INSPIRE: Victoria Coit, Cuse Culture

By Sarah Tietje-Mietz

 

When Victoria Coit moved back to the Syracuse area from Washington, D.C., she knew she wanted to dosomething that  mattered.

“I think I was on a quest,” said Coit. “I felt like I was supposed to be doing something here…it was just sort of like a soul yearning.”

One night, from the inspiration that only dreaming can provide, Coit awoke with a clear vision of her purpose.

“I was just.. constantly asking God, ‘So what am I supposed to do?’” Coit said. “And… it was clear that everything that I did, and everything that I saw and experienced in Syracuse… what if I created a magazine, and put it all in there.”

This was when Cuse Culturewas conceived. The first iteration of this idea was called SOTE, pronounced so-tay, which stood for Salt Of The Earth. It was a magazine focused on women of color in Syracuse and the great work they were doing for themselves, for each other, and for the community. Seeing a lack of publications addressing these topics, Coit decided it was time to create one.

“I saw the narrative was twisted when came to women of color,” said Coit. “As a woman of color, I wanted just to say we’re here, and we’re brilliant. And you know, we deserve the same positive light.”

SOTE began publishing online in 2012, but went dormant when Coit became pregnant and her focus turned from media to motherhood. Becoming a parent was a big lifestyle change for Coit, who had been known for kidnapping her friends for day-long adventures discovering new social hotspots. Coit reimagined and restructured her life so she could give her child as much of herself as possible.

This did not mean she was giving up on her quest. Instead, Coit refocused what she wanted her purpose to be. When a friend approached her about doing another magazine, she agreed,but she wanted to broaden the scope from what SOTEhad addressed. Naming it Cuse Culture, the magazine would be for people of all colors working and growing Syracuse, and highlighting the positive stories they had to tell.

“Because it’s not constantly someone’s getting murdered or shot, you know, which you see in the mainstream news,” said Coit. “In order for us to…come together, or be respectful of each other, this narrative had to change.”

Change is a word Coit is very familiar with. Describing herself as someone “notorious for starting and stopping things” and at learning new skills and moving on, Coit’s background is varied and her skillset diverse. While in D.C., she worked in project management for a contracting company while simultaneously training to be a chef.

“I was a really good cook… and then realized that I didn’t really want to do that as much. But I did have fun,” Coit said of her time in D.C.,“and I learned a lot about contracting and was fascinated with it…There were so may cranes in the sky, and there was always something being built on top of something on top of something. And so that fascinated me.”

It was this building up of neighborhoods, and of watching how communities could grow and evolve that affected Coit. Instead of leaving Cuse Culturebehind to start a new venture, Coit changed how she approached it, and so Cuse Culturehas grown and evolved along with her.

Now a multi-faceted company that does marketing, events, and outreach, Cuse Culture has moved beyond telling the stories of those making a difference, to creating events and resources that make a difference for the community it serves. Cuse Culture organizes professional networking events for the Syracuse area, each time taking over a different neighborhood spot, like a recent occasion at Barclay Damon Rooftop and featuring DJ Soulstar. Their networking event for September, hosted at Eleven Waters, focused on bringing together area educators.

Coit knows how to throw a party that has both style and depth. On Saturday, July 20,she organized the Cuse Culture Festival, a 12-hour event filled with international music, local food, activists and fun, activating the downtown Syracuse area.

“A street festival with music, food, arts, and games that engages residents in our corridors is exactly the type of festival we’d like to see grow and draw neighbors to Downtown,” said Ruthnie Angrand, the director of communications and marketing for the city of Syracuse.

Cuse Culturehas shown a tremendous commitment to connecting with the people by highlighting the diversity of our city,” Held right in front of City Hall, Coit’s goal for this event was far bigger than just a great party.“It’s a celebration of culture. Its a celebration of people’s dreams…it’s for people to see themselves differently,” Coit said. “In this city, to see themselves in the midst of infinite possibilities…We all have that one thing inside of use that pushes us to want more of ourselves. And this is a celebration of it.”

 

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