WHAT IS WORD UP?
Word Up is a multi-language, general-interest completely volunteer run community bookshop, and arts space in Washington Heights, committed to preserving and building a neighborhood in which all residents help each other to live better informed and more expressive lives, using books as an instrument of reciprocal education and exchange, empowering not only themselves, but their community.
By hosting literary readings, music concerts, film screenings, theater productions, art openings, workshops, community meetings and talks, language salons, and other activities for kids and adults, we do our best to support and fortify the creative spirit unique to our diverse, uptown community.
Word Up is a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization Seven Stories Institute, whose mission is to provide necessary books to communities that do not otherwise have access to them, to stimulate discussion of important policy issues within those communities who have the most to lose in the current political and economic crises but have the least access to the terms of the debate.
HOW DID WORD UP START?
In operation since June 17, 2011, Word Up was intended to be a 1-month program in an empty storefront on Broadway at 176 Street. A local resident worked with arts service organization Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA) to use space donated by the landlord; community publisher Fractious Press to solicit books for initial inventory; book-access organization Seven Stories Institute (SSI) to set up the infrastructure of the bookshop; and neighbors associated with Uptown Collective; Fractious Press; People’s Theatre Project; Music for Daze; UpWord Communications; Washington Heights Free Radio; Sunday Best Reading Series; Kaboom! Press; and World War 3 Illustrated for infrastructure, staffing, promotion, and more. Neighbors spoke up about their need for this space, and we were granted free extensions from our landlord through November. Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance then signed a rental agreement on our behalf, and we held onto it until August 31, 2012, when our lease was terminated. The once-empty storefront was put on the rental market at a much higher rate. At the time of this writing, the storefront remains empty.
More information about Word Up’s beginnings can be found in this Moby Lives interview. You can read more about Word Up on our Press page. We have been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, the Manhattan Times, the NY Daily News, DNAinfo, WNET, Publishers Weekly, El Diario, Care2.com, Examiner.com, and many other publications. Word Up has also been featured on radio (WBAI, WFMU, and local online stations); and on television (Ohayo Nippon [Good Morning Japan], CUNY TV, DominicanYorkTV, and Telemundo).
WHO IS WORD UP?
The Word Up/Seven Stories Institute staff is 100% volunteer-powered, and we rely heavily on community support, such as donated skills and supplies. The 80+ volunteers who have been active since the grand opening—with 20–40 who are still active on a weekly basis, and many who are active on a more-than-weekly basis—hail from the US, the Dominican Republic, Israel, Russia, and Canada. Help keep Word Up viable as a place of shared learning and creativity with YOUR contributions—join us!
We thrive on the love and support from uptown organizations such as Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance—an original cosponsor of Word Up whose mission is to cultivate, support and, promote the works of artists and arts organizations in Northern Manhattan; Uptown Collective; People’s Theatre Project; Fractious Press, Music for Daze; UpWord Communications; Washington Heights Free Radio; the Sunday Best Reading Series; Kaboom! Press; World War 3 Illustrated; United Palace of Cultural Arts; Bread and Yoga/Om Grown Holiday Market; Fresh Youth Initiatives and Fresh Press; and Da Urban Butterflies. We have shared our space with uptown groups we love such as No Name NYC, Young Urban Moms, the Bago Bunch, Cayena Publications, InQbator, the Above the Bridge Reading Series, and the People’s Theatre Project/Seven Stories Institute after-school program Voices: Our Young People Speak, which in 2012 served 17 youth and resulted in a play and a published book.
From the bookselling and publishing communities, we are grateful for the generous donations and support from friends and colleagues at Seven Stories Press, La Casa Azul Bookstore, McNally Jackson Books, Great Jones Books, Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, Distributed Art Publishers, Scholastic, Simon and Schuster, and Viking Penguin.
From our surrounding blocks, local businesses who have shared their resources include Canvas Society, Pick and Eat, Cachapas Y Mas, Mambi Steak House, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Le Chéile, Coogan’s Restaurant, Sano Health Food Center, PALO, Victor’s Bicycle, Toast, Buddha Beer Bar, and Bravo Supermarket. High fives to Danny Spices and the staff at the UPS store on 181 Street between Fort Washington Ave. and Cabrini Blvd.
And of course we would be nowhere without our neighbors, who have contributed everything from time, ingenuity, change (in both the lofty and “Keep the change” varieties), sundry items, sweat, and stories. Uptown, you are creative ones! If we’d have been able to write down everything that has passed here in our first 10 months, embracing the tangents, snatching up passersby with ears pricked for the babies and grandmas, we might have made enough new books to fill another whole bookstore. Or, at least enough for a hearty window display.