Syracuse Cultural Workers exterior

Syracuse Cultural Workers are Making a Difference – Not Just in Syracuse, but around the World

As I stepped through the front door of the shop on Lodi Street, with my rainbow-colored nails and my “Live life with purpose” T-shirt, I knew I was in the right place. The shop was filled with messages of equality, sustainability, unity, justice, diversity, and overall positive activism. As someone with a passion for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, anti-racism, indigenous cultures, environmentalism, and more — I was among my people. Syracuse Cultural Workers has been dedicated to fighting the good fight for four decades.

The History of Syracuse Cultural Workers

In 1972, Dik Cool from the Syracuse Peace Council decided to create the Peace Calendar. At a time of much political unrest, the calendar stood as a symbol of hope for peace. Unfortunately, a decade later, the council decided to stop publishing the calendar. But Dik Cool wasn’t going to let them happen. together with Karen Kerney, Jack Manno, Linda Perla, and Jan Phillips, Syracuse Cultural Workers was born.

The local business is based in Syracuse, but has grown to have a reach that travels around the globe. In a time of heightened tensions, among various groups of people, the organization is dedicated to bridging those divides and creating a global community.

Syracuse Cultural Workers’ mission is to nourish communities that honor diversity and creative expression, and inspire movements for justice, equality and liberation while respecting our Earth and all its beings.

Syracuse Cultural Workers Mission Statement
Hanging signs with messages of coexisting and welcomeness

Where is Syracuse Cultural Workers located?

The organization’s headquarters are on Lodi Street in Syracuse. Long time Syracuse residents will recognize the building as the former Caroma Restaurant. The restaurant owned by and named after the trio of sisters who ran it – Carmel, Rose, and Mary. Their authentic Italian food was the talk of the town. Now, the near-northside building houses a team of dedicated and passionate workers who strive to share their mission for equality and respect for all.

I was lucky enough to be given a history of the organization and a tour of their building from Andy Mager. (The Coordinator and Social Movements Liaison for the SCW.) Andy had come across the work that I do. He invited me to visit in the hope I could help spread the word locally about the organization. Because, while their mission and their products are known around the world, few Syracusans know that they exist.

Social activism shirts

Visiting the Syracuse Cultural Workers Shop

The first floor of the building contains their brick-and-mortar shop. It is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9am til 4pm. The shop sells a variety of books, t-shirts, posters, signs, stickers, buttons, mugs, postcards, and more. All advocating for human rights and social justice. Visitors will notice items featuring famous activists from throughout history. You’ll find many acknowledgments to Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Susan B. Anthony. Central New Yorkers can be proud to find locally famous activists too. Such as Frederick Douglass, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others.

Peace Calendar

As mentioned, one of the main projects of the Syracuse Cultural Workers is their yearly peace calendar. Originally started by the Syracuse Peace Council, the cultural workers have taken on the task of creating the yearly calendar. The imagery is sourced from artwork and photographs of activism and social justice from around the world. One of my favorite parts of the calendar is the daily facts from history. They denote important moments of unity, equality, and civil rights.

In addition to the wall calendar, they also create small date books. This portable option is great for carrying around in your bag. There are also skinny monthly calendars. All of which still promote the same messages of hope, equity, and justice.

During my visit, Andy gave me a sneak peek at the 2024 Peace Calendar. I have to say, some of the artwork represented in it is stunning and incredibly impactful.

Syracuse Cultural Workers front desk

Putting Beliefs into Practice

It’s also important to know that the Syracuse Cultural Workers practice what they preach. They believe in honoring the people of the Onondaga Nation that whose land they now live and work on. You’ll notice messaging honoring the indigenous people of Syracuse on their website and in their email signatures.

Additionally, they avoid using any type of plastic packaging. All of the t-shirts sold in the shop are organic, fair trade cotton. That means they are ethically sourced, and not produced in sweatshops.

So next time you are venturing near downtown Syracuse, make a stop at the Syracuse Cultural Workers shop. Learn about their mission, and maybe buy a little something to demonstrate your support for their work. (If you’re in the shop on a Monday or Friday, make sure to say hello to Marmalade the corgi.)

In the words of Andy Mager, “Imagery and art is at the heart of what we do.” The Syracuse Cultural Workers hope that the imagery will resonate with others as well.

Social activism shirts

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