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This Boricua Is Bringing An Indie Bookstore To Her Neighborhood Of 1.4 Million

Nöelle Santos is a woman on a mission: giving her borough a bookstore. The Bronx, where Santos resides, has ten colleges, 1.4 million people and, currently, zero bookstores. Santos told mitú that this was just unacceptable so she is doing something about it.

Nöelle Santos, 30, wants to give her neighborhood a unique and accessible bookstore.


According to the website, The Lit. Bar will be more than just a bookstore. The dream project of Santos, who has a bachelor’s in business management and accounting and master’s in human resources management from Lehman College, will be a bookstore, wine bar and community center.

“I saw this petition going around online in October 2014 and it said that the Barnes & Noble in Co-Op City in Bay Plaza was in jeopardy of being closed; that the landlord didn’t want to extend the lease because they wanted a more affluent tenant, someone who could pay more rent,” Santos told mitú.

The looming, and eventual, threat of the Bronx losing their only bookstore launched Santos into action.

The Lit. Bar / Facebook
CREDIT: The Lit. Bar / Facebook

“I was inspired to do something about it. It was unacceptable to me that there are 1.4 million people in The Bronx and 10 colleges and we only had one bookstore. I decided right then and there that I was going to do something about it; that I was going to open my own bookstore and make it more accessible because I drive but that’s not the case for most people in my borough,” Santos told mitú. “It was really hard to get all the way to Co-Op City. There’s no train that goes over there; that goes all the way to the northeast. Also, it’s a corporate chain store so it never reflected our local people and the demographic that we have here, so I figured that I could do something really special for The Bronx by bringing a second bookstore and it just so happens that now I’m going to be the only one.”

Santos understands the importance of literacy in getting any education.

The Lit. Bar / Facebook
CREDIT: The Lit. Bar / Facebook

“First, I need to give people in The Bronx access to books. Just at its core, books and reading and literacy are the foundations for any type of learning so my people need access to books first and foremost. Secondly, specifically where I’m from in the south Bronx, we’ve seen a wave of gentrification and we’ve seen a more affluent demographic move into the borough and gentrification is a thing,” Santos mentioned to mitú about the need for a neighborhood bookstore where neighbors can meet and talk about tense issues.

But she also hopes that the bookstore becomes a place of community.

The Lit. Bar / Facebook
CREDIT: The Lit. Bar / Facebook

“I don’t want to see the borough become ‘The Tale Of Two Cities’ where you have the rich on one side and the poor on the other. I want to make a home for people to actually connect and communicate about these issues and become real neighbors and I can’t think of a better way to do that than through wine and books,” Santos expressed about her hopes of bringing community together through books.

The Boricua bookstore owner is also dedicated to making sure her store reflects her community.


“My inventory is going to be general interest but we’re going to specialize in women’s and local interest, whatever that may be at that time,” Santos said adding that, “about 60 percent of my population speaks Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish myself but I’m going to make sure that I have somebody on staff at all times that speaks Spanish and I’m also going to look into the statistics and I’m going to also address other languages other than Spanish.”

Santos also encourages others to start their own bookstores if they live in underserved neighborhoods because independent bookstores are doing just fine.


“We are thriving and don’t be afraid because you see Borders closing and Barnes & Noble closing down. Independent bookstore sales and statistics are nothing like Barnes & Noble,” Santos stated to mitú. “They abandoned local communities and became corporations and they are feeling the affects of that because the only way they can compete with Amazon is on price and you know who’s going to win there.”

If you’d like to donate to Santos’ crowdfunding efforts, you can click here.

indiegogo.com
CREDIT: indiegogo.com

READ: An Afro-Dominican Mom Made A Bilingual Book So Children And Parents Can Discuss Race And Color

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A Transgender Activist Leader Has Passed Away From Covid-19 And Her Community Mourns A Great Loss

Things That Matter

A Transgender Activist Leader Has Passed Away From Covid-19 And Her Community Mourns A Great Loss

@NYCSpeakerCoJo / Twitter

New York City has been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic and it has claimed a long list of victims. But one of the most high-profile losses has come this week as the city’s LGBTQ community mourns a major loss.

A pillar of New York City’s Latinx LGBTQ community, Borjas had long been known as a staunch defender of the rights of trans people, Latinx people, undocumented people and sex workers.

And now her beloved NYC LGBTQ community is mourning a huge loss during an already unprecedented crisis.

