Street Sense vendors shared songs and monologues expressing the challenges of trusting others and facing homelessness at a November 13 event held on The George Washington University campus.
“It is through art that we can learn empathy which may stir action,” said GW professor Leslie Jacobson before the start of the performance.
For weeks, vendors Reggie Black, Chris Shaw, Carlton Johnson, Cynthia Mewborn, and Robert Warren wrote scripts for skits and practiced musical numbers to show their side of living with homelessness.
“Though tarnished and stained by lies, deceit, jealousy, hate, prejudice, cruelty…my experience with these evil emotions has given me an understanding and the strength to continuously say to myself, ‘I will NOT become like you,” said Mewborn.
“I’ve been blessed by many people. If you know about my history, you’d know I haven’t fallen,” said Black in a monologue about regaining his confidence.
“Just to show you how close you are to being homeless, if the bank foreclosed on you today and sent a marshal for you to get out, where would you go?” Johnson asked a man in the audience – part of “Carlton’s Quiz.”
“Hmm…good question,” the man replied.
“Wow, you’re starting to look homeless now,” Johnson replied as the crowd laughed along.
The last part of the performance wasa mock meeting with the mayor about affordable housing titled “How I would change the world.”
“I wish we would treat homelessness like a natural disaster…Americans have allowed it to grow,” said Black.
The vendors also expressed frustration at being able to work, but still not being able to afford housing and the hidden issue of race and discrimination. They agreed that the solution to homelessness is a “social issue, not a charity issue.”