The Spotlight: Melissa C. Potter

So excited to bring back The Spotlight and share this interview with Bronxite Melissa C. Potter, a social justice activist and the Head of Social Impact and Communications leading strategy and campaign management for Odyssey Impact/Transform Films. Keep reading for more!


Which Bronx neighborhood are you from?

I call Riverdale my adopted home as I resided there for 12 years following my graduation from Northeastern University in Boston. I love the community feel of Riverdale as all that I needed was in walking distance but there were also wonderful opportunities to fellowship with neighbors at La Caja Crossfit, Tin Marin, or in Starbucks.

Where do you currently reside?

I’ve recently moved to the High Bridge section of The Bronx. I am getting to know my neighborhood but appreciate the close proximity to Manhattan for work, and restaurants such as Giovanni’s, Feeding Tree, and Crown Diner.

What are your favorite places in the Bronx?

I am a member of the Bronx Botanical Gardens and make it a point to visit during the annual Orchid and Train Shows. I also really love an evening walk at Van Cortlandt Park. A fun and surprising fact is that you can actually fish in the park. It provides an oasis just blocks away from bustling Broadway. I recommend that anyone visiting The Bronx stops by City Island for an amazing meal at Sammy’s! I am a huge fan of the fried seafood platter and totally indulge in the complimentary bread, cheese and pickled vegetable tray.

How did you get started in social justice advocacy?

I first began my career in the music industry working with some of today’s biggest hip hop artists. I realized that many of these acts felt passionately about issues of social justice and the communities in which they were born and raised. Often, it is difficult to know where to best channel your efforts as it relates to championing causes that are near and dear to the heart. This became my mission, to expose talent to opportunities to give back and to elevate causes that related to our communities such as criminal justice, racial justice and voting rights.

Why do you think film is such a powerful tool in promoting change and creating awareness?

At Odyssey Impact we use film to build a more just and compassionate society and make faith relevant by bringing it into the conversation on social issues. We take the emotions that our films generate and channel them into secular and faith collaborations that inspire changemakers to action – locally and nationally. We give a voice to individuals that often go unheard. We utilize storytelling to spark social change around complex issues. Our audiences gain awareness, have a change of attitude and are driven to action based on their viewing experience – thus going beyond the simple act of being entertained.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get involved in making changes in their communities?

Start small but think big. Work with Odyssey Impact to host a screening, partner with us to educate and take action by finding us on on Twitter @OdysseyImpactNY or by visiting our website.
Look within your day-to-day activities and find small spaces where you may make a difference. It could be utilizing your social media channels to fundraise or raise awareness around an issue, working with a group of friends to clean up a local park or becoming aware of your local lawmakers and starting a petition to take to their office about an issue that you hold dear.
Any upcoming projects you’re working on that we should look out for? 

We are excited for our upcoming impact campaign for an extraordinary film, “The Rape of Recy Taylor”.  Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old black mother and sharecropper, was gang raped by six young white men in 1944 Alabama. Common in Jim Crow South, few women spoke up in fear for their lives. Not Recy Taylor, who bravely identified her rapists. The NAACP sent its chief rape investigator Rosa Parks, who rallied support and triggered an unprecedented outcry for justice. You can check your local listings to catch The Rape of Recy Taylor airing on July 2nd on Starz.

Tacos & Margaritas at Cocina Chente

I don’t know about you all, but probably 75% of the pages I follow on Instagram are just restaurants I want to try out someday. Cocina Chente in Riverdale is no exception. Bright colors, a hanging bicycle, a cute outdoor eating area, and of course gorgeous (and tasty) food – these are the things Instagram foodies dream of.  My friend and I decided to check it out on one of the few and far between nice weather days we’ve been having.

The first thing I noticed was the decor – someone put a lot of thought into all of the little details here and it absolutely pays off. The ambience is fun and lively, with a million conversations going on at once (in a good way. Have you ever been to a quiet restaurant? It’s weird.)

It was super packed, but we were able to get a table pretty quickly. I ordered the carnitas tacos and my friend opted for the tequila-lime salmon. I wanted to try the chili tacos, but they don’t allow mixing and matching, so I’ll give them a try next time. Both were really good, but I think I liked the salmon even more than the tacos. Of course, we kept the margaritas flowing all night.

Their brunch menu also looks super legit so hopefully I’ll get try it out soon.


