Real Life: Shopping and Homelessness

Sharon Mexico
This is me on an immersion trip in Mexico where I learned more about the country’s history and struggle with poverty. My Humanity album features stories from this trip. 

Here’s my current situation. My brother has been living with me for going on three years and last year his son came to live with us. For about the last month my brother has been working in Richmond, Virginia; which means I’m on full time auntie duty.

This past weekend my charge was to take my nephew to the mall before it actually opened so he could get in line to purchase the new Jordan’s. To be exact they were the white and silver Jordan Retro 4 sneakers. Let the record show that I have never bought a pair of Jordan’s and there I was early on Saturday morning, sitting at a table in the mall, surfing the internet on my phone, watching the mall walkers go by, and waiting on my nephew to get his new sneakers.

I’ve heard about the process, I know I have family members; my brother, nieces and nephews whom have also made sure they got there place in line. If you want the new you have to be dedicated to this process because the store will only get a certain number of pairs and once they are gone they aren’t able to replenish there stock. Some of you may no this as supply and demand, but to me it’s just a hustle that Nike/Jordan and now several other companies have perfected.

While I was sitting there waiting for my nephew when a Black man comes over to my table and asks if he could sit with me. I saw that he had some food, therefore my response was, “Of course if you are going to share your food”. He laughed and said, “I don’t mind sharing”. He looked to probably be a little older than me and he had on his working clothes. Honestly I didn’t notice his clothes until I walked past him a little while later when we were leaving the mall.

During our conversation I learned that he was from North Carolina. The accent and a reference he made about Hardees gave that away instantly. I can’t remember the small town he was from but both of us being from North Carolina made the fact that we ended up at this moment in time together feel familiar. Yes, we did have to ask each other, “Who your people?”

The longer we talked the more comfortable we became with each other. I finally asked, “Why was he in the mall on a Saturday morning eating chicken?” I figured it was just something he liked to do. But he looked at me and said, “Honestly, I lost the place I was staying and I just moved into the shelter.” I instantly went into I’m so sorry mode, but he reassured me that he was going to be okay. That being in the shelter was only temporary. He believed in a couple of months he would be back on his feet.

You see his trade is painting. He’s been painting houses since he was 18 and he felt that he just needed a few big houses and some steady gigs to get back on his feet. I believed him, but I couldn’t help but feel some kind of way. Here I am in the mall with my nephew who is about to get a pair of shoes that cost around $200 (I didn’t pay for them.) and this man is living in a shelter.

For five years I worked with Neal Lampi and Jenn Romo of Real Change Newspaper on the Annual Urban Poverty Forum here in Seattle. Where we addressed certain issues around homelessness. A few years ago I released my first poetry plus storytelling album, Humanity in which the focal point was homelessness. Everyday when I’m driving around town I see the tents, the sleeping bags, the person on the side of the street with the sign asking for money/work and I may even see someone pushing a shopping cart. But no matter how many times I’ve seen it, or have written about it, it doesn’t and will never prepare me for when it looks me dead in the eye.

I woke up thinking I was just going to be taking my nephew to get a new pair of shoes. I never thought along with that would come a reminder of how lopsided our society really is.

Homelessness is real…

Real Life: Shopping and Homelessness

How do you create community?

My nephew far right with his friends at his birthday party. (not the exact same crew at hospital)

Last night I had two missions. One was to take my nephew to the hospital to visit his friend. The second mission was to attend the Langston/Seattle Public Library event Seattle Reads: The Turner House a conversation with author Angela Flournoy and Seattle artists Inye Wokoma facilitated by Vivian Phillips. Inye, Vivian and myself are all on the Board of Directors for Langston.

During the conversation Vivian asked the question to Angela and Inye, “How do you create community?” This question made me say, hmmmm…. As they were answering the question, I kind of veered off in my head thinking about what I considered to be my community and how was it formed.

Growing up in North Carolina, I feel as though I was born into my community. Everything was ready upon my arrival and all I had to do was fall in wherever I could. After leaving North Carolina and going to college in Delaware. Again I felt that my community was already in place and all I had to do was join in. In reflecting on moving to Seattle, I now see that I did have to build my community. It wasn’t easy at first, I had to find a church, a hair dresser, got a job, figured out what my purpose was in life and worked through which friends were like family and which ones where just friends or associates. In going through all of that I believe I found my community.

In reflecting on Vivian’s question, “How do you create community?” During my first mission, last night I also experienced the community that my 15-year-old nephew has become a part of. He’s only been in Seattle for a little over a year and last night I had a chance to experience first hand his community. It was a beautiful thing to see. I say beautiful because with young Black men a lot of people like to focus on the negative. But last night was anything but that.

