We Are Melrose (WAM) Street Festival

WE ARE BACK! And we have a date: Saturday, June 11, 2022 ~ 12pm-5pm.

After a two-year dormant period due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Nos Quedamos is delighted to announce that its annual community-wide celebration, WE ARE MELROSE (WAM) Street Festival, is making a much-anticipated return on Saturday, June 11th from 12pm until 5pm! (observing all mandated and precautionary health & safety protocols, of course). This year’s theme is “Healing and Resiliency.” The festival will take place at East 160th Street between Melrose & Elton Avenues, adjacent to Yolanda García Park (named after Nos Quedamos’ founder). We will also be celebrating Nos Quedamos’ 29th anniversary!

As you can imagine, we couldn’t be happier than to showcase the best cultural ambassadors of the Bronx in a multitude of LIVE in-person entertainment genres from dancing, music, spoken word and poetry, performing arts and more in the heart of the South Bronx: MELROSE COMMONS. The event is a family-friendly gathering with lots for everyone to enjoy, including organized game-play, face-painting, give-aways and raffles, as well as dynamic story-telling sessions geared to younger audiences. In addition, numerous service providers will be tabling to share a wealth of relevant and timely resources throughout the day from health to housing, and more (including give-aways).

One of the capstones of this festive and diverse multi-cultural celebration is Nos Quedamos’ annual HARVESTING CULTURE AWARDS that celebrate Community, Culture & Commitment.

These awards recognize the bountiful accomplishments of Bronx pioneers and stakeholders who have made positive contributions to the well-being and forward development of Melrose Commons and South Bronx. This year we recognize 8 dynamic, community-minded champions across a spectrum of vocations and commitments, including an emerging voice making an impact. Read more about the awards and 2022 recipients HERE.


ZAYDA RIVERA is the founder of Mindful Living with Z, which she launched in 2019 following a near-death experience. After more than a decade of practicing meditation and yoga, Z answered the call to take a deeper dive in healing modalities to heal herself and others. She became a certified Reiki Master-Teacher, yoga instructor, meditation guide, and tarot reader. Z is also a spiritual mentor, assisting others who seeking a deeper connection with the Divine.

Sponsored by Mindful Living with Z.

During the pandemic, Z worked with people across the United States and beyond, as far as Germany. The collective grief being experienced around the world brought people from all walks of life to seek the offerings of Mindful Living with Z, which include in-person and distant Reiki healing sessions, intuitive Tarot/Oracle readings, sound healing therapy, guided meditation, yoga, and a 6-month spiritual mentorship.

Since launching Mindful Living with Z, she has certified over three dozen women of color as Reiki 1 & 2 practitioners.

Additionally, Z is blessed to combine her journalism experience and spiritual work by contributing monthly columns for POPSUGAR Latina about baños and limpezas for the new and full moons, and Parents Latina.

Z received an undergraduate degree in communication sciences from the University of Connecticut. She has studied mediation and mindfulness under world-renowned teachers like Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle. Z received a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Certification from Nueva Alma Yoga and Wellness Studio and her Reiki Master-Teacher certification from the Montclair Psychic School under Reiki Master, Lee Anne VanZyl. She is currently studying curanderismo under curandera Erika Buenaflor.

More about Zayda: Instagram | zaydarivera.com

WAM CULTURAL PERFORMANCES (lineup in formation)

MazArte Dance Company

MAZARTE DANCE COMPANY is inspired by traditional Mexican dances and brings its folklore back to life, combining dance, research and indigenous art. Our work honors the cultural vastness of Mexico as they embody the fusion of Mexico’s old and new as part of Mazarte’s mission to preserve these dances for the community and generations to come. MazArte endeavors to create a union between dance, research and indigenous art to promote our Mexican cultural heritage, bring history to life and produce educational programs to our communities. We want to expand cultural awareness and an appreciation that will nurture diversity and inclusivity.

More about MazArte Dance Company

MazArte Dance Company. Photo: Ed Álvarez (@inthebx)

BombaYo & Dr. Drum

BOMBAYO ignites the ancestral rhythms of Bomba, an African derived music and dance tradition developed in Puerto Rico. The synergy of call and response singing, drumming and dance provide the foundation for a dynamic interplay between the solo drummer and dancer.In the spirit of Sankofa—looking to your past for a better future—BombaYo members draw from the bomba tradition to enrich their lives and embrace their cultural legacy. Through workshops, cultural presentations, performances and partnerships, BombaYo engages communities throughout NYC area to raise awareness of Afro Puerto Rican culture and to connect Bomba to the vast traditions of the African Diaspora.

More about BombaYo


Chief Joseph Chatoyer Dance Company

CHIEF JOSEPH CHATOYER DANCE COMPANY is committed to showcase Garifuna culture with an educational experience that involves drumming, singing and dancing as a means of preserving and raising awareness about our cultural heritage, language, history, and multiple-task dance forms.

The Garifuna folkloric ballet company was founded in February 2009 in New York City with eight members, and named to honor the legacy of a brave Garifuna men who fought fearlessly against the European influence in defense of our territories in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and received a positive and overwhelming reception from our Garifuna community, especially from the younger generations who embraced our traditions as a connecting point to its related historical and cultural legacy. The founders understood the importance that tangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. The South Bronx represents one of the largest converging points of the Garifuna diaspora.

Chief Joseph Chatoyer Dance Company.


