hir ing a new police chief since Steve Mylett is retiring Jan. 1. Malik has also met with other diverse mayors including Cincinnati mayor Aftab Pureval, an Asian millennial man, and Cleveland mayor Justin Bibb, a Black millennial man, and talked with Lima mayor Sharetta Smith, a Black woman. He’s gotten inspiration for initiatives to implement like Lima’s program to cut down on mowing city-owned vacant lots and Cleveland’s work on targeting gun trafficking and getting guns off the streets. His actions go beyond meetings, getting hands-on at organizations like Open M, an Akron nonprofit that distributes food and provides health care and employment services. Inside Open M’s warehouse Sept. 15, Malik, dressed down in track pants and a Nike pullover, places red peppers in grocery bags and chats with two volunteers. Outside, a line of cars fills Princeton Street to pick up groceries. CEO Julie Carneal calls for everyone to circle up and leads a prayer during which she prays that God blesses Malik’s leadership. Two days earlier, Malik spoke about a more equitable and sustainable future for Akron as part of a panel and fundraiser for Open M, which last year provided over 880,400 pounds of food to over 50,600 people, health care during over 1,000 patient visits, holiday gifts and food to 170 families and direct employment support to nearly 150 people. Volunteering at impactful organizations like Open M means a lot to Malik. “It’s important to get out from behind a desk and help with your own two hands,” he says. MALIK IS TRYING TO ANSWER as many audience questions as time allows at Robinson CLC. One woman gets the mic and challenges the then-presumptive mayor. I’ve heard you speak on mental illness, but you forgot about hearing and visual challenges. … There’s a special need for … a mayoral advisory commit tee to address problems. “I’ve worked with constituents who have various forms of disabilities. We realize the world and society is not built for that, so we all have a responsibility,” Malik says, vowing to follow up with her and appoint a diverse cabinet. “In our city, we want to have racial, gender, geographic representation … and that includes those with disabilities.” Promising to deliver change is a big charge. To have residents hold him accountable, he plans to post his administration’s goals and progress online. His transparency includes his own mental health. He has shared that he sees a counselor once a month and that he still has a lot to process surrounding losing his mom, and in many ways, his dad.


akronlife.com | DECEMBER 2023

“I’ve dealt with trauma, grief and loss. I’ve always made it a point to tackle these things head-on,” he says. “It’s important to recognize we are all going through stuff.” He says breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health is key to solving big problems. “We’re seeing large increases in suicide and overdose deaths because people have a lot of hopelessness, and they aren’t getting help,” he says. “I’ve been talking with folks at ADM [County of Summit Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services] Board about, How do we get these resources better into our schools for our students and also for adults? ” As he prepares to hit the ground running Jan. 1, he’s trying to be mindful of his own time management and combating burnout. “He’s given 110 percent. He’s working around the clock to get ready,” Tracy Carter says. “We are reminding him the importance of trying to better strike a balance between work and life.” While Meghan Meeker says he doesn’t have an off button, he does take breaks by hiking in parks, hanging out with his cat, reading presidential biographies and going on trips. But he admits rest is a challenge. “I probably could do a little better,” he says. “People have entrusted me with an important responsibility. I take it really seriously.” Meeker recalls him attending a Well CDC fundraiser and a Torchbearers forum on the same night. “He was run ragged. He hadn’t really eaten and showed up to both things, answered as many questions as possible,” she says. “It’s a servant leader that gives them selves so openly and willingly.” That work ethic won over community members from all walks of life. “The importance of working with communities to impact their com munity is something people want and need,” Carter says. “He’s going to be the face of equity and diversity,” adds Judith Harrison. “He’s going to prove to be that individual who can listen and make a difference.” At the watch party during his Democratic primary win in May, Malik, dressed in a suit with a red tie, took the Knight center stage to cheers, whoops and hollers from the crowd. “People have asked me over the last few weeks whether I’m getting tired. These folks don’t know me,” he says. “I’ve never been more energized!” He explained that he believes in the people of Akron, loves his com munity and will use the example of service set by his mother to guide him through turning Akron around. “Akron is an amazing place that has everything it needs to reverse decline, to succeed and to thrive,” he says. “At the center of this vision, we need a city hall that is more open, more responsive, more collaborative — a city hall that is ready to partner with the people.” To thunderous applause from the people, he vowed to join them and make Akron a flourishing city for all. “CHANGE IS COMING!” he declares.

Arell Tee, Shammas Malik, Alice Duey and Julie Caruso // photo by Tyron Hoisten

GET TO KNOW SHAMMAS MALIK The Akron mayor-elect answers a few personal questions. How do you start your day? I like to start with going for a walk or meditating. What’s your favorite movie? Hard to decide. “Star Wars: Episode I” was my favorite movie as a child, and it might still be. What’s your favorite book? “Robert Kennedy and His Times” by Arthur Schlesinger [Jr.] is a really beautiful portrait of someone who loses his brother and turns that grief into service toward others. What was your first concert? Lupe Fiasco at Kent State [University]. What’s your favorite Akron holiday tradition? July Fourth fireworks on the Innerbelt were very memorable! What’s the best thing you ate in Akron? Swensons [Drive-In] or Luigi’s [Restaurant]. But probably Swensons. What’s your secret talent? I have a really great sense of direction, no matter where I am. What’s your favorite thing to do in Akron on a Saturday night? Go to Mustard Seed [Market & Cafe] and listen to live music. What’s your favorite thing to do downtown? Walk or run on the Towpath. What don’t people know about you? I have a cat named Graeters, after the Cincinnati ice cream.


DECEMBER 2023 | akronlife.com

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