Sharon Pearson

Sharon Pearson

Interview by: Jamilah Grizzle

July 21, 2017

Q: How long have you been in Oberlin?

A: I was born and raised in Oberlin. My claim to fame that I tell everybody when they ask me to  tell them about myself, is that I played baby Jesus in the Baptist church here. That is somewhat significant because my godfather was the pastor at the church, Reverend Stein. He was one of the people that was really instrumental in trying to develop town-gown relationships in the community. He was my godfather and my parents were very close with him. That’s how I got to be baby Jesus!

"I wanted to become a civic councilperson so I could right some wrongs and to promote what’s good about Oberlin."

Q: How would you describe what you do in the community to someone outside of Oberlin?

A: That’s very interesting! It has changed recently. Right now, my connection is with community advocates. I’ve always loved Oberlin. I’ve either lived or worked in Oberlin throughout my entire life. Since I’ve been here, I think I’ve followed in the footsteps of my father. My father was very well known and used to help a lot of people all the time. He passed away when I was 8 years old. You have these impressions even when you’re young, from your parents. I find myself always trying to be of help to people. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to become a civic councilperson, so I could be of assistance to people to be able to right some of the wrongs I thought were happening, to promote what’s good about Oberlin. There’s a lot of times where I’ve volunteered here in Oberlin. I’m also vice-chair of the organization called POWER, making sure Oberlin uses electricity responsibly. Back in April of this year, for about five and a half years, I’ve worked with the Oberlin Project, as a project coordinator. I coordinated a lot of events. That’s probably what I’m known for most, coordinating a lot of community events. So I’m kind of all about the community.

"My personal motto is: How can I help someone be better off than when I found them?"

Q: What role do you play in making positive change in the community?

A: I really like to help educate people on things that they don’t know that might help their life. I do have a personal motto that is: How can I help someone be better off than when I found them? Not all of us have access to the same type of information. I don’t want to force it upon people either. I want to understand where they are, and if they seem like they’re ready and open for help, then I will give them some tidbits that will help them, particularly when it comes down to sustainability. That’s an issue that not everyone understands equally, and so when I was working at the Oberlin Project, one of the things I realized was that language is really important. We have to break down these words that are obscure sometimes, like the word sustainability, and define what I mean, in order to have a better understanding and meet people where they are. Then they can accept that definition and explain what it means to them in their own way. Those are things I like to do.

Q: What challenges people in accessing basic necessities like food and water?

A: Even though I’m not a millennial, I believe in a millennial's mindset, and I hate to drive. The lack of public transportation really bothers me here in Lorain County. When I was fortunate enough to live right behind the Hotel at Oberlin and I was working over at the Oberlin Project, I was two-hundred feet away from work so I never had to drive. For three years I gave up a car. I wanted to force myself to understand what people who don’t have a car are going through, though it saved me lots of money. Not having that car payment, not having to worry about insurance, not having a lot of things. I also found that I began to grow closer to people, because I would need rides from people and we would get in the car and we would start talking.

I really got involved with working with students to make Oberlin a bicycle-friendly community because I know that is important to people. I’m not a huge bicycle rider, but I understand that people in Oberlin are. Then because one of the main projects that I was working on with the Oberlin Project was about transportation, I knew nothing about it when I first started. But I learned more about the importance and the fact that younger people are driving less, older people are driving less. Younger people are looking to move where there are options for transportation. I’m not saying that they won’t drive a car, but they want those options, such as car-sharing, ride-sharing, Uber, Lyft, biking, all of these things. Nowadays young people will look for these options before they find a job, and the fact that we don’t have public transit here in Lorain County means that we don’t have a lot of young people moving here. So that becomes an issue for other people who don’t have resources or are living in poverty because they are going to stay in that poverty level because they have no other choice to get anywhere without the public transit. The whole transportation issue, for me, I recognize it as a need for other people and I have been working with a group called M.O.V.E. Lorain County. M.O.V.E. stands for Mobility and Opportunity for a Vibrant Economy. We know that public transit is very related to economic activity. We haven’t been able to solve it yet, we’re still working on it. We’re having a struggle, but it’s something that I’m continuing to work on everyday.

How can we begin to share what we know here in Oberlin with the rest of the county?
Q: What other resources do you wish existed within the community?

A: One thing that comes to mind is that one of the reasons that I love coming to the Hotel at Oberlin is that the food would taste so good. It tastes so good because it’s local. That’s one thing that I’m always telling people is that if they haven’t been there since it was the Oberlin Inn, that they have to go. The food is awesome and the chef here is wonderful and always trying to get the food from within two-hundred miles. I’m noticing that the restaurants that have that local food are popular. It’s actually a marketing thing these days. I don’t know if everyone has access to that. I don’t know if people are educated on necessarily the health reasons behind why you need to eat healthier. It’s something my husband and I are trying to do. We want to have a garden in our backyard. I also think that it’s wonderful that we have the farmers market here in Oberlin and that they are able to accept modes of payment from people who may be low income in order for them to have access to that too. I don’t know if that’s necessarily lacking in Oberlin, because Oberlin Community Services provides a lot of that too, and some of the education behind it. It’s very tasty to be able to eat at a place like that. I think it’s wonderful. One of the things that I think Oberlin is a huge resource for, and people in Oberlin don’t always go to the rest of the county. I’ve been taking my knowledge from here and trying to talk to other people in the county about sustainability and about the Environmental Dashboard, about the hotel, about foods and how we are trying to save energy. I’m starting to hear some people who are really interested in the work that we’re doing. I just wish that we were more cohesive as a county, we seem to be separated a little bit. I don’t know as much about resources lacking in Oberlin, but I wish there was the ability for more cohesiveness around the county to talk about these things and embrace them. How can we begin to share what we know here in Oberlin with the rest of the county to help them?

I’m so proud to be born and raised here in Oberlin.

Q: What do you love about Oberlin?

A: I love how small it is. Some people won’t like me saying this, but I love the fact that the college is here. The fact that the college is here… I didn’t know all of the resources that were available to me as a resident until I started working at the Oberlin Project and had connections with Oberlin College. At that time it made me really want to tell as many people as possible, let’s break down these barriers and begin to see how we can help each other. The college can’t exist without the community and the community can’t exist without the college. How do we begin to come together and to work together to see each other as an asset, and try to figure out how to make things better for the other person? There are still some improvements that we need to make, I’m not saying that Oberlin is perfect, but we have a lot more going on in Oberlin that we do in other parts of the county. I think that’s a great testament to Oberlin and I’m so proud to be born and raised here in Oberlin.

Posted in Community Voices.