Where did you grow up?
I am from Chicago, I grew up in Hyde Park.
What brought you to StreetWise?
I had heard about StreetWise well before I came to StreetWise. I had been in prison, back and forth, and I was told about StreetWise. I used to be hanging out with guys that were always trying to scam. When you’re addicted to drugs, you’re going to find a way to get your drugs! I saw it as a way to make some money, without getting into trouble.
Where do you sell StreetWise?
Hyde Park. I have been at the Dunkin Donuts between Dorchester and Blackstone on E. 53 Street. I have been at this location for 15 years, since I started with StreetWise.
What is your strategy for selling the magazine?
Regardless of what I have going on in my life, I try to not let it affect people. I love the morning. I just try to be nice, not to change my character. I am the one out here selling StreetWise. I need help, nobody owes me anything. That keeps me focused.
Tell me about a challenge you have faced and how you overcame it.
I started attending AA meetings at StreetWise, because I was heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol. On April 15, I’ll be celebrating my sixth year sober! It all started here. I had been suspended as a vendor, and I was only allowed to come back if I attended AA meetings. I started, stopped, and then when I started again, I took it more seriously because I was ready. It is like I am able to live life on my own terms now. With the help of Heartland Alliance, I was able to find housing, and now I am paying my own rent. I also have been able to save some money, so that I can head back to school. I just took an addiction studies course at Malcolm X, and I aced it! I had taken the same course before, and I got a D.
Is there something about Hyde Park that you wouldn’t know if you were not a vendor?
Hyde Park is a place where people don’t mind helping you, as long as you are trying to help yourself. When I was in my addiction, people would just walk by. Once they saw the changes in me, they were like “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.” When I got my apartment through Heartland, they gave me a housewarming! People that had never given me anything are now helping me out!
Do you have any other jobs?
Selling StreetWise has also given me opportunities for other jobs too. At one point, I was barred from the Kimbark Beverage Shoppe (1214 E. 53rd), but now they ask me to do the marquee. Every Wednesday morning, I get up and do it. When I first started doing it, my arms were killing me! My brother also owns a lounge that I help clean in the early mornings.
We used to have a show “StreetWise Street Scene” and I would go and have some fun there. With my church group, I was able to take a class in video editing with CAN TV. I was able to do a special and it got shown on CAN TV. I sometimes feel like I have so many things that I really need to focus. Everyday is something different. It’s not as hard as it was when I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, but at the same time, there are other things that happen in life, and you deal with that. Overall, I am in a much better place.
What do you like most about Chicago?
The Diversity, the different people we deal with. I am right by the university of Chicago, and there is every kind of person that you could meet there.
Do you have any future goals?
Hopefully to get back into college. I have things going on, but it may not be around forever, so I need something to fall back on. I can continue to pursue my degree in addiction studies, I feel like I could do many things, so I look forward to pursuing a career. I also try to be an inspiration too. This is the first time in my life that I have been able to pay my own rent, and i am 47! I take my rent money and drop it off directly!
What do you do for fun?
I have a new young lady in my life! We go to shows, and her church. we spend a good amount of time together.
Is she supportive of you and all of your changes?
She is very supportive, she keeps me going.
Anything else you want readers to know?
I definitely appreciate all of the people that support me and StreetWise. If it wasn’t for StreetWise, when I was was rock bottom, I wouldn’t have survived.