On January 14, I celebrated Wikipedia’s birthday in New York City. Wikimedia NYC hosted a celebration for the day Wikipedia first went public – Wikipedia Day! There were loads of Wikipedia Day celebrations around the world. These celebrations happen each year around January 15. This just happened to be the first celebration I attended since I started editing Wikipedia.
Lots of amazing circumstances came together to make this trip possible. First, Sherry Antoine from AfroCROWD and I shared a room at the Wikimedia Diversity Conference. We talked about bias and her work with AfroCROWD connecting people with Wikipedia. She said Wikimedia NYC and AfroCROWD focus on showing people how they can use their natural interests on Wikipedia. What a great way to get them hooked! She suggested I come present in New York as part of Wikimedia NYC’s Wikipedia Day celebration. I told her I would love to come! About a month later, one of the Wikimedia NYC Board members, Ryan McGrady, emailed me. Wikimedia NYC was able to provide me with a travel scholarship and another Wikimedia NYC volunteer offered to host me.
After a quick airfare panic – the price went up from $270 to $306 overnight! – I booked my flight to New York City. I had never been before, so I was beyond excited. In Sweden, Sherry and I swapped stories about how we always wanted to go to each other’s homes. I had always wanted to go to her home of New York and she always wanted to visit mine of the Midwest. We each got a chuckle as our homes are just home to each of us. Now that I have gone to New York, I will certainly have to figure out a way to get Sherry to the Midwest!
I took an early flight on Saturday morning so I would have a little time to settle in and see the city before the event on Sunday. Due to the tunnel construction, instead of taking the subway, I ended up taking a taxi to the place where I was staying.
Taking a taxi was a little funny in itself. I flew into LaGuardia airport. It was really quiet, and the few people I saw went outside to board busses. I eventually found the taxi signs and eventually a yellow path painted on the ground. I started following the path. After a while of following the yellow path, I started to wonder how long this line gets at busy times. I finally arrived at the taxi stand and there were 3 attendants and 5 taxis sitting at numbered signs. One attendant told me to go to number 3. Another told me to get back in line. Another told me to go to number 4. The second attendant told me to get back in line. The attendant who waved me to number 4 waved me back over and yelled at the second attendant. I wasn’t sure what was going on. I did eventually take the taxi at number 4.
It was neat looking out the window on the way to Brooklyn. I saw pigeons huddled on a sunny rooftop. I observed a lot of graffiti on just about everything. I always find graffiti as an interesting art form.
Where I stayed was a beautiful neighborhood. My hosts told me the history of the neighborhood and how it all came to be. Turns out, my hosts are academics like me! They also have a large collection of books, so I felt right at home.
That evening, I went to dinner with a few fellow Wikipedians. We walked to Numero 28 Pizza. It was great. I learned all about choices of pizza, mozzarella, bakery items, fish, and produce. The New York City version of feeling people out involves asking where they get their pizza/mozzarella/other food item. In St. Louis, this is like the dreaded, “Where did you go to high school?” question.
The next morning we all headed to the Ace Hotel, where Wikipedia day was being held. I got to meet loads of new friends and reconnect with old friends. Lots of people were interested in implicit bias. It’s a good topic to talk about.
The day was full of great presentations, panels, and lightning talks. My presentation went really well and I was glad to have the group engage with me. The Internet Society was wonderful and recorded and live-streamed the day’s events. If you couldn’t attend, the recording of my session and the slides are available on Commons.
Serious thanks and admiration to the organizers. The event went well. Your preparation and planning paid off! Also, the food was good and well-labeled. If you have food allergies, you know how amazing this is. The labels didn’t just have common allergens listed (like “contains peanuts and soy” but they had the actual ingredients listed! There were vegan and regular cake options. The cake was delicious! As illustrated by the picture, everyone else thought so too!
After the closing remarks, a few of us Wikipedians headed upstairs to the Breslin for a well-deserved drink. I always get a laugh at the drink names different bars have on their menus. Sometimes I think it’s a contest of who can make up the wildest drink name. An example from the Breslin’s drink menu: Captain Corto Swizzle.
During our chat, everyone gave great suggestions on what I should do the following day while touring the city. Ultimately, as I had my heart set on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I decided that would be my main focus. I had orders from my kids to get Pokémon from the Nintendo store, so between the MET and the Nintendo store I planned to check out several of the traditional tourist stops: Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and the Apple Store being built on 5th Avenue.
After we all decided it was time to turn in, I needed to know how to get back to my host family’s home. I really wanted to take the subway. The locals gave a chuckle, but to me, I don’t get to experience mass transit in my home city very much at all, so it was fun. On the train they pointed out all the sights to me, and they’re right: the city is very beautiful at night.
Although I did not get nearly enough time in New York City, I am very grateful for this opportunity. I was able to meet new friends and reconnect with friends I met at Wikimania or earlier with my visiting scholar role. I cannot wait to see where my adventures takes me next!