106 W Commerce Spotlight: Community Design Advocates, Rhuma Syeda

Over the coming weeks, we will be highlighting each one of the Community Design Advocates, whose goal it is to broaden and deepen this project’s connection and responsiveness to the various communities it serves. Each story will detail this important work to better understand why they are involved in this project, what they hope the messages they’re hearing will mean for the site and to get to know them all a little better. This week we highlight Rhuma Syeda.

To follow read our original story on this series, click here.

Rhuma Syeda

Interview Questions

Q. Tell us a little bit about your background, what were you doing prior to joining Trinity Park Conservancy?

A. I completed my Phd in Biochemistry and work as an Assistant Professor at UTSW doing Our goal is to understand how proteins in our body understand touch and pain in order to develop pain medications that aren’t addictive.

Q. What sparked your interest in getting involved with the Conservancy?

A. I was born and raised in Pakistan. Since then I understood differences in socioeconomic backgrounds. Since my childhood I wanted to bridge that gap for why people are treated differently. These differences in treatment bother me. I want people to be recognized for who they are instead of where they come from. Through volunteering I’ve wanted to bridge that.

Q. What’s your favorite way to enjoy the Trinity River? What are some of your favorite activities?

A. I like walking by the river and looking at the body of the river. I like having water near walking distance.

106 W Commerce Interview Questions 

Q. What does 106 W Commerce mean to you? What would you like the building to represent in the future?

A. It’s in my neighborhood. Instead of going far away, I would rather have a place to hang out and something that’s more integrated within the community. In the future it could be a place to meet people and individuals discover new interests.

Q. What does design justice mean to you? How can the Conservancy utilize design justice practices with 106 W Commerce?

A. This is a term we should advertise more. We live in a privileged community. A place for people of all backgrounds and colors can come and feel safe without getting looks. We can’t scrap out the history of the building. It needs to be a place where people can empathize with those who have lived there before by preserving some of the building. It’ll put things in perspective for visitors through a physical experience.

Q. How has activism or advocacy influenced your work or your personal life?

A. I feel more useful as a human being. I don’t see the fruits of my work immediately. Here you can see the changes in other people’s lives sooner hopefully. Seeing people from different backgrounds enjoy the space would make me happy in the future. Even if a few peoples’ lives are changed by this space, the park would accomplish something.

Q. How would you encourage others to challenge current systems of injustice?

A. I think having empathy and being thoughtful. Not everyone can bring change but as long as we are thinking about it, that’s the first step. Not everyone has the resources to bring about change. We need to acknowledge that there are problems. Even if two or three people can change their thinking it can be helpful. I think this relates to the space as well, if we had a space for people to empathize.

Q. What are some major misconceptions about formerly incarcerated individuals you would like to address?

A. People don’t realize they paid the price and we need to welcome them back. This label never leaves them. People end up paying a bigger price than they deserve. People don’t look at them like normal human beings.

Q. What kind of impact do you hope the future of building will have on the City and on Harold Simmons Park?

A. I’m hoping this building can become a Dallas landmark and be a model for other cities to I think that it could have a huge impact if it became that inspirational space.

Dallas favorites 

  • Favorite Dallas restaurant?
    • Uchi or Open Sesame 
  • What’s your favorite park in Dallas?
    • Klyde Warren Park. I like the concept of people gathering there to do different things.