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Table of Contents Pope Francis 4 Employment Cards 7 Dalai Lama 9 Calvin 14

HOW IT WORKS The Curbside Chronicle employs the homeless population of Oklahoma City.

Arun Gandhi 18 Prince William 22 Michelle Obama 24 John Bird 26 50 Cent 28

Potential vendors attend orientation

Vendors receive 15 free magazines

Colin Farrell 30

Contact

Director: ranya@thecurbsidechronicle.org Media: kcrocker@homelessalliance.org 1724 NW 4th St. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106

YOU PURCHASE THE MAGAZINE for $2

Vendors sell their magazines on the streets of OKC

405-415-8425 www.thecurbsidechronicle.org facebook.com/CurbsideOKC twitter.com/CurbsideOKC instagram.com/CurbsideOKC cover photo by Simon Murphy layout by Whitley O’Connor

Vendors purchase more magazines for $0.75 each

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We help vendors find and finance housing!


Letter from the Editor

Long before The Curbside Chronicle was founded in 2013, street papers have been radically changing the face of homelessness around the world, empowering men and women through employment, and transitioning them on to brighter futures. The global impact of the international street paper movement cannot be ignored, which is why leaders like Pope Francis, Michelle Obama, and the Dalai Lama choose to actively support the development and growth of street papers in their local communities. While the concept of a street paper is still new in Oklahoma City, the street paper movement itself started in the 1980s and has seen immense success globally. Street papers operate using independent newspapers and magazines as their product. People experiencing homelessness sell the product as a source of income and way to transition off of the streets. Modern-day street papers also serve as a social mechanism between persons of differing economic strata, creating a positive interaction amongst varying groups of people. Street papers also include articles written by those experiencing homelessness and about the issue to help provide a voice and better understanding of the problem. In this special issue of The Curbside Chronicle, we have compiled interviews with some of our world’s most respected leaders. It is pretty amazing to note that all of the interviews ahead were conducted exclusively by various street papers around the world. They are not available in any other publications outside of the street paper realm. We hope that by hearing these stories, you can gain a better understanding of our vision here in Oklahoma City. Even though we are one of the youngest street papers in the world, we have big plans for the future. And despite our age, we were honored to be nominated for the most awards at the International Network of Street Papers convention in 2015. We were privileged to stand next to street papers that have been around for decades and have carved out an incredible path for us to follow. But the global recognition and awards pale in comparison to the accomplishments that our vendors have made with your support – breaking down barriers to prove that “homeless” doesn’t define who they are as a person, and using their entrepreneurial spirit to change the trajectory of their lives. We are thankful for the support of our readers, who help bring our vision to life. We are thankful for the support of the international street paper community and their guidance. And most of all, we are thankful for everyone who believes in the power and change that can come when you embrace ideas for the betterment of mankind. Sincerely, Ranya O’Connor Editor

The impact of street papers, like The Curbside Chronicle, reaches far beyond the streets of Oklahoma City! 113 street papers 36 countries 600+ cities 12,762 vendors at any one time 22,770 vendors in 2015 1,449,645 circulation per edition 23,000,000+ circulation per year 6,000,000+ readers per edition $37,300,000+ earned by vendors in 2015


photo by Frank Dries, Straatnieuws, INSP

Pope Francis

by Stijn Fens & Jan-Willem Wits, street paper reporters for Straatnieuws in Netherlands

In an exclusive interview for street papers worldwide, Pope Francis shares his thoughts on homelessness, poverty, and the Church.

It is still early when we arrive at the service entrance of the Vatican, to the left of Saint Peter’s Basilica. The Swiss Guards have been informed of our arrival, and let us pass. We head to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, because that is where Pope Francis lives. The Domus Sanctae Marthae is in all likelihood the most unique threestar hotel in the world. A large white building where cardinals and bishops reside while serving in or visiting the Vatican, it is also the official residence of the cardinals during the Conclave.

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Here, too, they are expecting us. Two ladies behind the reception desk, just like in any hotel, kindly indicate a side door. The meeting room has already been prepared. It is a fairly large space, with a desk, a sofa, tables and chairs, and is the Pope’s meeting room during the week. Then, the wait begins. Marc, the Straatnieuws salesman, is the most patient of us all, waiting, seated in his chair, for what will come. Suddenly the Pope’s official photographer appears. “The Pope is arriving,” he whispers.

And before we know it, he walks into the room: Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics. “Please, sit down, friends,” he says with a gentle wave of his hand, “How nice to have you here.” Close up, he gives the impression of a calm, friendly man, who is at the same time both energetic and precise. Once seated, he apologizes for speaking Italian, rather than Dutch. We forgive him immediately.


