The first Black-owned poetry library in Los Angeles will officially open its doors to the community on Saturday, July 10. The Sims Library of Poetry is hosting an opening ceremony at 2702 W. Florence Ave. in South Los Angeles, just north of Inglewood.
The catered event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. and will feature live music and live performances from notable Los Angeles poets, including the library’s founder and Executive Director Hiram Sims.
“When you’re creating things it’s not linear. It’s not smooth,” began Sims. “That’s how we perceive life, a gradual incline but with anything you’re trying to do, especially things you’re trying to do over time, it’s going to have some ups and downs.
“But the important thing is to move forward and to realize that the struggle is a part of the story.”
Meanwhile, opening the library has been quite the journey for Sims. It has been years in the making and was delayed by the pandemic. However, the goal has never wavered, which is to engage with the South L.A. community by offering a curated space to read, write, study, perform and appreciate poetry.
Sims, a creative writing professor, began this journey nearly a decade ago by lending books to university students out of a rolling suitcase after mandating that they read one book of poetry a week.
“It’s proof that it’s important to start where you are,” said Sims.
As demand grew, Sims quickly knew he would eventually need a permanent home for his collection.
The Sims Library of Poetry officially got started in Sims’ garage with 3,000 books. Hiram and his wife Charisse Sims soon began hosting poetry open-mics in their own backyard. Poets gravitated to the space and an artists’ community began establishing itself around the growing library.
In Summer 2020 during the pandemic, the Sims’ found the location on Florence Avenue, which is now a permanent home for the library. They are now housing more than 5,000 books, with room for indoor and outdoor event space.
Students, poets, and community members are encouraged to visit the library to study, check out books, attend open-mics or poetry readings, and join the growing literary movement.
Sims wants the library to be a community resource, but also “a home for the genre of poetry itself… dedicated to the exploration of art.”
The Sims Library of Poetry is a program rooted under Community Literature Initiative (CLI), a non-profit that was established in 2013 and gained its 501(c)(3) status in 2015.
CLI is focused on bringing low-tuition poetry and publishing classes to the greater Southern Los Angeles area in hopes of “proliferating underrepresented voices”, Sims said.
If the library of poetry is able to continue serving, educating, and cultivating a love of poetry for marginalized people of color in the South Los Angeles community, the endeavor will be considered a success, according to Sims.