Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lonnie Holley at Word Up next Wednesday

The amazing and renowned sculptor and musician from Birmingham, Alabama, brings his improvised song world to Word Up, where he will be accompanied by Word Up volunteer Will Glass on drums.

w/ Will Glass
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 @ 7 PM
Word Up Community Bookshop
2113 Amsterdam Avenue @ 165th St.
$10 suggested donation at the door

Lonnie Holley was born on February 10, 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama. From the age of five, Holley worked various jobs: picking up trash at a drive-in movie theatre, washing dishes, and cooking. He lived in a whiskey house, on the state fairgrounds, and in several foster homes. His early life was chaotic and Holley was never afforded the pleasure of a real childhood.

Since 1979, Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art and music, born out of struggle, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound. Holley’s sculptures are constructed from found materials in the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Objects, already imbued with cultural and artistic metaphor, are combined into narrative sculptures that commemorate places, people, and events.

Holley did not start making and performing music in a studio nor does his creative process mirror that of the typical musician. His music and lyrics are improvised on the spot and morph and evolve with every event, concert, and recording. In Holley’s original art environment, he would construct and deconstruct his visual works, repurposing their elements for new pieces. This often led to the transfer of individual narratives into the new work creating a cumulative composite image that has depth and purpose beyond its original singular meaning. The layers of sound in Holley’s music, likewise, are the result of decades of evolving experimentation. “Just Before Music” features Holley’s first studio recordings made in 2010 and 2011.

Lonnie and Will will also be performing at Baby’s All Right on April 15th, and at the Studio Museum in Harlem on April 19th. 

Your weekend at Word Up

The Small Idea Family Night. Photo: Adrienne Cichelli

The Small Idea Family Night. Photo: Adrienne Cichelli

As we complete our first eight months at our new location, we’re continually in awe of all the things that take place within the walls of 2113 Amsterdam Avenue. There is nothing like coming from the after-school program we co-facilitate down the street, walking into the store to scores of neighborhood kids and parents singing together during a Family Night organized by The Small Idea, then transitioning the space as efficiently as possible—i.e. cleaning up all the ankle-high popcorn—just in time for Al Jazeera to come to film the next event, the Uptown Freegan Meetup. Yup, just another Wednesday night at Word Up! And a happy eight months it’s been.

With that, we heartily encourage you to come by this weekend for one of these great events: Friday’s usual open mic (7–9pm), Gagá pa’l pueblo in a new Saturday night timeslot (6–9pm), the Joy of Improv workshop with Bob Lamm (Sunday, 3–5pm), and a conversation between this month’s featured gallery artist Yael Ben-Zion and author Lise Funderburg, moderated by Gabriel de Guzman, with refreshments (Sunday, 5:30–7pm). See you soon!

GagaPalPueblo_140329Saturday, March 29 | 6–9pm
Gagá Pa’l Pueblo
Usually taking place every Sunday in the summertime at Anne Loftus Playground at Fort Tryon Park, Gagá pa’l pueblo is a gathering of folks preserving, enhancing, and practicing Afro-Dominican traditional music. Now that it’s a little chillier outdoors, we’re bringing the celebration indoors once a month. And for the first time at Word Up, it’ll be on a Saturday night! Come for the music, stay for the dancing . . .

Sunday, March 30 | 3–5pm
The Joy of Improv with Bob Lamm
Enjoy creating improvisational comedy in a relaxed, supportive atmosphere. No performing experience is necessary—just a willingness to play, experiment, and laugh with others. Instructor Bob Lamm is a writer and teacher who runs the Novels With a Social Conscience Book Club at Word Up. He has taught improv classes at NYU and the CUNY Graduate Center, and has run workshops at Vassar, Sarah Lawrence, the Hebrew Tabernacle, Covenant House, and many high schools.

Sunday, March 30
 | 5:30–7pm
Intermarried Artist Talk: Yael Ben-Zion & Lise Funderburg in discussion, moderated by Gabriel de Guzman
Yael Ben-Zion‘s photography exhibition Intermarried—presenting self-identified “mixed” couples in their everyday environments—is currently on view in the gallery space at Word Up. On Sunday, March 30th, she will be joined by Lise Funderburg, author of Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk about Race and identity, and Gabriel de Guzman, the curator of visual arts at Wave Hill and the curator of this exhibition.

Wednesday: Family Night & Uptown Freegans

UptownFreegansWednesdays are normally our calmest days at the bookshop, but tonight we have not just one but two activities: small idea Family Night, hosted by volunteers Melissa and Kevin Guzman, and the monthly Uptown Freegans Meetup, hosted by volunteer Gio Andollo. See below for more details, and see you tonight at the bookshop!

Wednesday, March 26 | 5:30–7:30pm
small idea Family Night
Come out to Family Night at Word Up for music and fun! We will have bookmaking tables, puppets, games, storytelling, and live music. Discover Word Up, our lovely volunteers, and the friendly space. Find out how to keep this wonderful store vibrant and open to our community for many years to come.

Wednesday, March 26 | 8:30–9pm
Uptown Freegans Meetup
Word Up volunteer and Uptown Freegans founder Gio Andollo will lead a food rescue mission around the neighborhood. See for more information.

Next Saturday: Projections: The Faces Behind the Dolls / Los Rostros Detrás de las Muñecas

PROJECTIONS_MARCH_DOLLS-01Our next Projections screening is of the documentary The Faces Behind the Dolls / Los Rostros Detrás de las Muñecasdirected by Freddy Vargas and produced and researched by Mary Ely Peña-Gratereaux—about the Dominican immigrant women who labored at the Madame Alexander Doll company in New York City. Their stories demonstrate how the world economic system shaped and transformed the lives of immigrants as they integrated themselves into the US labor market, and ultimately how globalization and its discontents drowned many of these workers’ dreams as production shipped to China when the company closed its doors. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

Saturday, March 22, 2014
6:30 PM
Word Up Community Bookshop / Librería Comunitaria
2113 Amsterdam Avenue @ 165th St.
Admission: $5 (reduced to $3 if you sign up as a Continuing CSB Member—learn more about the CSB member program here)

Face Out: Bird of Paradise by Raquel Cepeda



Next in our Face Out series . . .
Bird of Paradise by Raquel Cepeda 
Thursday, March 20 @ 7 PM
Word Up – 2113 Amsterdam Avenue @ 165th St.

Born in Harlem and raised (mostly) in Inwood to Dominican parents, award-winning journalist, cultural activist, and documentary filmmaker Raquel Cepeda is the author of Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina. Equal parts memoir about Cepeda’s coming of age in New York City and Santo Domingo, and detective story chronicling her year-long journey to discover the truth about her ancestry, the book also looks at what it means to be Latina today.

Raquel Cepeda is currently in production on Deconstructing Latina, a documentary focusing on a group of troubled teenage girls in a suicide prevention program who are transformed through an exploration of their roots via the use of ancestral DNA testing. Cepeda’s writings have been widely anthologized and her byline has been featured in media outlets include the New York Times, Associated Press, the Village Voice, MTV News,, and many others. Visit Cepeda at

Join Raquel Cepeda and Word Up in celebrating the paperback release of Bird of Paradise.