We generate income from book sales and membership fees, which only cover a portion of our costs. We need your help to bring Word Up to the next level, so we can become a sustainable, permanent presence in Washington Heights. Your money will go toward
BOOKS. Since opening, we have distributed over 30,000 books in English, Spanish, and Russian. For every dollar you donate, another book is distributed to the Northern Manhattan community.
SUPPORT FOR YOUTH PROGRAMS. Word Up has hosted events and workshops targeted to our younger neighbors in order to engage the nearly 54,000 residents under the age of 18 in Nothern Manhattan. In fact, young people make up 25% of our neighborhood. At a time when the city is facing more cuts to after-school budgets, community-supported youth programs—like Word Up’s teen writing and theater program developed in collaboration with People’s Theatre Project—in neighborhoods like Washington Heights and Inwood are especially crucial.
SPANISH AND BILINGUAL REFERENCE BOOKS FOR ADULTS AND KIDS. Some of our most requested books include dictionaries, grammar books, ESL materials, GED and SAT prep books, and citizenship guides. Service organizations in Northern Manhattan do an outstanding job providing formal classes and workshops for our neighbors; after classes are over, Word Up offers an informal, nonjudgmental environment where skills can be practiced and integrated and refined.
A PERFORMANCE VENUE IN WASHINGTON HEIGHTS FOR BOTH EMERGING ARTISTS AND INTERNATIONAL STARS. From local author readings to Junot Díaz to an interactive theatrical performance co-broadcast from India, Word Up has provided space for local residents to engage with the arts. By the time we closed our original storefront, we had hosted 1,200 people on our stage, not even including the countless “open mic” performers. Some notable performers have included radical comic book artist Seth Tobocman, poet Meena Alexander, comedian Tom Shillue, photographer Arlene Gottfried, homeless and formerly homeless artist collective Concrete Justice, storyteller Michele Carlo, folksinger Ed Askew, local jazz legend Marjorie Eliot, and novelist and founding editor of the Believer Ed Park.
IN-PERSON COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT. Word Up trades Facebook for actual faces. As a venue for language salons, craft circles, career-building tutorials, art exhibits, music lessons, auditions, film shoots, film screenings, puppet shows, meditation and women’s self-defense workshops, health talks, youth leader panels, school field trips, fundraisers for neighborhood groups, and Spanish writing workshops—almost all of which are free—our store has helped build the relationships that build a community.
UPTOWN STOP FOR THE NYC LITERARY COMMUNITY. The publishing capital of the world, New York City features thousands of literary spaces citywide, but relatively few uptown. Word Up has programmed or hosted hundreds of readings and book launches for authors, publishers, and literary journals from all over the city and country, and we have directly supported uptown authors through the sale of their work.
HOME BASE FOR ARTS GROUPS. Many local arts groups have made Word Up their headquarters, such as LGBTQ-focused literary series inQbator; comedic storytelling series No Name NYC; and the Washington Heights Music Festival, presenting emerging artists in bachata, merengue, and hip hop. Other arts groups that have presented work at Word Up include People’s Theatre Project, Teatro las Tablas, 9 Cubed, Laundry Party, Plexus, Above the Bridge, Parkside Poets, and WFMU.
We need a space for all of this to happen. With such a dense population and ever-encroaching speculative markets at the northernmost tip of Manhattan, commercial space is at a premium, despite empty storefront after empty storefront in our busiest shopping corridors. Our aspirations include one day owning our own building, so that a home for literature and other arts would not be subject to rental market forces. In the meantime, we are on the hunt for an affordably priced, centrally located commercial storefront in a high-traffic area. Securing startup costs—upfront rent, initial utilities, fixtures, renovations—is essential to our reopening. With a new space, we’ll be able to do everything we’ve done so far, and much, much more.