Community organizing has played a monumental role in the pursuit of social justice and black freedom. I personally believe that the only way to achieve the social change that is necessary to secure equitable resources and policies for black, brown, and other oppressed communities is on the grassroots level. While national movements are important, whatever gains or transformations we desire must be implemented and monitored on the local level. This is why I strongly support and admire indigenous, community cultivated organizations. Especially the Harlem based organization Total Equity Now (TEN).
Recently celebrated its five year anniversary, TEN is the brainchild of Joe Rogers Jr. The organization was inspired by Joe’s desire to support Harlem public schools and youth. In its five years of service, Total Equity Now has sponsored several projects in partnership with local community organizations that support the uplift and empowerment of the Harlem village. Some of these are a monthly film screening, literacy map, Literacy Across Harlem initiative, book drives, community literature celebrations, Uptown Education Collaborative, Conscious Gear Expo, Harlem Family Dinners, and several other community centered resources.
The literacy map was created to pinpoint literacy-related resources in Harlem. This endeavor is in tandem with the Literacy Across Harlem Program, which recently celebrated its 1st year anniversary on September 1, that Total Equity Now pioneered. The program encourages Harlem residents to visibly carry reading materials with them “as a simple yet powerful reminder of our Harlem-based identities as readers, writers, and learners” on the first day of each month.
Participants are asked to post photos of themselves to Instagram with the hashtag #RockThoseReads. Another aspect of this day is a book exchange called #SwapThoseReads that allows Harlemites to drop-off or trade gently used reading material at the following local, literary minded establishments:
*Astor Row Cafe (404 Lenox Ave. at 130th)
*La Casa Azul Bookstore (143 E. 103rd St. btwn Park and Lexington)
*East Harlem Cafe (1651 Lexington Ave. at 104th)
*Sister’s Uptown Bookstore & Cultural Center (1942 Amsterdam Ave. at 156th)
*Cafe One (1619 Amsterdam Ave. at 140th)
TEN is also currently circulating a “petition opposing the NYC Department of Education’s request to the NY State Education Department for a waiver”
TEN also co-host a monthly film screening to raise awareness about a variety of issues impacting Harlem residents, especially youth. The screening features a short clip related to the subject followed by a panel of experts who share their experience and knowledge in the area. After the film, participants collaborate on questions to present to panelists. During this process youth and elders, professionals and students exchange ideas and perspectives that reveal each to an array of insights about the other. This sharing experience strengthens residents’ relationships and builds bridges to a more unified village.
I have attended and participated in a number of TEN’S initiatives and encourage anyone in the Harlem area who has not to join the Literacy Across Harlem Movement and stop by one of the film screenings and Community discussions at 2005 Amsterdam Avenue (between 159th and 160th) 2nd Floor – Community Room. Did I mention its free and refreshments are served ?! Can’t beat that. The Fall 2013 Lineup kicks off Monday Sept. 23 at 5:30 pm, hope to see you there. Make sure you follow TEN on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all the latest updates.
Sign the petition too, it only takes 30 seconds. Save a librarian, brighten a future.