Straatnieuws interviews always begin with a question about the street on which the interviewee grew up. Holy Father, what do you remember about that street? What images come into your mind when you recall the streets of your childhood?

How did your commitment to the poor begin? Yes, so many memories come to mind. A woman who worked in our home three times a week to help my mother comes to mind. She helped with the laundry, for example. She had two children. They were Italian, and had survived the war; they were very poor, but they were very good people. And I have never forgotten that woman. Her poverty struck me. We were not rich; normally we made it to the end of the month, but not much more. We didn’t own a car; we didn’t go on vacations or things like that. But she often needed even the most basic items. They didn’t have enough, and so my mother gave her things. She eventually went back to Italy, and then later she returned to Argentina. I found her again when I was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and she was 90. I was able to assist her until her death at the age of 93.

photo by Frank Dries, Straatnieuws, INSP

One day, she gave me a medal of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which I still carry with me every day. This medal which is also a memento - is very good for me. Would you like to see it? [With a bit of difficulty, Pope Francis manages to pull out the medal, now completely discolored after years of use.] With this, every day I think of her, and of how she suffered from poverty. And I think of all the others who have suffered. I wear it, and I use it to pray... What is the Church’s message for those who are homeless? What is the concrete meaning of Christian solidarity for them? Two things come to mind. Jesus came in to our world without a home, and he chose poverty. Then, the Church seeks to embrace us all, and says that it is a right to have a roof over your head. Popular movements work toward the three Spanish ‘t’s’: trabajo [work], techo [roof] and tierra [land]. The Church teaches that every person has the right to these three t’s. You often call for heightened attention for the poor and for

From when I was one year old to when I entered the seminary, I always lived on the same street. It was a simple neighborhood in Buenos Aires, with one and two-story homes. There was a small square, where we played football. I remember that I used to sneak out of the house to play football with the boys after school. My father worked in a factory that was just a few hundred meters away. He was a bookkeeper. And my grandparents lived within 50 meters. We were all just a few steps from one another. I also remember the names of the people, when as a priest I went to give the sacraments, the final comfort for so many, who called for me and I went, because I loved them. These are the memories that first come to mind.

Popular movements work toward the three Spanish ‘t’s’: trabajo [work], techo [roof] and tierra [land]. The Church teaches that every person has the right to these three t’s.

refugees. Are you not afraid that this might lead to a sort of overload in the media and in society in general? We all have the temptation - when we have to face an issue that is not pretty, that is difficult to talk about, to say, “Oh, let’s not talk about this anymore: this thing is just too difficult.” I understand that the possibility of overload exists, but I do not fear it. I must continue to speak about the truth and about the way things are. Do you not fear that your support for the homeless and other groups plagued by poverty might be exploited politically? How can the Church speak out so that it has influence and, at the same time, manage to steer clear of political posturing? There are paths that lead to errors at that point. I would like to call attention to two temptations. The Church must speak the truth and also with a testimony: the testimony of poverty. The believer who speaks of poverty or of the homeless, but who lives a life of luxury: that will not do. This is the first temptation. The second temptation is making agreements with governments. Certainly agreements can be made, but they must be clear agreements, transparent agreements. For example, we manage this building, but the accounts are all closely controlled, in order to avoid corruption. Because the temptation for corruption is always present in public life. Both political


Your namesake Saint Francis embraced radical poverty, and even sold his gospel book. As Pope, and the Bishop of Rome, do you ever feel under pressure to sell the treasures of the Church? That is an easy question. They are not the treasures of the Church, but rather the treasures of humanity. For example, if tomorrow I wanted to auction off Michelangelo’s Pietà, I couldn’t, because it is not the property of the Church. It is located in a Church, but it belongs to all humanity. This is true for all the treasures of the Church. But we have begun to sell the gifts and other things that are given to me. And the proceeds from the sales go to

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and religious. I remember once that I saw, with great pain, - when Argentina under the military regime entered into war with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands - that people donated items to charity, and I saw many people, including Catholics, who were responsible for distributing those things to the needy, and who instead took those items home for themselves. The danger for corruption is always present. Once I put a question to an Argentine Minister, an honest man. One who stepped down from his position because he could not agree with certain things that were not sufficiently transparent. I asked him, “When you send assistance, whether it is in the form of meals, clothing, or funds, to the poor and to the indigent, of what you send, how much of it arrives to those who need it, of the money and material items that are sent?” He said to me, “35 percent.” Which means that 65 percent is lost. That is corruption: a bit for me, another bit for me.

