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Jemeika Hicks: Growing up “StreetWise”

Wed, Feb 19, 2014

Jemeika Hicks

Jemeika Hicks

Jemeika Hicks may not be a StreetWise vendor but her life was dramatically impacted by the Chicago street paper nonetheless. Jemeika’s mother, Melinda Rogers, has been selling StreetWise since 1992 and the 27-year-old Jemeika recalls a large portion of her and her twin sister – Deja Hick’s – childhood spent selling magazines with their mother.

“I know when my mom first started out selling StreetWise; we were homeless so we used to sleep under Lower Wacker and in Grant Park and outhouses. It used to be embarrassing because I would be outside selling papers with my mom and I’d run into somebody I go to school with – so embarrassing!”

Jemeika said their father was in and out of the picture throughout most of their childhood. More often then not, the twins were with their mother.

“I’ve had a lot of good times with my mom, I enjoy being around her. She taught me to be a hard worker. My mom would bust her butt; she’d be outside all day selling papers. She would make a quota – ‘I have to sell 60 papers today’ – and she wouldn’t go home until she sold those 60 papers, no matter how long it took. We’d be outside freezing and she’d tell Deja and I to go inside and just wait by the door where she could see us and she’d stand outside in the cold all day selling papers. We used to sell papers in front of Carson Pirie Scott. My sister and I read a lot, we played games, we even made up our own little language to talk to one another. We also did our homework.”

Jemeika and Deja were both on their high school’s debate team and graduated high school. Jemeika received her bachelor’s in criminal justice. Deja received her bachelor’s and is currently working towards her master’s. Deja hopes to be a family therapist while Jemeika hopes to continue being a legal advocate for victims and to eventually teach. Jemeika plans to start attending the Chicago School of Professional Psychology on Wells this spring for her master’s and PhD.

While clearly very driven, Jemeika wonders where she would be today if it were not for the help of one very generous former StreetWise customer of her mother’s whom she and her sister refer to fondly as “Bow Tie.”

“My godfather was one of my mom’s StreetWise clients — every morning, this older guy would always buy Deja and I hot chocolates. He just thought we were the cutest little things in the world. He used to always wear a bow tie so Deja and I would always call him ‘Bow Tie’ … Our eyes would always light up when we’d see him and we’d yell, ‘Hey, Bow Tie!’ After a while, he said he kind of fell in love with us and he became our godfather. Instead of adopting us he started kind of sponsoring us.”

Jemeika said “Bow Tie” has assisted her and her sister in a number of ways: helping to support them financially, correcting their grammar when they were young, encouraging them throughout school, being their emotional support. He has also attended every one of the girls’ graduations thus far.

Jemeika credits her mother and “Bow Tie” for showing her what she didn’t want to be like and for motivating her to work hard to get out of the life that she might have been heading toward.

“I have to respect her [Melinda] for that. She’s my mom, she’s been through a lot…but I think she was learning her lessons and she was trying to be a good mother, to the best of her abilities. I felt she did the best to her abilities.”

Shannon Barnet
StreetWise Editorial Intern


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