Hard Week

IMG_7533 Sharon Black Suite Head Down
Archived photo by Latrena Smith-Waller

My head has been down a lot this week.
Yesterday, I was told that it was okay to stop and take a moment to just be HUMAN.

Hard Week

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