What does it mean to be Black, Puerto Rican, and marginalized, all within your small neighborhood, within your family? In 1967, Piri Thomas’s seminal memoir “Down These Mean Streets” chronicled his life –a young man living a hard life in the streets of El Barrio, Spanish Harlem. The book would go on to become required reading for anyone trying to find a way out, or a way in.
On February 18, 2012, hundreds gathered at El Museo del Barrio, in Spanish Harlem, to celebrate the life of Piri Thomas and the 45th anniversary of “Down These Mean Streets.” On hand to pay tribute were poets Papoleto Melendez, Nancy Mercado, Martin Espada, Gloria Vando Hickok, Emanuel Xavier, Lemon Anderson, Willie Perdomo, Mayda del Valle; as well as Junot Diaz. All read pieces in honor of the evening. Felipe Luciano, Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, Rich Villar, and Marcela Landres participated on a panel focused on themes from Thomas’s book. The event concluded with loving words from Suzie Dod Thomas, Piri’s wife.
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photo credit: WideVision Photography/Marcia E. Wilson