Two expressions spring to mind with SVP Fellow Bishara Addison: “Good things come in small packages” and “Small but mighty.” Though diminutive in stature, her passions and knowledge loom large as do her aspirations to bring resources to the neighborhoods and communities she knows and loves. She describes how inspired she is by the “hidden gems of neighborhoods which show America at its best” like the Kinsman community garden which flourishes amidst blight and disinvestment or the public libraries in Cleveland which burst with “polite kids who are really using them.” Above all, Bishara is “driven by the idea that Cleveland is on its way to beautiful neighborhoods in which to live, work and prosper.”
But Bishara is no passive observer of Cleveland’s renaissance. Bishara credits her family with exposing her to social justice at the dinner table. In fact, she describes herself as “genetically wired to care about social issues.” Her mother was a stay-at-home mother dedicated to their family while her father was a teacher and administrator in the Cleveland and Shaker Schools for over fifty years and an activist devoted to such organizations as the NAACP, the Urban League, project Push Excel, and the Ebony Bobcat Network. Bishara’s family even has a curious connection to the League House, home of SVP Cleveland, at which they have held family Kwanzaa parties frequently over the years. In fact, Bishara’s family (which is spread throughout the country) is itself run like a nonprofit or even a small corporation. They are well-organized with budgets, agendas, and commitments to the greater good of family members, young and old. No wonder Bishara’s sense of compassion and commitment is so powerful.
After growing up in Shaker Heights and attending its schools, Bishara moved to Washington, D.C. to attend George Washington University. While pursuing her degree in Political Science, Bishara became involved in LIFT-DC which helped move families out of poverty and train young leaders for the future. As the student director of the D.C. office, Bishara became steeped in volunteer training, management, and recruitment – skills which will benefit many of SVP’s investees. These skills also dovetail with many of Bishara’s current responsibilities at Towards Employment where she is involved in the planning and execution of numerous community events around social justice and reentry in addition to her extensive policy and advocacy work with Executive Director Jill Rizika.
Bishara has cemented her observations about human nature with her exposure to Desmond Tutu’s book, No Future Without Forgiveness, in which he raises the concept of “ubuntu” which essentially translates as “my humanity is caught up, and inextricably bound in yours.” Bishara further defines this term as “a form of self-interest that unites rather than divides” and states that our “belief in this concept allows us to be capable of social change.” Bishara is committed to improving the circumstances of others by helping them empower themselves through collaboration and connection. She has discovered that all the groups for which she has worked believe in this human interconnectedness and in the essential “intersection of diverse and siloed networks to change social outcomes.” She hopes someday to be seen as a great thought leader who contributes to developing essential community resources which lead to powerful outcomes and “make the vision happen.”
Perhaps Bishara’s early days as a member of Ropes of Thunder in which she excelled at jump roping on a pogo stick was a harbinger of the heights she would soon scale in her professional life. Without a doubt, SVP is the happy beneficiary of Bishara’s talents and enthusiasm and vision.