Today we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and those who served this great nation before us. I will tell the truth, this morning as I awakened I had to remind myself about the purpose of this day. This day is meant to bring our communities together, with one purpose, and one goal: to serve.
Many took their efforts to the streets. I personally joined the efforts of Total Equity Now (TEN), Teacher’s College Black Student Network, and other graduate level organizations at Columbia University in spreading literacy awareness across east, west, and central Harlem in New York.
As a part of their initiatives, TEN is working towards putting a book in the hands of all of Harlem’s citizens. One way they are pushing this initiative is by declaring the 1st of every month “Literacy Across Harlem Day”. On this day they are encouraging Harlemnites to carry whichever novels they are reading in their hands as they travel throughout the day.
We spoke with many families, the young and old, encouraging literacy in our communities. Along with raising awareness, we also gave individuals a list of over 10 Harlem library locations, a staggering number for such a small portion of New York. Reading books is only one of the many ways in which we can encourage the plight of education in our communities, but it is one of the most important and easiest ways to promote literacy. A college education may cost thousands, but placing a book into the hands of a mother, father, or child, is one of the most inexpensive and sometimes free gifts that one can give. In the world of policy and in the world of education we commonly throw around the word EQUITY. Well, as we fight for equity, let us consider the things that we can give within the confinement of our own communities that are proven and effective ways of getting one step closer to an equitable and accessible future for all children. After passing out flyers in Harlem, we went to the Sister’s Uptown Bookstore & Cultural Center (located at 1942 Amsterdam Ave. @ 156th Street), a locally owned bookstore that is full of African culture and is celebrating 15 years in the Harlem community. It was an amazing experience to see a bookstore that was very focused on the cultural relevance of African history. After attending the bookstore, I am rest assured that it will be one of my favorite spots in New York City.
If you are in Harlem and you are reading this, please share “Literacy Across Harlem Day” with your family and friends, and even if you are not in New York, please spread this initiative to your cities and states! I look forward to seeing you all on the train and walking the street with your books in hand. Perhaps we can chat about what you’re reading. I’ll be ready, will you? Now, lets get to reading!
-CSGilmore “Stay tuned and stay informed”