The collective that is known as GRITO, is comprised of Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta (the GRI), and Professor Vincent T. Toro (the TO). They met in 2000, at the wonderful poetry reading, Sol in the Heights, at the now defunct Cafe' Largo in Harlem. Vincent had already been quite successful in the poetry community, having been mentored by Miguel Algarin, and Grisel quickly took cue from Nuyorican regulars like Sandra Maria Estevez and Papoleto Melendez, who they are both proud to call friends. That meeting set a precedent Vincent and Grisel could not imagine the impact of. They bonded over countless discussions on film, literature, politics, education, and their irreverent humor, but it was hearing each other's poetry at a friend's party in New Jersey that really had them hooked. They went on their first date, which included dinner at Manhattan's Boca Chica and dancing at Junior Vasquez's night at Twilo. GRITO was born.
Grisel and Vincent collaborated musically in the bands Juxtapose and Immortal Superstar, along with original bandmates Gerrard Briones, Andrew DiClemente, and Kim "Evolution" Crawley, recording countless tracks and performing throughout the NY and NJ area. They teamed up for performance projects like Postmodern Vaudeville, which took place at the Clemente Soto Velez Center, and Extreme Heights, which took place at SoHa Bar (south of Harlem). Both educators also worked as teaching artists throughout the New York and New Jersey areas, through the DreamYard, Teachers and Writers, and NJPAC organizations. Grisel also began her work as an adjunct professor at Hudson County Community College and hosted/curated multiple poetry readings during that time, including Blue Heights at Bluestockings, and New Heights, where prominent artists like Nova Gutierrez, Brian Kay, Taylor Meade, Tszaurah Litzsky, Sandra Garcia Rivera, Marty McConnell, Yolanda Wilkinson, Professor Morgan "Mwalim" Peters, Jenny Saldana, Bobby De Jesus, Beluvid, Noel Mendez, and many others were featured. Gary Santana also invited GRITO to be a part of a Piri Thomas Tribute reading as part of the New York Latino Film Festival. There, the late Pedro Pietri, who was fond of the couple and their work, wrote "Vinny and Grisel Forever" in a book he signed to them. Vincent also had readings and productions for his plays at The Point, in the Bronx, and at the Songs from Coconut Hill Festival, and both he and Grisel had their own productions of plays in the Urban Pop Fesival in 2005.
As if the year weren't busy enough, GRITO also married in 2005, and eventually moved to San Antonio so that Grisel could earn her doctoral degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Vincent could gain invaluable experience as the Theater Arts Director of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. While in San Anto, Vincent won multiple awards for his playwrighting and directing work, and Grisel became published widely and ran a culminating, three-month poetry event at the Downtown Tropicana Hotel where she featured Texas Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla, San Antonio Poet Laureate Laurie Guerrero, highly-awarded musician, photographer, writer Daniela Riojas (who is also a former student of Dr. Acosta), and Carolina Hinojosa, among many others. GRITO is very thankful for the support of the entire San Antonio community, including Jim LaVilla-DeHavelin and his wife, Lucia, Norma Cantu, Sandra Cisneros, Wendy Barker and entire The Creative Writing Department at UTSA, Gemini Ink, The Jazz Poets, Puro Slam, and too many more to name here.
True East Coast bums that they are, GRITO soon returned to New York, to live in the Bronx where they both teach. The main focus of returning to the New York area was for Vincent to earn his MFA in creative writing from Rutgers University-Newark, and to be close to Vincent's family. They both soon picked up where they left off, with Vincent recently winning both book and playwriting awards and getting his first book of poetry published, and Grisel continuing to publish both creative and scholarly works, including the forthcoming Latina Outsiders Remaking Latina Identity.
Their newest, most challenging, endeavor, however, is caring for Chicago community leader Rev. Dr. Samuel Acosta, Grisel's father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, along with her sweet, brilliant, and stoic mother, as well. Focusing on family has been most welcome and fills their hearts with joy. They both look forward to new adventures, challenges, books, music, and plenty of dancing, too!
"...without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible...." - Frank Zappa