Sistah Joy partners with Ja'nice Wisdom of Read Across Jamaica to present the Camp Springs-Temple Hills-Fort Washington Community Reading Party. Members from all segments of the community provide outpouring of support for this "1st annual" literacy event at the Fort Washington McDonald's. Cat in the Hat is a BIG hit with children of all ages!
Camp Springs-Temple Hills-Fort Washington Community Reading Party
By J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford
Poets, authors, and actors joined business owners, elected officials, educators, civic leaders, fire-fighters and more who came together to support the cause of literacy and to celebrate National Poetry Month on Sunday, April 26, 2009, at the Fort Washington McDonald’s. Restaurant owner, Mary Navies, expressed her great pleasure at the success and wonderful turn-out at the first ever Camp Springs-Temple Hills-Fort Washington Community Reading Party. Children of all ages, teens and adults filled the brightly decorated and balloon-filled restaurant where poster sized photographs of children donning the famous “Cat in the Hat” headgear graced the windows and walls of the establishment.
A primary component of the community reading party was a book give-away. Indeed, hundreds of books, if not a thousand, donated by area residents and business owners, lined the windows, and in some cases, sat stacked 10-deep atop tables throughout the restaurant. Books were everywhere! Even as residents arrived, some were still sitting in boxes awaiting display space which was quickly filled as books were removed from display areas by their youthful new owners. All the books were free for the taking as part of this youth empowering literacy-building community event. Thanks to the generosity of countless supporters, some as far away as Baltimore, (thank you Larry Shavers!) every person present was able to literally leave the reading party carrying an armload load of books if they so chose, and some area residents did just that! Even so, hundreds of books will be donated to schools in Jamaica through Read Across Jamaica, which was a partner in presenting the event.
The arrival of The Cat in the Hat was clearly the highlight for all present as he joined the line up of “Literacy Ambassadors” reading “One Fist Two Fish,” thanks to the civic-minded, ever fun-spirited Kevin Hicks, co-owner and manager of Annie’s Art Gallery, who stepped right up when our original Cat was unexpected detained. We all agreed that this Dr. Seuss classic literally seemed to grow pages as he read! Thank you, Kevin, for being such a sport. Although I’m breaking a cardinal rule in this type of post-event article, (because clearly not all names can be listed) I feel that the very nature of the event dictates some public thank-yous. Certainly, thank you to District 8 Councilman Tony Knotts, who arrived early at the event and stayed for its entirety, joining the line-up of Literacy Ambassadors reading to the children and also helping to capture the occasion by photographing many of the event participants as they read on the “open mic.” All agreed that the youth readers were the stars of the afternoon as several 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders read proudly from their newly acquired books. Thanks also to those adult coaches that helped make the occasion so very memorable by helping our young readers that needed a bit of support. Truly, these tender moments were priceless! We look forward to seeing the photos!
Among the many thank you’s that go out, a big thank you goes Fort Washington McDonald’s owner, Mary Navies, and also to MNCPPC who provided audio/technical support enabling restaurant patrons to hear our readers, especially some of our soft-spoken children. We thank all who came out, with a special note of appreciation to poet and author Deserie Johnson who graciously debuted her children’s book, NyAshia's Freedom Ride, treating the young and the young at heart to a delightful dramatic reading of a story rich in cultural and historical references. Poets, Pat Smth, Ladi Di, Beverly Taylor, all of the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church Poetry Ministry (The Anointed P.E.N.S), were wonderful in their poised presentations of both original poetry and children’s book readings. Area activist, Charles Berrin of Berrin Group, LLC, donated boxes of books, and photographed much of the event and read to the children as well. His were the first photos I saw on-line on Facebook, on the evening of the event. Thank you Charles. Leslie Rollins of the Office of Community Relations read a children’s story and shared information about the free services available to county residents from that office. Also present, Maryland State Teachers’ Association representative, Debra Nixon spoke on education issues and concluded her presentation with a few original poems. Poet/actor and author Stan Stewart read for the children and donated a copy of his book, “One Out of Darkness: Poems of a DC Brother. Long known for their support of literacy and the arts, HHOPE, a seniors group from Harmony Hall Regional Center, donated the delicious sheet cake for the event. Camp Springs Civic Association President, Leon Turner, provided support in a myriad of ways, not the least of which was rolling up his sleeves as we wrapped up and closed down the event. Leon Durham, owner of Annie’s Art Gallery mounted the wonderful photographs that were posted throughout the restaurant, and also helped transport the truckload of books to the event, and likewise safely delivered the remaining books which will soon be shipped to Jamaica, making this not just a community event, but an international affair. Thank you also to the Oxon Hill Library for its book donations, to Harris Printing Service and Allentown Printing for printing flyers to publicize the event.
The Camp Springs-Temple Hills-Fort Washington Community Reading Party was sponsored and coordinated by area poet, Sistah Joy in partnership with Read Across Jamaica Founder, Ja’nice Wisdom. It was after being invited by Ja’nice Wisdom to participate in a previous community reading party, I very much wanted to see a similar type of event in my community. I thank Ja’nice for the work she’s doing to promote literacy throughout the metropolitan area and in Jamaica, and definitely appreciate her generous support in helping to present this event in our community. Seeing the success of the community reading party is a dream realized, one that I hope will be repeated. It is wonderful to see our community, the many diverse and extraordinary members of our community, come together; the youth and adult residents, the business owners and civic leaders, educators and artists, all come together to let our children know how much we value them. At the community reading party we did this by giving of our selves and our time, lifting up the youth, listening to them read and reading to them. I believe this is a powerful thing. When our children see, by our actions, that we care about them as an integral part of our community, they in turn care about our community because they understand and value it as their community. Building bridges and connecting people is what I often seek to do through my poetry. This event was a wonderful opportunity for many people to join in and express that they too care about our young people and our community. I hope this is the 1st Annual Community Reading Party in this area, the first of many to come. I thank Councilman Tony Knotts who echoed this sentiment and indicated his support for such future literacy activities.
Although there were clearly too many to name here I’ll close this article by saying thank you to the parents and all of the children that participated in the First Annual Camp Springs-Temple Hills-Fort Washington Community Reading Party. I know I speak for all of the adults when I say to the youth “Congratulations!” for serving as a leader among your peers, and for demonstrating with greatly deserved pride your reading skills that will clearly help you to become tomorrow’s leaders. Each of you is now a Literacy Ambassador in your community. We each look forward to seeing you continue to do wonderful things to let the world know that tomorrow is in good hands.