This past weekend, I attended The Bronx Is Reading Literary Crawl in the South Bronx; it was moving, inspiring and uplifting. The crawl had six different events at Bronx restaurants and a merch shop, all walking distance in the South Bronx that lasted about an hour each. The events ranged from hearing from panelists speaking about their work in literacy to listening to poetry written by poets. I was able to attend four out of the six events.
#TheBronxIsReading and the Bronx Book Festival was founded by Saraceia Fernnell, a Bronx resident. She wanted to create a space and movement of bringing book literacy to the Bronx. After Barnes and Nobles closed down in 2016, there was no other bookstore in the borough. She wanted people of all ages to continue reading and join the literacy experience. Every month, she hosts a book club session at the at The Andrew Freeman Home.
The first event that I attended was The Womxn Are Dying presented by NYC Latina Writers Group at a Mexican restaurant called Habanero. Four women presented two to three of their pieces expressing their views as a woman, growing up in a Hispanic family and community life struggles. Some were funny and others were hard topics that kept you thinking after. It was great to listen to these poems created by Latinx women. I was able to relate to them and it is always amazing to see representation. During an introductory trivia session, I won the book How The Garcia Sisters Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez. I remember reading this when I was younger but I am going to reread it because I don’t remember much of it.
The second event was We Matter: Reading, Writing, & Thriving In The Bronx at Nobody’s Pizza. This was a panelist of three women who are educators in the Bronx and spoke about how they are introducing literacy in their classrooms. They also shared how their experience in living in the Bronx influenced their work. Sidenote: My friend and I had The Mariano pizza and it was delicious. Their goal is to share their love of reading with their students by having them read books that their students can relate to through representation. One panelist expressed that once they started reading books that showed representation, they started reading more and was able to create a book club. Students were interested in starting and joining a book club. The panelists expressed some of her students, who were not avid readers, came back for the next read because they enjoyed it so much.
The third event was some Lauren Hill Trivia fun hosted at Gun Hill Tavern. We spent about 45 minutes here where people mingled, shopped for some swag and grabbed a drink. I purchased a tote (this girl loves a tote) featuring a quote by Edgar Allen Poe made by the founder of The Bronx Is Reading. She creates totes featuring quotes from her favorite poets, she had another tote with a quote by James Baldwin. After a couple of minutes, we prepared ourselves for the series of Lauren Hill questions. If answered correctly, the winner would get a copy of She Begat This by Joan Morgan. Unfortunately, I did not know any of the answers except for one, but I was too late in answering. Shucks.
The last event I attended was Bronx Writers Present: Poets from the Boogie Down at the Bronx Native Shop. This shop is pretty dope, their merch is focused around the Bronx. They have hats, shirts, sweaters, jackets and more with either the Bronx Native logo or a reference to the Bronx. At this event, there were two poets that read their poetry. Anabel Encarnación, a young Bronx resident, who is now an NYC teacher, shared her poem on how the public school system failed her and one about her mother. Josué Caceres, the Brand Manager at Bronx Native, a self-publisher shared some pieces from his book, Bronx Stories & Heartbreak. In the end, they opened up the floor to other poets who wanted to share their poetry. A couple of people from the audience participated. The feeling in the crowded room, the physical closeness and emotional closeness was very noticeable. At the shop, I purchased a shirt that was based on the book Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quinonez and a comic book called Stories from the Boogie Down by Stephanie Rodriguez.
I had such a great time listening to such amazing work from the Bronx community and being able to relate to them in many ways. I am excited to attend the next Bronx Is Reading Literacy Crawl next year. The next event that I am really excited to attend is the Bronx Book Festival in May!