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Sunday Lunch at Burrito Shop

Spent this gorgeous Sunday exploring Van Cortlandt park. Having lived on the other side of the Bronx for so long, I still have yet to really get to know the park, though I look forward to getting the chance this summer. During my excursion, my friend Anthony and I stumbled upon Burrito Shop. I can never say no to Mexican food, so we strolled in.

It’s a small, casual spot with a menu that offers burritos (duh), tacos, taco and burrito bowls, and an impressive array of vegetarian and vegan options. I opted for a grilled chicken taco bowl, while my friend ordered a grilled steak burrito. The grilled chicken was lightly charred the way I like and had guacamole, beans, lettuce, and tomato. I threw on some medium hot sauce (I don’t play with that extra spicy green sauce. No thanks!)  and the flavors melded together perfectly. Bonus, the taco bowl itself was under $10. Take that, Chipotle.

Bottom line: Was it better than my all time favorites, Taqueria Tlaxcalli and El Nuevo Tenampa? No, but their vegetarian and vegan options and proximity to the park make this place a winner.

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‘Bite the Apple’ Bites Back

Despite the crappy weather outside last night, An Beal Bocht was packed for a stage reading of BRIO award winner Linda Manning’s Bite the Apple. Following the lives of six female fairy tale characters (Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Snow White, Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Gretel) post “happily ever after,” Bite the Apple gives a witty, modern, and unique twist on the lives of the demure ladies we’ve come to know over time. Though this was just a reading, Linda Manning did a masterful job intertwining the storylines and lives of the separate characters.

The actresses brought the snappy dialogue to life with commanding and convincing performances.

I’ve always felt that fairy tale princess were so two-dimensional with their lack of sense and ambition (hence why Belle from Beauty and the Beast was always my favorite) and Bite the Apple is a refreshing take on the classic stories. I can’t wait to see it come to fruition as a full production.

Sidenote: this was actually my first time going to An Beal Bocht even though, it has a strong fan base. It seems like a chill,cozy, spot to have a drink and catch up with friends. I also really like how community-based it is with different events each night to keep patrons entertained. The only downside is the monstrously long staircase you have to climb up if walking from the 238th train station. If it were closer to the East Side, I’d totally be there all the time, though.

I unfortunately didn’t grab any pics, so you’ll have to go see for yourself.


Beyond Pretty Girl

After my last post, I was determined to find some cute independent clothing stores in the Bronx. There had to be at least one, right? Right. I found two.

I based my decision on stores I could find with (mostly) positive, solid reviews and ended up coming across Nylon and Designer’s Corner.  I’m going to apologize in advance for the crap pictures I took, but it’s a mix of me trying to not be a creeper taking pictures without any real credentials and my lack of up to date technology that would allow me to take said pictures nicely, so please bear with me!

Nylon, located at 32 W. Burnside Ave., is this unexpectedly awesome shop with a great variety of trendy and unique dresses and accessories. The average price of dresses was about $30, and the handbags were in the $40-50 range. Also, the employees were unobtrusive , which is great. I hate to be watched while I’m shopping.

I could definitely see myself returning here to pick up a nice party dress.

Next, I headed north up to Riverdale to Designer’s Corner, located at 3725 Riverdale Ave. I must also add that it was my first time really walking around in Riverdale. I love how you can just go across the borough and get a totally different vibe, it kind of reminded me of a small town.

Designer’s Corner is exactly that, the store is filled with designer labels at prices from $50+. A lot of the clothes weren’t really my style and don’t fit my budget (although they do have a pretty decent clearance section), but the layout was impressive. It’s like a posh downtown boutique with black leather benches, great lighting, and well thought out displays.

Afterward, I walked over to Unique Thrift Store, located at 218 W. 234th St. Granted, it is a chain (they have locations throughout the country), but it had so many positive reviews on Yelp, I couldn’t not go. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a good enough picture, so I’ll try to be a descriptive as possible.

Approaching UTS, you’ll see its large, unassuming exterior. However, inside, it looks a bit like Marshalls or T.J. Maxx, except a lot less crowded, which is great. Everyone, including other customers, were super friendly and this is by far one of the most organized thrift shops I’ve ever been in. Everything is labeled and categorized, making for an easy stressfree shopping experience. I would absolutely come back here and apparently they have a savings card where you can earn extra discounts on top of their already low prices.

That’s all for now, but if there are any stores in the Bronx that you know of that I should visit, let me know in the comments section!