We're writing this with the purest of eye strain, excitement, and ... pooped-out-ness. We usually have something to update or elaborate on. Right now, we're feeling like a massage or a hammock and some sunshine might be better.
We've been coordinating a fundraiser, which is hannenin' on Sunday! It's been months in the making, and it's insane to finally be at the last few production days. When we started planning this fundraiser, we had no idea where to begin—other than with vision. Last October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month inspired us to pull an open mic together before the year closed. Thankfully, that plan went kaput.
Instead, we're arriving at April 2018, which marks bklynprose's official two-year anniversary! October 2017 marked our one-year anniversary for the blog, but April 2016 was when this idea became a thangthang. And boi, it's been a trip. Above all, we love this growing community of writers, thinkers, and phuck-the-system-ers.
Synchronicity has also brought Beatriz, the founder of @bedstuybookclub, into our bubble! That's who we're spotlighting today, which is right on time since WE'LL BE CO-HOSTING THE FUNDRAISER TOGETHER THIS SUNDAY WOO!
Scroll for our Started Small interview with Beatriz, where we talk through her love of community, and this acute obsession with the (314). Also, this was the flyer that made this friendship happen:
Quick look 👀
Tiny Letter: Beatriz Kaye
Beatriz Kaye is a designer, writer, community organizer and a natural hustler. She follows through with everything she's intensely passionate about—including starting a neighborhood book club for women of color named Bed-Stuy Book Club.
Walk us through your favorite place(s) in the Philippines, which is where you spent the first 12 years of your life.
OK. This is a really odd concept. But in the Philippines, if you go to a private school, there's usually one huge campus with different buildings that include kindergarten through college. So the school that I went to (shoutout to Miriam College real quick) had this huge campus with a lot of greenery in between the buildings.
I used to eat lunch alone in the library and read. I have fond memories of reading a book under a tree on campus grounds while waiting for my mom to pick me up from school. Does this sound bleak af? Lol.
(^ No, boo, you are speaking yo' truth. *SNAPS TO YOU.*)
How has your cultural background influenced a passion for cultivating community?
In Filipino culture, everyone you surround yourself with is automatically your family. When you’re at a party and you see your mom’s friend Joanna, you would call her Tita ("Aunt") Joanna. You truly welcome everyone with open arms and make them feel like you’ve known them forever.
On a personal note, I've moved around every three to four years since I was a child; I’ve never truly felt rooted. Even when my family moved to the US, I never stayed in one place for longer than four years.
Bed-Stuy is the first place where I've felt settled—this neighborhood has a very specific creative, calm, ambitious energy 🌻
A combination of these ideas are the backbone of cultivating community:
- Treat everyone like family
- Expect the members of your communities to succeed
- Continue to hype them up
- Spread positivity and creativity <3
You started a Brooklyn-based book club that everyone should know about. Wassup with Bed-Stuy Book Club!? Why’d you start it, and why is it focused on women of color?
Yaaas! When I first moved to Bed-Stuy, I became very aware of my presence as a gentrifier. As a young, urban creative, everyone needs to be aware of their privilege. Our presence in this neighborhood signifies an economic and political shift that can impact the people who've been rooted here for a long time.
My advice to anyone who feels uncomfortable about their privilege is to literally talk to your neighbors. Listen to what they have to say 🗣️
I wanted to find a way to reach out to the women in my neighborhood and share things that I’m passionate about. Bed-Stuy Book Club is a group of WOC that read books by fellow WOC. From the start, I’d always wanted it to be a safe space for women to talk about stories that they can imagine themselves starring in when they close their eyes.
Big up to St. Louis. that's where you settled down for a lil' when your fam hit the States! Tell us the flaming reasons(s) why you “will literally never rid of” your 314 area code?
314!!! Bro, when I was growing up, I would literally call the radio station and request Nelly. Can you imagine a 9-year-old calling a radio station and fully being like,
“Um, hello. Can I please request, 'Hot in Herre'... By Nelly…?” 🤔
But in all seriousness, my sisters and my mom still currently live in St. Louis and we all have 314/636 area codes. My sisters are in this transitional phase where they’re going away for college, and I just think it’s sweet that we all have St. Louis area codes.
Beyond Bed-Stuy Book Club, you spend weekdays leading the charge as a production manager and designer. Is it too soon to ask about work? I bet some readers will relate to both your success and your stress. (Hah.)
Not too soon to talk about work. It’s all good. Lmao.