... I don’t know whether we will ever have a world without poverty, because there is always sin, and it leads to selfishness. But we must always fight... always.

Monsignor Krajewski, my Almoner [Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who is in charge of distributing money to the poor]. And then there is the lottery. There were some cars that were sold or given away with a lottery, and the proceeds were used for the poor. There are some things that can be sold, and these are sold. You do realize how the wealth of the Church might create this type of expectation? Yes, if we were to make a catalogue of all the Church’s possessions, we could think: the Church is very rich. But with the Concordat with Italy of 1929 on the Roman Question, the Italian government at the time offered the Church a large Roman park. The Pope at the time, Pius XI, said, “No, I only want half a square kilometer, in order to guarantee the Church’s independence.” This principle is still valid. Yes, the Church possesses a great deal of real estate assets, but we use them to maintain the Church’s structures and to fund the many works carried out in needy countries: hospitals, schools. Yesterday, for example, I had €50,000 sent to the Congo for the construction of three schools in poor villages; education is so important for children. I went to the administration, I made the request, and the money was sent.

photo by Max Rossi, Reuters

Did you dream of being the Pope when you were a little boy? No, but I will tell you a secret. When I was little, there weren’t many shops that sold things. What we had was a market, where there was the butcher, the greengrocer, etc. I went with my mother and my grandmother to do the shopping. Once, when I was quite little, someone asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” And I answered, “A butcher!” You were unknown to many until March 13, 2013. Then, overnight, you became famous throughout the world. How was that experience for you? It happened, and I was not expecting it. But I have not lost peace. And that is a grace from God. I don’t really think about the fact that I am famous. I say to myself: Now you have an important position, but in 10 years nobody will know you anymore [he laughs]. You know, there are two types of fame: the fame of the “greats,” those who have done truly great things, such as Madame Curie, and the fame of the vain. But this second type of fame is like a soap bubble. Holy Father, can you imagine a world without poverty? I want a world without poverty. We need to fight for that. But I am a believer, and I know that sin is always within us. And there is always human greed, the lack of solidarity, the selfishness which creates poverty. That is why it is difficult for me to imagine a world without poverty. If you think of the children exploited for slave labor, or of children exploited for sexual abuse. And another form of exploitation: killing children to remove their organs. Killing children for their organs is greed. That is why I don’t know whether we will ever have a world without poverty, because there is always sin, and it leads to selfishness. But we must always fight... always.


Help us end panhandling in OKC! The Curbside Chronicle needs your help! Cut along the black lines and keep these cards in your car to hand out to panhandlers instead of cash. Together we can employ and empower OKC’s homeless!


Help us end panhandling in OKC! The Curbside Chronicle needs your help! Cut along the black lines and keep these cards in your car to hand out to panhandlers instead of cash. Together we can employ and empower OKC’s homeless!


Dalai Lama

photo by John Paul, INSP

by Stijn Fens & Steven MacKenzie, street paper reporters for Straatnieuws in Netherlands and Big Issue UK

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama sat down with street papers, his favorite kind of magazine, to discuss refugees and overcoming religious and national barriers.

Fleeing war and bloodshed, the desperation of thousands of refugees seeking protection in Europe haunts us daily. As one nation after another pulls down shutters on its borders, what the world needs is a unifying voice. Could the Dalai Lama be that voice? Friend to A-list celebrities and world leaders, the 80-year-old has played to packed audiences in London, and received a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday when he joined Patti Smith on stage at Glastonbury in June. It’s

easy to forget this rock ‘n’ roll Dalai Lama is also a refugee who has spent most of his life in exile. Born Lhamo Dhondup in Tibet in 1935, at age two he was identified as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and lived under the tutelage of monks from the age of six. At 15 he was declared ruler of Tibet but under violent oppression by Chinese troops during the Tibetan Uprising he fled to India in 1959. He has remained in exile ever since.

The Dalai Lama is warm, jovial and speaks with clear, passionate conviction, often punctuating answers with hearty laughter and even the occasional slap of my thigh, as he discusses how to make the world a better place, improve the lives of others and - of course - street papers, his favorite kind of magazine. “I appreciate your work, helping the homeless - a good service to humanity,” he begins.

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You are probably the world’s most famous refugee. After being displaced for so long, do you find something other than a geographical location to belong to? There is a Tibetan saying that is quite wise: wherever you are happy is your home, whoever is kind to you are your parents. Of course, I have some special relations with India, and I like Europe. At least it is clean! Look around and see brothers and sisters, then you feel close [to them]. The emphasis should not be, “I am Tibetan” or “I am Buddhist.” If so, you yourself make some kind of distance.