When we arrived at the hospital their where already four other young Black men and one adult Black male visiting my nephew’s friend. It was just wonderful seeing the support that this young man and his family have from the young men. And I’m proud that my nephew is a part of it. I was so inspired by the young men that when we were leaving the hospital, I told my nephew that he has selected a great group of people to call friends. I don’t know why this young man and his family are facing this medical challenge in his young life. But I’m thankful that it showed me how building/creating your community when you move to a place where your community isn’t a given contributes to who you are or may grow up to be.

In my work as an arts administrator and as an artist I often reference my/our community, but last night allowed me to reflect on what building community actually means.

How have you created/built your community?


How do you create community?



Yesterday, I was excited to fall back into my Sunday routine of watching football all day. If every team is as competitive as they were yesterday throughout the season it’s going to be a very good season. Yesterday was also September 11th, which is a reminder of the painful day in which we were attacked on American soil. It’s a day that just about everyone can remember where they were, what they were doing, how they felt and sadly who we loss. It was a day that although we were broken we came together and said, “We are Americans, and we are STRONG!”

Yesterday was also a day to see how the NFL as a whole and as individuals would respond to one of their own. What would they do? Who would support him? Who will not support him? It was also a day where some who had announced earlier in the week that we should pay attention to what they do because it was going to be powerful. I listened to the commentators speak time and time again about the statements teams and individuals made by whether they linked arms, took a knee or even raised their fist. I woke up this morning and the conversation continued on the morning news programs. I went online to see what was happening in the world and the topic was trending.

I think it’s all-good whatever people chose to do on their own or in a group was their prerogative. Although, it’s making me feel some kind of way and I would like to share that with you. I’m not feeling inspired. I’m not feeling that the world will change. I have more questions. As Americans we know how to come together in times of heartache. We are a compassionate people. We know how to come together and support our favorite sports team, the Olympics, artists, politicians, etc. I guess my problem is or what I’m questioning is how do we stay together.

I thank Colin Kaepernick for taking a stance and for doing what he needed to do to bring attention to a national issue. I’ve listened to those who support him and to those who question him but support him in some kind of way. No worries, I don’t think it has to be an all or nothing type of thing. I’ve also listened to those who don’t have a clue and took it to the extreme on his intentions. For now the important thing is that when I turn on the news or go online people are talking about it in some kind of way.

But, I still have some questions. Would the teams that locked arms or the individuals in the stands who locked arms. Would they have continued to do so if right after the National Anthem there was a performance of the Black National Anthem? Or if after the National Anthem played a tribe of Native Americans came on the field and presented a traditional song and/or dance? Honestly, I don’t know why what the individuals in the NFL did yesterday just doesn’t make me believe that we are all linked in trying to make this country a safe and better place for all Americans. I believe were like family, we may fight each other but the hell if we let someone else kick our behinds. No I don’t believe that because we don’t love everyone, so it’s not like family. It’s more like we are a sports team we play hard and we play together when we have to, but when the game is over we go our separate ways. We live our separate lives. I believe what I believe and you believe what you believe.

My nephew once said, “I’m not impressed”, and at the time I busted out laughing. I know we as Americans can come together and show a sign of unity when the world is watching, but what happens when the world isn’t watching. When you are taking your child to school? When you are out to dinner with your friends? When you are at a play or a concert? When you are in the grocery store? When you are in class or at work? When you are simply walking down the street? When you are donating your time to a cause? When you are sitting home lying on the couch watching football, soccer, golf, NASCAR?

Are we unified in those moments? Or are we unified only in crisis?

I promise I want us to be unified, but the truth is we are not.

I want to thank everyone who is constantly working towards unification.



PODCAST: The Mahogany Project (HUMANITY)
Rhythm and News interview done by Chris B. Bennett
Posted March 24, 2014

A young boy looking into the distance with a wall in front of him and growing weeds in the background.

Rhythm & News interview with Sharon Williams of the Mahogany Project about her new CD — Humanity.

click here to listen


The Mahogany Project Takes on Homelessness

The Mahogany Project Takes on Homelessness

Seattle Medium Newspaper

Posted March 19, 2014

Homelessness has always been a major issue in our inner city communities.  The Mahogany Project — A collaboration of African American female artist from various disciplines including spoken word, playwriting, vocal performance, and theatre administration dedicated to creating opportunities for local Seattle Theatre artists — has created an entire album dedicated to giving members of our community faced with this circumstance a voice.


click here to continue…

The Mahogany Project Takes on Homelessness