This rainy Tuesday in Brooklyn seemed to be starting off in the same fashion. I left home walking to the subway to head into Manhattan when I passed two people under a bus stop giving away free books and coffee. As a resident of New York City I have grown accustomed to keeping my head down, walking at a fast pace with the unmitigated intent of getting to my destination. However, the bright colors of the furniture filled with books along with the friendliness of these two individuals under this ordinary bus stop in Brooklyn made me stop and do a double-take. I was glad I did.
On this day, May 1st, deemed by many as May Day, activists from across the country had gathered in protest hoping to breathe fresh life into the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Five hundred gathered in Bryant Park and over 300 gathered on the Brooklyn Bridge. However, these two activists in Brooklyn decided not to participate in the protests and wanted to create change in a different way.
Margaret, an unemployed librarian, and Adam, an architect looking for work, decided to create the "pop-up" library. The idea is simple. Gather as many donated books as possible (they got their original books from the Occupy Wall Street library), collect furniture from the street to paint in nice bright colors, get mugs of coffee and put it all out in urban locations throughout the community. They had carefully selected areas of the community that looked as though they could benefit from some brightening up ... not only with paint and bright colors but also with knowledge. There you have the "pop-up" library.
When I walked past this previously dreary bus stop, now turned into a brightly colored location for knowledge, I was amazed. People were continuously stopping by grabbing books, having a cup of coffee, and most who had never met each other were engaging in casual conversation. This street corner Starbucks "in the hood" had apparently captivated an audience.
As I sat and talked with these two visionary activists I thought about the American Dream. The American Dream is different for many but in this moment I thought about it as more than being rich and "making it." In this moment I recognized it for what it was ... the ability for all of us to make a difference in the lives of others. Here you had two people who could have been at home worried and in despair about not having a job, but they decided that the battleground started in their community right on the streets where they live. They believe in change and they recognize that the most important part of change is the action you decide to take ... no matter how large or small. These two martyrs of unexpected fate had decided their futures are not written for them, but by them. Not having a job does not mean you can't make a difference, or make change. I was so proud to see two of the best of America right on my own block. I see great potential in their futures and for those they touch!
I took the time to interview them and during this brief interview you can see for yourselves how change can be accomplished no matter what the circumstances may be. I hope you tweet them @rekstur and email them to find out how you can support their movement at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Ryan Mack on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ryancmack