For people without a home, it is almost like they have no basis from which to conduct their lives. They have no anchor. That is very sad. But from a larger viewpoint, I would say that this whole planet is our home. The individual may be in a difficult situation, but he is still part of the society of humanity. I think it is innate to human nature that if someone is going through a difficult time, there is some kind of willingness to help out of a sense of concern that we have. So from that viewpoint, for homeless people their direct home is no longer there, but the big home is still there… But being homeless sometimes is useful, because you realize that in many places you can find a new home. If you have just one home, in some way you can get stuck in that. Do you feel a connection to those fleeing Syria and other places looking for a better life?

Naturally, naturally. When I meet new refugees, I always mention that I

photo by Simon Murphy, INSP

am senior refugee! It is a man-made problem, with various reasons. Previously, mainly political reasons - different nations had a negative attitude towards each other and a large number of people become refugees. Nowadays, there is a religious basis for these refugees coming. Killing because of different religious faiths… Unthinkable. All religious traditions talk [about] compassion, love, forgiveness, tolerance, in the meantime these religious concepts are making division and people are killing each other… Terrible. All religions preach peace but they are so often used to justify war. Is there a dark side to religions that some people are attracted to or is it a dark side that exists in all of us? There is not a dark side on the religious side. The concept of one truth, one religion is centuries old. Here I always make the distinction - in an individual’s case the concept of one truth, one religion is very useful. In terms of community it is unrealistic. You should have the concept of several

Many of our street paper vendors in 40 countries around the world are or have been homeless. The Buddha was homeless for the biggest part of his life, and you, like many of your people, have spent most of your life in exile. What does homelessness mean to you?

For people without a home, it is almost like they have no basis from which to conduct their lives. They have no anchor. That is very sad.

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truths, several religions. Today I think the Muslim population is around one billion, and Christian population over one billion. Then Hindus about 600 million, Buddhist maybe 800 or 900 million. Either one cannot eliminate the other one. That does not stop some people from trying. You have to live together. It is much better to have mutual respect, mutual understanding and religious harmony. It is possible. We have to work. I myself am totally committed to religious harmony. You have 4.5 million followers on Twitter and 4 million fans on Facebook and many people discuss your ideas and teachings online. One of your popular Tweets read: “I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way to think about spirituality and ethics beyond religion all together.” Why do you believe that? Obviously amongst 7 billion human beings there is quite a big portion of people who have not much interest in religion. And within the group of believers, again I think there is quite a big portion of people not very serious about it. For many, religion has become just a daily ritual, but is not taken seriously. So the indication that


photo by John Paul, INSP

they may attend Sunday church or a Temple, including Buddhist, does not mean much. They pray to Buddha or God, but in their real life they have no hesitation to get involved in creating injustice, telling lies, corruption, bullying and cheating. These activities are, I think, against every major religion and traditional teaching. That indicates that a group of religious believers has a lack of conviction. Traditional spiritual teachings and principles are an immense benefit to oneself. The people who do not take their religion seriously lack this knowledge, and religion is of no relevance to their lives. Therefore, we need a wider way to spread the conviction that moral ethics are really the basis of a happy life. This is true on an individual level as well as on a family, community and humanity level. That is something common for all major religions and traditions, as well as non-believers. Everybody wants to be happy and have a happy family. Many people have the attitude that if you have money or power, your life becomes something meaningful and makes you happy. That is a mistake. Happiness and sorrow itself are part of the mind; they are a mental experience. The real way to reduce pain and sadness and increase happiness and joyfulness must be found through mental training. Some of my friends are very rich, they have plenty of money. And of course, because they are a wealthy person, they are also quite influential in society. But as a person, they are very unhappy, I noticed that. That shows that money, vanity, and

... we need a wider way to spread the conviction that moral ethics are really the basis of a happy life.

power are not an adequate source of happiness. You have often said about your own situation that it is important to keep hope. Given the current situation in Tibet, how do you succeed in that? In my own case, at age sixteen, I lost my freedom. Difficulties had already started. Then, at 24, I lost my own country. Over the last 52 years, there have been a lot of problems. The news from within our own country has mostly been very heart-breaking news, very sad. In the meantime, Tibetans have put their trust in me, trust and hope. I cannot do much, so sometimes I really feel hopeless and desperate. But then, as I mentioned earlier, it is much better to keep my own enthusiasm and optimistic attitude, rather than allowing myself to completely lose hope and demoralize. That is of no help. So to other people I also say that no matter what difficulties, we should keep our self-confidence and determination. Will there be a void left after the end of your time as spiritual leader and your successor taking over? Are you worried about the consequences of that void?

