by: John Rodriguez
When a retired professor and one of the founding fathers of the Nuyorican Poetry movement, Miguel Alagrin lost his rent-stabilized apartment other figures of the literary world came to his aide. And for Charlie Vázquez, a writer and poet from Brooklyn, he was one of the people to step forward and come to Alagrin’s aid after coming across a article printed last month about a documentary being produced about Miguel Algarin which mentions his current housing struggles.
Prior to his retirement, Alagrin was a professor at Rutgers University where he taught English Literature for over three decades. After years of service to both the literary and educational worlds, the 70-year-old Educator and Writer now faces eviction from his Lower East Side apartment where he has lived-in since the 80s. With eviction imminent, Alagrin faced a possibility of having no place to go. “I was so upset, I knew right away I had to try to do something,” said Vázquez describing his need to act after discovering Alagrin’s story.
With the motivation to help the fellow writer, Vázquez has organized a fund-raiser to help Alagrin, Slated to be held on July 24th, the event entitled “Words & Music for Miguel Alagrin” will include a collection of poets and spoken-word artists from around the city in hopes of collecting enough money that would help Alagrin. Some of the money collected would help Alagrin pay off legal fees he had gathered while trying to win a suit against his landlord to stay in the apartment. With the legal fees paid off, the fund-raiser could provide Vázquez with the availability of finding a new home.
The upcoming event is scheduled to be held at Phoenix on 449 E. 13th St from 4pm to 10pm. The scheduled performers have appeared across the city at Latino reading series and will include groups like Acentos, Capicu, and Vázquez’s very own Hispanic Panic. Along with the poets and spoken-word artists, the event will include musical acts like San Juan Hill and Machete Movement. All performers have volunteered for the event without any charge.
When asked about the situation he was facing, Alagrin replied that “it’s nothing shocking in New York. I don’t want to make a big drama about; I just have to move out, and that’s it.” Alagrin also acknowledges the fund-raiser being put together for him and says that, “Charlie’s done something very lovely, and I’ll be happy if we can raise some money.”
The fund-raiser is more of a community effort than one man’s appreciation. The support already rising to help Alagrin is but a small repayment for the contribution Algarin has given for the Latino Literature world. “Some of these artists, they live so outside the system, with age they find themselves completely outside of it, and as a community we need to honor their when they need us,” describes Vázquez, mentioning his purpose for putting the fund-raiser together.
The housing issue which Algarin faces isn’t entirely a new one facing the older generation of artists and bohemians. Many who have taken part in the Nuyorican movement have lived in rent-stabilized apartments for decades which remained affordable, but once they have endured a medical emergency or a dispute with landlords they find themselves facing eviction. Another Nuyorican poet, Tato Laviera nearly found himself becoming homeless when he was kicked out of his apartment last year. Thanks to several friends and community members, Laviera was able to secure an apartment in the Taino Towers located in East Harlem.
The Nuyorican Movement was a response to the growing trend of Puerto Rican or Puerto Rican descendants living within New York City and partook in this intellectual movement which contained poets, writers, artists, and musicians. And so, Nuyoricans (New York Ricans) came to be. “I built the Nuyorican with the intent that I becomes the house of poetry,” describes Algarin, “Now what I need to do is raise the awareness of where artists are at with the affordability of housing in this city.”
Housing troubles aside, Algarin has left a great impact on many writers. “Miguel’s work, especially with the Nuyorican, really transformed the neighborhood. All of us who are doing this are inheritors of the tradition he set,” describes Vázquez discussing his own personal views of how Algarin. Despite Algarin having a somewhat touchy relationship with the house of poetry he had help founding, Vázquez shines a light on the contribution Algarin and other members of the Nuyorican movement have made in order to pave the way for future writers.
The fund-raiser will be held this upcoming Sunday, so if you have the time and enjoy poet why not go to a worthy cause and help a popular poet keep a roof over his head.