Just as a room full of distinguished publishing and media executives was settling into cocktail hour at the Literacy Partners' Evening of Readings Gala at Cipriani South Street in New York on May 1, the Movement of Rank and File Educators showed up to deliver a message to New York Mayor Eric Adams amid recent cuts to public resources. Adams was in attendance to be honored with a Champion of Literacy Award from Literacy Partners.
"Mayor Adams, you can't hide, we can see your greedy side," the union group chanted as they circled outside and cars began blowing their horns in support. The message could be heard from the venue's balcony, and many gala guests came out to try and make sense of the commotion.
Despite New York City's $2.2 billion surplus, Adams shocked many public resource advocacy groups when he announced plans to make cuts to public education, libraries, parks, and others resources that affect New Yorks residents, including librarians, students, and teachers. Last week, Adams announced that he would reverse some of the planned cuts to New York City's libraries, but a $36 million deficit still remains, and it will result in reduced services, Gothamist reported.
"These budget cuts have got to go," the education union group chanted while blasting Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money" on a portable stereo speaker.
The protests outside were not mentioned during the gala's programming, but guests took notice. Also being honored during the evening were Macmillan Publishers US CEO Jon Yaged and TelevisaUnivision CEO Wade Davis. NBC News investigative correspondent Cynthia McFadden was MC for the evening, which also featured author Ayana Mathis reading from her forthcoming novel, actor Minka Kelly reading from her new memoir, and actor Holland Taylor speaking about literacy. The evening also included personal readings from adults who were helped by Literacy Partners' programs.
In accepting his award, Adams recounted his own struggles with literacy and moments where he felt "rejected by society" and school growing up. "Because I just didn't believe in school anymore, I decided, why not just go to the streets?" he said, explaining that it is a choice many children grapple with today as they face a future of uncertainty.
"At the moment in January 2022 when I got elected Mayor, people who were in these places of uncertainty, they saw someone go from being dyslexic, arrested, rejected, now I am elected to be the mayor of the city of New York. It's a powerful thing," he said. "We are looking at, how do we take our people and tell them you don't have to shrink in a chair when it's time for you to read. We are going to give you the tools so that your end of story is not Rikers Island."
He added: "We need to mobilize and energize ourselves to save our babies. You're doing it with literacy."