May 18, 2009

Día in Detroit

What an exciting and gratifying time I enjoyed at Día celebrations in three cities. Thanks to my host, author and administrator Ethriam Brammer at Wayne State University, I spoke on his campus and at a school in SW Detroit. I also attended the annual Día celebration held in that part of the city. Because the attendance has grown through the years, this year the event was held in a park on a Sunday.

The idea for beginning the annual celebration came from Vicente Sánchez Ventura, the Consul of Mexico based in Detroit, a quiet, formal man with a deep commitment to education and literacy. He’d heard about Día while in Austin. He partnered with Matrix, a large human services provider, and they invited various community agencies to participate. It was moving for me to meet Consul Sánchez and to hear him describe the event in the park this year. “Just look,” he said to me in Spanish. “Unlike the noise and drinking that can be part of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, this is about families. Nothing is being sold, so everyone can attend. Thousands of books are being given away, and vendors are providing water and small snacks gratis. Families are enjoying lotería, puppet shows, face painting, listening to stories, and social service agencies are distributing information about their work.”

It remains a challenge for such annual culminating celebrations that honor children and celebrate a year of linking them to books, languages and cultures to be literacy celebrations. Focus can quickly move to the familiar: music, selling, entertainment for adults. It’s gratifying to participate in events at which committed adults (sporting great Día T-shirts) have worked together for months to create a child/family focused event that truly promotes literacy and how much fun it can be. Bravo to SW Detroit’s amazing and collaborative Día committee chaired by Debra Spring of Matrix! This group has created a fine model.

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