It was a freezing Friday night when the Bronx Native shop opened its doors for the first open mic night of the year.
Over 20 people huddled inside the small shop located on 127 Lincoln Ave. signing up to show off their talents – most people sang or rapped while others performed spoken word and slam poetry.
Complimentary drinks were served while some took the time to peek through the Bronx-themed clothing and accessories offered in the shop.
The night opened with shop owner Amaurys Grullon taking the mic to thank the audience for coming by and giving a brief history of the shop and their message.
“We try to embody what the Bronx truly is,” said Grullon, a native of Hunts Point. “My whole life I’ve heard negative things about my home.” Grullon asked the audience if they felt the same. Most raised their arms up high.
Bronx Native was created to change the narrative of the Bronx and become a cultural hub for the community. The open mic nights, which happen on the third Friday of every month, is Grullon’s way of bringing artists both in and out of the borough together to play in front of an audience in a safe, creative environment.
“People want to make deep, personal connections,” he said. “Bronx Native just wants to be the foundation for that.”
The first one to perform was Julio Quiñones – better known by his stage name, July Quin – a Bronx native from Bathgate Avenue. The open mic was a homecoming for Quin, who performed for the first time in two years.
“I was trying to figure out what kind of music I wanted to make,” said Quin, who also produces all of his own tracks. “To be on stage again felt very cathartic – it’s what I live for.”
He began his set unconventionally by asking the crowd to pick a number between one and three – two was chosen so Quin began with his song “Tatyana M. Ali.” After his set ended, Quin said it was reassuring to be surrounded by other artists from his community.
“There’s so much talent here,” he said. “We need more spaces here so the people here can express all forms of art.”
But the night wasn’t just for homegrown talent.
Savannah Walters, who performs under the name Savs, strapped on her guitar and greeted the crowd, saying that it was her first time in the Bronx after moving from California two weeks earlier. The crowd welcomed her with loud cheers.
Savs played three songs, with her last one “Smile” turning into an impromptu duet with fellow performer Joel “Martyre” Martinez, who hosted the event along with Grullon. Moving to New York has been a huge transition for Savs, but her first night in the Bronx appeared to be a success.
“I’ve never felt so well received before,” she said after finishing her set, the adrenaline still rushing through her. “There’s a passion here that doesn’t come in every crowd.”
Despite being an outsider, Savs mentioned that she was well aware of the stigma surrounding the Bronx before coming here. She made a point to recognize that the community has much more to offer.
“Each person here has a story to tell and I want to hear it,” she said.