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ARTICLE: Demand a Literacy Centre with Cardboard and a Sharpie

October 14, 2010

One day while procrastinating on the internet, I stumbled on the Urban Literacy Center Manifesto. Initially I thought this was an informational site for an American literacy centre which is appealing to me as I am involved in a number of literary programs both in Montreal and Toronto and one day I hope to build a centre of my own. This was not a site for an actual centre but a cry for the creation of one. The message, the manifesto was written passionately with a Sharpie on a few pieces of cardboard taped to an abandoned building which the manifesto suggests, rather demands, to resurrect into a literary centre.

The author of the Urban Literacy Center Manifesto, whoever he or she is, brings to question where writing and reading are taught. Are the schools, universities and community centres adequate or is there a need for an alternative space that is more accessible and immediate? The manifesto described the proposed centre as “an exodus from the isolated centers of textual language” and guarantees that the centre will be “everything that the coffee shop could have been but for the silence…and $3.00 lattes.” The manifesto continues on, proposing that this building will be the first of 300 literacy centres dedicated to the creative activism of textual production.

Personally I get very excited about street-art (graffiti fits into this category so long as it is either provocative, beautiful or both!) and here the Urban Literacy Center Manifesto works to reclaim an urban space by simply posting ideas onto a wall. There always seems to be a process for change and a cumbersome method to begin that change: a petition to the city council members, a proposal to the utilize the space, funds and grants and patrons to financially back up an idea. Here the approach is simple and direct, but is it effective? Does that even matter whether the manifesto (or art in general) is effective so long as the message gets out? To read the Urban Literacy Center Manifesto click here.

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