For reasons far beyond me, it appears that I've not written much about Word Up on this blog (perhaps it just goes to show how negligent I have been about keeping this blog updated...) In short, Word Up is a collective of artists, musicians, dreamers, authors, actors, revolutionaries, photographers, poets, designers (etc!) that grew out of the fertile cultural soils of Washington Heights and Inwood. We began to meet each other and collaborate on changing the world after the first few volunteers, in June 2011, established a "pop-up bookshop" inside a storefront on Broadway and 176 street. 

Out of this perfectly-located space, in the middle of the "book desert" that is uptown Manhattan, we offered new and used books (for cheap!) and provided a stage where locals could express themselves in almost any medium they could imagine! And I knew immediately upon stepping foot in the store that it was itself the NYC manifestation of the 3rd fold of my three-fold-vision for Chicago!

The store was originally expected to stay open for only one month, but due in large part to widespread support from the neighborhood, we were able to stay put for over a year! Higher rent costs finally pushed us out of the space by the end of August this year.

But Word Up has always been much more than a space to meet in. We are a collective of kickass people. So as long as we continue to meet and change the world - particularly our neighborhood - together, we are alive and well!

One of the recent big projects was to organize the launch of a new arts organization in the hood, the United Palace of Cultural Arts. For one action-packed night, we pooled our collective awesomeness and splashed it all around the magnificent building just across the street from where our beloved store was once located. We even popped up a small version of the bookstore in the lobby!
The next big project is to raise funds for our re-opening. I will bring more details about this as soon as they are available. In the mean time, enjoy these videos with footage from the UPCA launch and the past year at WU!
I live in NYC. I moved here in September 2009 to get involved with Trinity Grace Church and learn the ropes of church-planting. I wanted to eventually utilize my own knowledge, skills, resources, support, and team to plant a church in the great city of Chicago. But I learned early on that my primary challenge would be simply surviving in NYC. I was told that if I could make it here, I could make it anywhere

In many ways, I've flipped the notion around and have even become (occasionally) the face of surviving simply: working full time as a writer, busker, performance artist, volunteer, activist, and freegan spokesperson. I live so simply, in fact, that I doubt I'll have the means to follow God to the Windy City any time soon. I don't really mind this, since I know that God is not leading me there yet anyway. There is still much for me to learn and experience in NYC (and elsewhere?) before that happens. Thankfully, God's work in and through me is ever-evident as I live missionally in NYC: molding my life, my story, the places I visit, the people I meet; teaching, leading, using me in ways that reflect and renew who I am, what I am good at, and what I am passionate about. 

In September 2010, about one year after my move to the city, I received a vision from God like a 10-second-old polaroid picture of my own kitchen sink, a place in Chicago where I could do the dishes:
  1. 24/7 house of prayer and worship
  2. Homeless kitchen and resource center
  3. Art community center and DIY showspace

The vision has since developed a bit and I just continue shaking it (in more ways than one) as I do the dishes here in NYC. I anticipate that my years here will help me to further develop my vision and prepare me to materialize and plant it in Chicago. In all its facets. At some point in the not-too-distant future.
I participated in a conference today about faith-rooted organizing. We were given some time to reflect on our dreams for our selves and our communities. I wrote the following:

Myself My dreams are to move to Chicago and plant a church there. To become financially secure. To do what I love, even if it's music, teaching, activism - even if it doesn't pay well... or at all. To rest in the father's goodness, love, and provision, so that I can work and give towards the Kingdom without distraction, anxiety, or fear.

Community Money is not the central motivator in life. People give and share freely, open-handedly, without price tags. All people are treated with dignity and respect, nobody is homeless or with need. We are propelled primarily by love.
I've had this cork board hanging on my wall(s) since I moved to Orlando in Fall 2004. I've moved about seven times since then; still there are certain papers, photographs, lists, and notes that have stayed with me and weathered all these years!
One of them is a small slip that reads:

prayer movement!

I always kept that little slip of paper because the words on it, though written back in 2006, always seemed to carry so much weight. I knew they would periodically remind me of something God might desire for my life, something I might have an important role in. I could not have imagined then what S/he had in store for me.

Five years later I am living in NYC, working full time as a songwriter, busker, performance artist, and writer. I'm also a Christian, anarchist, and peace-maker; committed to my church, city, and a DIY ethic (respectively). I also happen to love the homeless.

God has combined all these existential hues to stamp a rather vague image in my mind, heart, and spirit: the vision God has for me in Chicago, which I affectionately and expectantly call my "Kitchen Sink". There are three parts to this vision:
  1. 24/7 house of prayer and worship
  2. Homeless kitchen and resource center
  3. Art community center and DIY showspace

I anticipate that my years in NYC will help me to further develop my vision and prepare me to materialize and plant it in Chicago. In all its facets. At some point in the not-too-distant future.

That being said, I am actively seeking out opportunities in NYC to increase in knowledge and experience in all three facets...
Thank you God for this vision! It took a whole year, but now I've got it. Time to seek the resources to implement this rather grandiose vision. But nothing is impossible with you - NOTHING. And I know you have put this vision on my heart. Thank you also for putting Chicago on my heart. Clear the path for me so that I might implement this vision to the glory of your name and kingdom!
I pray for the city of Chicago - that the city itself AND I will be ready for this big change. This HUGE addition to Chicago. Continue to mature this vision in my mind and heart as the time nears for me and my crew of fellow Christ-followers and Kingdom-bearers to launch this project in [downtown?] Chicago!
This is very exciting, Lord. Temper my idealism with some realism and pragmatism. Let this not be fleeting - may this be to the renewal of the city and the revival of your Church there! Help me to better connect with my brothers there - be they Christian, anarchists, homeless, artists, musicians, what have you. Lord, I know you will bring this to fruition in due time. I know also that you will lead me. Grant me the faith, courage, and discernment to follow.
Your humble servant,