I studied fashion design in college, and I’m so so so lucky that I’m able to pursue that passion as my day job. It took a long time and a lot of hard work to get here, but you just gotta trust the process.
I fell in love with this industry because the factories where we make clothes are comprised of talented, creative, highly-skilled immigrant women 🌏
We work with a factory in New York whose sewing team is comprised of all Asian women and is led by an Asian woman. We also work with a team of Latinx men and women in LA, which is led by a trilingual, entrepreneurial, amazing Asian woman.
Seriously, being around this amount of hustle has changed my life in ways I can’t fully express. That cheesy line that says, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” is honestly true. The reason I’m still out here with a ton of energy to pound the pavement for Bed-Stuy Book Club is because I’m never tired of pursuing things that I’m passionate about.
Your book club prioritizes the voices and stories of non-black WOC, which is an important piece often missing from the POC puzzle. What are three of your favorite books that fit this description?
We're not necessarily prioritizing non-black WOC stories, but I’m making sure to include them in the lineup. This book club represents Asian culture, Latinx culture, Middle Eastern culture in equal visibility to Black culture, and even exploring the ways that those cultures intersect. Because while visibility is lower in non-black cultures, there's also this history of anti-black attitudes within non-black POC communities. (It’s all v complicated, actually. Lol.)
Stay woke ✊🏻✊🏼✊🏾✊🏿
Side note: Filipino culture is a unique mix of Asian and Hispanic cultures, and I seriously never read/hear any of our stories in media. So I wrote a few of them here.
Milk & Honey: Rupi Kaur
Rupi is a really beautiful poet who turned very personal, traumatic events into a source of positivity. If you’re trying to cry, laugh, have your heart ripped out, scream, and sit in all your feelings, definitely pick this book up.
This is a very famous collection of essays that I had to read in college. This sh*t seriously changed my life. The sh*t hat really got me is how Anzaldua talks about the displacement that hyphenated identities feel all the time. But then she flips the f*cking script and says, “NO! This displacement does not define us! We are the bridge that connects one land to another and that’s powerful as sh*t!” (Obviously, not direct quotes, but my own summary and interpretation.)
The House on Mango Street:
I first read this book when I was in high school, and it just GUTTED ME. This story digs deeper into this concept that as a marginalized person, you have to leave your community behind in order to become successful. If you’re feeling particularly emotionally masochistic, grab a tub of ice cream, read The House on Mango Street, pause halfway and watch this Ted Talk. You’ll never be the same.
If BSBC (yas) could be the book club of your dreams, what three elements would it include? No dreams are too big for bklynprose. Revolutionize the book club!
The goals are not grand, but the impact would be very important:
- To read and discuss stories of WOC not present in mainstream media.
- To supportand empower local businesses by partnering with them
- Camaraderie, networking, and being a well-rounded hype person for all WOC
What inspires you to see this club through the long-term?
I’ve heard stories of people who have been in book clubs for years, which is amazing! Personally, I’m just dying to talk to more people about good sh*t that I’m reading, and I know that these conversations will be really meaningful in different ways for anyone who attends.
A lot of people say, 'Yeah, I’ve been meaning to read more,' so let the Book Club be the kick you need 🎒
How will you and your book club change the world? And let the world know what sort of places you’re currently hosting them and where you’d like to host in the future!
This is so cheesy, but really, I don’t have this grandiose idea of changing the whole world. Hah. I want to bring the ladies in my community together to share our stories.
I'm reaching out to Bed-Stuy cafes and restaurants so we can have a cute rotation of places while supporting those businesses. We have two monthly meetings—one on a weekday and one on a weekend—to accommodate folks’ schedules.
Because I love being cheesy, say bye bye to our readers with a quote from a book that’s majorly impacted your life.
“Womanhood taught me: Staying silent about my story and struggle serves no one.” This quote is via Alexandra Elle's "Neon Soul: A Collection of Poetry and Prose" 📚
We'LL bE dAmNed.
Holla if you are one those folks who tells B how much you need to read! Her energy is just falls onto the page, eh? Ungh.
If you have day plans tomorrow, do they really matter more than B's next book club meeting? If you're NYC-local, join her, fellow WOC, and us! Peep her IG for the dets. Below is the flyer! And here's some pics of our first meeting (yup, we hungout at Manny's for hours watching the weather become pouring rain).
Before you go, here's a link to our last post, which was a supa left brain post by Calla Boyer (gender quotas: meh). Click here for what inspires Latiana to push past PTSD, and this is a link to our last Started Small feature, Ashley Bryan!