Word Up re-opens
New York City—Over 100 enthusiastic community members in the predominantly Latino/a Washington Heights neighborhood celebrated the opening of the Word Up Community Bookstore after nearly a year of enforced exile. A local political leader spoke, poetry was read, music was played and ethnic food was served as hundreds of people throughout the two-hour grand opening circulated though the store.
Word Up had lost their space last year when the landlord raised the rent. They embarked on a citywide fundraising drive to raise money for a new place. They raised over $60,000 and, as one volunteer told me with pride, they were able to get a five-year lease “and we aren’t going anywhere.” Once the lease was signed, volunteers sprang into action, bringing books out of storage, transporting them to the new location, cleaning the place up, building bookcases, etc. At the reopening ceremony the 40 or so volunteers were honored.
Community members, including lifelong residents of the neighborhood, told me that this is the first time this neighborhood has had a fully stocked bookstore. Young Latinas said they intended to become regular customers, and a couple told me that the opening of the bookstore was a great event for the community.
Word Up carries books in English and Spanish, both fiction and nonfiction, including books by Raya Dunayevskaya in Spanish. There is a performance space for literary and cultural events and the bookstore is operated in large part by volunteer workers, people dedicated to the idea of being a part of the cultural renaissance of the Washington Heights community.