Beloved NYC transgender advocate Lorena Borjas has died after contracting Covid-19.

Borjas died on Monday, at Coney Island Hospital, in Brooklyn, of complications from Covid-19. Just a few weeks ago, Borjas set up a fund for trans-people who had lost their jobs to COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus.

She left an orphaned community of transgender women, especially Latina immigrant women in Queens, and countless LGBTQ-rights activists who looked to her for guidance, inspiration, and love.

“Lorena Borjas was a real hero for trans people, especially in Queens. She was a leader, a builder and a healer,” Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “The NCTE family is saddened by her passing and has her broad family and the Queens Latinx community in our hearts today.”

Activists and community leaders across New York City took to social media after the news of her death broke.

Adding an additional level of heartbreak, her memorial was hosted on digital meeting platform Zoom – a departure from her normal community building. More than 200 people attended the online memorial to share in her legacy of community-building, and joined together to take close, personal care of people across the community.

Originally from Mexico, Borjas has been called the mother of the transgender Latinx community in New York.

Credit: @NYCSpeakerCoJo / Twitter

At seventeen, she ran away to Mexico City, where she lived in the streets. At twenty, she crossed the border into the United States, where she hoped she would be able to receive hormone treatments. She made her way to New York City, where she studied for her GED and then studied accounting.

Lorena fought tirelessly for the rights and well-being of LGBTQ people, immigrant communities and sex workers. Lorena Borjas started a mutual aid fund for members of the transgender community who were suffering financial hardship during the coronavirus crisis.

Borjas had been a prominent community organizer and health educator for decades, working to end human trafficking, which she herself survived, according to the Transgender Law Center. In 2017, she received a rare pardon from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for a conviction she received in the 1990s while being trafficked, with Gov. Cuomo praising her advocacy work in New York state. (The conviction had put Borjas, a Mexican national, at high risk of deportation.)

An outpouring of grief came from all directions.

Credit: Cristina Herrera / Facebook

Her loss has inspired tributes from countless activists and leaders, including Rep.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and blogger Monica Roberts. “Lorena spent her life tirelessly fighting and supporting our trans sisters, making sure they were treated with dignity and respect they deserve,” Make the Road New York, an organization that fights for immigrant and working class communities, said in a statement. “We will truly miss her. May she rest in power and love.”

“The Hate U Give” Is Getting A Prequel Thanks To Author Angie Thomas About Maverick

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“The Hate U Give” Is Getting A Prequel Thanks To Author Angie Thomas About Maverick

The Hate U Give/ 20TH CENTURY FOX)

Back in 2017, author Angie Thomas released the YA novel, The Hate U Give. The Black Lives matter book quickly caught attention for its story related to the Black Lives Matter movement and quickly became a success debuting at number one on The New York Times young adult best-seller list where it remained for 50 weeks. Within a year of its publication the book was adapted into a film starring  Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, K. J. Apa, Common, and Anthony Mackie.

This week, author Angie Thomas announced that she’s bringing the power of the original story back.

https://www.instagram.com/angiethomas/

In a post to her Instagram account, Thomas announced that she has written a prequel to the beloved novel. In a post featuring a photo of the new book cover, Thomas shared that her new novel called Concrete Rose that her book is due to be published. “After months of waiting (and trolling on my part), I can finally reveal my third novel, Concrete Rose. Set 17 years before The Hate U Give, it follows young Maverick Carter. A huge thank you to Alison Donalty, Jenna Stempel-Lobell, and artist Cathy Charles for this mind-blowing cover. It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” she wrote in her post.

Speaking to People about her upcoming novel, Thomas explained why she chose to center the book around the father of the protagonist from her first novel.

“Of all characters who really just stayed with me, Maverick was at the top of that list,” Angie explained to People. “And what was fascinating to me was once readers started reading The Hate U Give and then when the film came out, he was the character that I was asked about the most.”

Like Thomas’s last book, “Concrete Rose,” takes its title from a Tupac Shakur title.

The title comes from the Tupac Shakur song “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” and will follow Maverick’s when he is 17-years-old and a young father to Starr’s older brother, Seven.

“The big thing I’m excited for readers to learn about with Maverick, specifically, is that there are things that he has done in his life that his kids don’t even know about,” Angie told People interview. “I’m also excited to show this bonding between father and son… So many people assume that Black kids, especially Black kids in the hood, don’t have fathers. And that’s a lie. So many of them do.”