Grammy-nominated artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Fat Joe visited The New York Public Library’s new Teen Center at the Mott Haven branch in the Bronx on Wednesday to meet with a group of New York City teens and tweens about growing up in the Bronx, dreaming big, and finding personal success..
The Bronx-born star was joined by celebrity chef and restaurateur Melba Wilson and stopped by the branch to meet with dozens of 7th and 8th grade students from local middle school, Brilla College Prep. At the event Fat Joe spoke to the group about his childhood in the Bronx and his successful career in hip-hop. Following his talk, he answered questions from the students about how hip-hop inspired him, his favorite hip-hop artists, and how he created and maintained his successful career in the industry.
During his visit, the branch presented Fat Joe with the Library’s limited-edition card commemorating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop this year, which features a graphic design from the classic 1983 hip-hop film Wild Style. After the event, Fat Joe received a tour of the branch’s Teen Center and its recording studio, both of which opened in September and provides neighborhood teens with opportunities to learn new skills and develop their creative pursuits.
Fat Joe’s visit to the Library—sponsored by NYPL and Harlem restauranter Melba Wilson—was designed to encourage teens to visit their local library—which in addition to having books and homework help, also has teen centers, recording studios, after school programs, college and career prep and so much more available through its Teens 360º initiative (a Tisch Youth Education program).
“Much thanks to Bronx legend Fat Joe and Harlem’s own Melba Wilson for visiting our Mott Haven branch’s new teen center. We have a mission to inspire lifelong learning, and are incredibly grateful to have found partners like Melba and Joe who are equally devoted to lifting the next generation of New Yorkers,” said Anthony Marx, President of The New York Public Library.
“Visiting with the students from Brilla College Prep Middle School brought back memories of the sweetest kind. It took me right back to my childhood library in Harlem, where books were like magic portals to a world of endless learning and imagination. Today, I had the pleasure of joining Joe and spending time with these amazing local teenagers who were just bursting with excitement about their brand-new teen center and all the incredible resources it offers. It truly warmed my heart,” expressed Melba Wilson.
The New York Public Library, which serves the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, has opened a total of 19 new or newly-enhanced teen centers this year, the result of public-private support. The design and renovation of fourteen of the new teen centers, including the new Teen Center at Mott Haven Library were a direct result of funding from Mayor Eric Adams, which was also used to hire additional staff to support the new spaces and created 31 new jobs for teens through the Library’s new Teen Civics Ambassadors program. Along with the City’s support, additional teen centers have opened at libraries throughout the five boroughs as a result of partnerships with Google.org and the Best Buy Foundation and the Joly Family Foundation. The spaces will offer vital resources and expanded services for young adults to build strong foundations for school and later in life.
All of the teen centers are designed to offer teens welcoming and inclusive spaces that meet their educational and social needs and focus on interest-driven learning that supports digital literacy and technology skills, teen empowerment and civic engagement, the exploration of teen voice and social identity, mental wellness, and mentoring opportunities.
Implementing the Library’s initiative, Teens 360º, these dedicated centers will focus on interest-driven learning and innovative programs informed by teens themselves to support digital literacy and technology skills, teen empowerment and civic engagement, the exploration of teen voice and social identity, mental wellness, and mentoring opportunities NYPL has committed to enhancing services for teens across the system, which began with the launch of expanded services at NYPL’s flagship teen center in the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL) in 2021. More information about the programs and services created for teens is available here.
Teens 360º is a Tisch Youth Education Program, led by the Merryl and James Tisch Director of Branch Libraries and Education. Major support for NYPL’s educational programming is provided by Merryl H. and James S. Tisch. Major support for children’s and young adult programming is provided by the Andreas C. Dracopoulos Family Endowment for Young Audiences. Lead support for Teens 360° is provided by the City of New York. Additional support is provided by Arthur W. Koenig, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Evan R. Chesler, and Michael ByungJu Kim and the MBK Educational Foundation.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), one of the world’s leading grantmaking organizations, is connected to a global community of partners working to create transformational change in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and sports, and social welfare.
About The New York Public Library
For over 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With over 90 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars. The New York Public Library receives millions of visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.