Suze Guillaume's Beyond Literacy Project

Promoting Literacy and Community Engagement in Miami

This post was originally published on the Knight Foundation website.

By Suze Guillaume

Suze Guillaume is a Miami-based social entrepreneur, author, and founder of the Beyond Literacy Pop-Up Project. Below she writes about her experience with the Emerging City Champions program, which is accepting applications for its 2018 class until April 2, 2018.

The Beyond Literacy Pop-Up (B Lit Pop-Up) is the first of its kind: The pop-up book cart is a wooden library on wheels. It brings literacy to children and parents where they are, by sharing the art of language through history, culture, stories, and books. The book cart features painted shelves (the artwork of 13-year-old local artist Valentina Elao González), inspirational quotes and publications by local writers, as well as a tablet for kids to read e-books. Thanks to the Emerging City Champions Program, B Lit Pop-Up has successfully brought the Miami community together to engage with diverse self-published books and local authors in public spaces.

The first unveiling of the pop-up took place at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, the central hub of Haitian art, history, and culture in Miami. From there, the book cart made seven additional stops on its debut tour of public spaces throughout the city. Wherever the pop-up went, it raised awareness of multicultural authors, artists, innovators and entrepreneurs in South Florida.

Beyond Literacy Pop Up, Miami

During its stop at the Arcola Lakes Branch Library, self-published authors highlighted their works, including:

  • Child-author (and my son!) Edwin Bonilla, Jr. who showcased, “EJ’s Exciting Road Trip”
  • Florida-based author Jennifer Pierre highlighted her book, “Jaylen and the High Five Machine,” and a doll from her diversity-focused toy company, Melanites

Attendees instantly connected with our local authors and entrepreneurs, and linking local talent with people in the community made the project even more meaningful.

The pop-up’s inaugural book tour ended in February 2018 and was a source of inspiration for celebrating diversity and Black History Month. Parents and kids gathered at the Lemon City Branch Library in the heart of Little Haiti for the closing ceremony. Local authors, volunteers, community leaders and musicians filled the room with books and instruments to celebrate literacy in a very special way.

The Emerging City Champions Program supports projects that make their cities more vibrant places to live and work, and there were countless moments during the tour that emphasized the importance of an initiative like B Lit Pop-Up. I cherished the sound of children’s voices running towards the Lemon City Library, eager to interact with the pop-up. Hearing the voice of a little girl sharing that she couldn’t read was and is the inspiration we needed to keep the project going.

We plan to continue the tour with pop-ups at libraries, parks, colleges and other public spaces, and we hope to partner with larger organizations to expand the initiative. I learned during my time as an Emerging City Champion that finding and elevating the voice of the people in your community is vital for a successful project. At its core, B Lit Pop-Up is dedicated to restoring hope in our communities. 8 80 Cities, the nonprofit that leads the Emerging City Champions program, believed in this project and did an amazing job helping me prepare and execute. When you have the passion for your idea and a team of people supporting you, the possibilities are endless.

Apply today for the Emerging City Champions Program.

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