JESÚS “PAPOLETO” MELÉNDEZ, also known as “Papo”, or “Papoleto”, (born June 13, 1950) is a New York-born Puerto Rican poet, playwright, teacher, and activist. He is a member of the Nuyorican Movement. He grew up during the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power movement, and the emergence of the Nuyorican Movement in East Harlem. His titles include the play The Junkies Stole the Clock (1974), and Hey Yo/Yo Soy! 40 Years of Nuyorican Street Poetry.

His honors include a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Louis Reyes Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award, an Artist for Community Enrichment Award from the Bronx Council on the Arts, and a joint fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and Combined Arts of San Diego. Melendez lives in New York City.

Melendez’s poetry collections include Casting Long Shadows (1970), Street Poetry & Other Poems (1972), Concertos on Market Street (1993), and the bilingual volume Hey Yo! Yo Soy! 40 Years of Nuyorican Street Poetry: The Collected Work of Jesús Papoleto Melendez (2012, volume 1). His work is also featured in Nuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feeling (1975, edited by Miguel Algarin and Miguel Pinero), Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (2001, edited by Tony Medina and Louis Reyes Rivera), and The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (2011, edited by Edna Acosta-Belén, Harold Augenbraum, María Herrera-Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa, and Gustavo Pérez Firmat). His play “The Junkies Stole the Clock,” was produced by Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre, New York Shakespeare Festival’s Nuyorican Playwrights’ Unit.

More about Papoleto: Instagram


"The Adventures of Pepita Morales at City Hall: The Fight to Save el Jardin"

The Adventures of Pepita Morales at City Hall: The Fight to Save el Jardin is a warmhearted and enthusiastic story that follows Councilwoman Pepita Morales on her journey to save a beloved community garden from being destroyed. This dynamic story introduces children to social themes such as political organizing and community building, while also reflecting a strong and positive representation of the Latinx community. Pepita Morales is a strong and caring female protagonist that is a leader to her community and relatable to young girls and boys of Latin American and Caribbean background.

Sponsored by Bronx Bound Books.

KARLA MAYENBEER CRUZ was born in Venezuela and grew up in Queens, New York. She graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a degree in English Literature and minor in Political Science. Karla has over 10 years of experience in political activism and organizing, which allows her to write stories for her young readers that show the value in creating community and taking up space by amplifying unique and diverse voices. With her debut children’s book, The Adventures of Pepita Morales at City Hall: The Fight to Save el Jardin, Karla is ready to challenge the status quo and create a space for Latinx children to feel seen and heard.

More about Karla: Instagram | kmayenbeercruz.com 

About our sponsor BRONX BOUND BOOKS: Bronx Bound Books is a bookstore on wheels. Bronx Bound Books launched in May 2019 to promote book ownership, literacy, and access to books in every corner of The Bronx.


URAYOÁN NOEL is a translator, poet, and critic who is the author of a dozen books, including Transversal (University of Arizona Press), a New York Public Library Book of the Year, In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (University of Iowa Press), winner of the LASA Latino Studies Book Award, and Nicole Cecilia Delgado’s forthcoming islas adyacentes/adjacent islands (Ugly Duckling Presse). Noel’s books have been named finalists or semifinalists for the National Translation Award, the Best Translated Book Award, the PEN America Literary Awards, and the Modern Language Association book prizes.

His international performances include Poesiefestival Berlin, Barcelona Poesia, and the Toronto Biennial of Art, and his work has been exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. Originally from Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, Noel lives in the Bronx and teaches at New York University as well as at Stetson University’s MFA of the Americas, and he serves on the board of the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center.

More about Urayoán: Instagram | urayoannoel.com


Utilizing Succulents from Traditional Community Garden Harvests

Celebrity chef Ramon Pérez (Havana Cafe) will be conducting a hands-on cooking demonstration utilizing items traditionally harvested in Melrose’s regional community gardens, from a custom recipe that can be easily replicated at home by attendees for their family.

Chef Ramon will be joined by members of Nos Quedamos’ Environmental Justice Youth Team to discuss their resiliency and green-space work in Melrose Commons and related tie-ins.

Sponsored by Havana Cafe.

Chef Ramon Pérez was born and raised in NYC’s East Harlem (Spanish Harlem/El Barrio), a predominately Puerto Rican neighborhood with its bold and flavorful cuisine being served at almost every corner. Ramon’s first influence and role model in the kitchen was his mother, Mirtha, who within a tight budget and four mouths to feed, worked both fiscal and gastronomic miracles in the kitchen.

After an Army Reserve basic-training stint (at age 18), Ramon enrolled in the New York Restaurant School where he learned the fundamentals of how a professional kitchen operates. But his real education began when he landed a job with French hospitality juggernaut Sodexho Alliance, where he worked every position for the corporate dining company. In 1994, at the age of 28, Ramon was given the opportunity to run his own kitchen and became the Chef at World Trade Center’s renown Sodexho restaurant.

In 2006 Ramon met celebrity chef Alex García (Food Network’s “The Melting Pot”) of the iconic restaurant Calle Ocho, where he was eventually promoted to run the kitchen. In 2010, Chef García pointed Ramon to a new restaurant venture opening in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx: The Bronx Havana Cafe. Under Ramon’s guidance, Havana Cafe has received wide recognition including Michelin Guide’s “Star Restaurant,” Crains New York’s “Exemplar” designation, NY Daily News, as well as national press.

Chef Ramon lives in the Bronx with his wife Jessica and their two sons Jordan and Ethan. He also has two older children from his previous marriage, Martin and Taína.

More about Ramon: Instagram

About our sponsor HAVANA CAFE: The first and best “Cuban” Restaurant & lounge in the Bronx. Est. 2010.

MazArte Dance Company.