No. No worry. As early as 1969 I expressed that whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not, it is up to the people. I have no concern. The real method for the preservation of Buddha Dharma is study and practice. For example, there is no Buddha reincarnation but [he has been] teaching now over 2,000 years. The younger generation can carry our traditions whether there is Dalai Lama or not. It doesn’t matter. If you had to pick one fundamental social change you would like to see in the world within your lifetime, what would it be? My life [may be] another 15 years or 30 years then no more. A big change within the next 30 years I think is difficult. The modern education system is very much orientated about external values, not taking care of our inner values. Traditionally, our inner values totally relied on religious faith [but] now out of seven billion people, over one billion are non-believers. And among the believers also you see some deceivers. As we are getting older, how much I have to say or how much I have to hide, we always calculate that! Through that way, suspicion and distrust comes, and distrust is the worst enemy of compassion, isn’t it? It is basic human nature to be compassionate. Every child is fresh. If a mother shows a negative face to a child, they will be afraid. Smiles they like! They don’t care [about] your faith, nation, family background. Grown-ups, yes. Now we are putting in their mind that money is more important, power is more important, religious difference and faith is more important. The strength of that basic nature is reduced. Study about emotion and the mind should be considered an academic subject, not a religious matter, from kindergarten up to university level. I think the generation of 21st century may see a different world if we make an attempt now.


people from foreign invasion and being their spiritual leader at age fifteen. With your experience of loneliness in your life, what advice would you give to them? In my own case, if I only think of myself as “I am a Tibetan” or “I am Buddhist,” that in itself creates a kind of distance. So I say to myself, “Forget that. I am a human being, one of the seven billion human beings.” By saying that, we immediately become

closer. If people put the emphasis on their situation by thinking “I am poor,” or “I am homeless,” or “I am in a difficult situation,” they put too much of an emphasis on a secondary level. I think that this also is a reality, but still another reality is that we all are human beings, one of the 7 billion human beings on this planet. I know that in a practical sense that might not be of much help, but emotionally, it can be very helpful.

Our street paper vendors around the world face different kinds of social and economic difficulties, but when asked what the hardest thing about their situation is, their answer is often the same: the feeling of loneliness. A search party recognized you as the 14th Dalai Lama when you were two years old; you spent your childhood amongst adults in monasteries and faced the huge responsibility of protecting your

So I say to myself: ‘... I am a human being, one of the seven billion human beings.’ By saying that, we immediately become closer. If people put the emphasis on their situation by thinking ‘I am poor,’ or ‘I am homeless,’ or ‘I am in a difficult situation,’ they put too much of an emphasis on a secondary level. I think that this also is a reality, but still another reality is that we all are human beings.


Vendor Highlight

Meet Calvin

photos by Nick Aguilera

by Ranya O’Connor, street paper reporter from The Curbside Chronicle, Oklahoma City

Calvin is a local vendor for The Curbside Chronicle who believes that 2016 will hold radical change in his life. He shares parts of his past and his goals for the future. You can find Calvin selling magazines in Downtown OKC. Tell us about your childhood. I’m from Altus, Oklahoma. I have four sisters and two brothers. We never was all together, just me and my older sister. My mom, she didn’t want much to do with us because she was doing her own thing. She put us out when we was young. I was 14 when my mom gave us away. I took that to heart. I try to look past that, but it’s hard knowing that your mom didn’t really want you from the beginning. I felt like that all my life though. I don’t know what my dad looks like. Never seen him a day in my life. I know I

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was an accidental baby. That tells you right there that they didn’t really want me… After we got put out, me and my older sister went to my grandmother’s and started living with her. When my grandma got sick, we started moving back and forth to foster homes. What was it like in foster care? They were very nice to us. They’d take us to movies and take us skating. We had nice rooms. They was real nice, but I still couldn’t adjust to it. I knew it wasn’t permanent. I’m just there for a short period of time. All we

ever wanted was somebody to care for us. Somebody we can talk to and turn to when we have a situation. I see people every day with moms and dads walking around. Sometimes tears come to my eyes. I love to see that. I’ve always wanted a family. Somebody to call “mom” and “dad,” whose gonna be there for me. I never had nobody to be there for me. That’s probably why I turned out like I did. If I would have had that, I’d probably be doing really good right now. Maybe driving a boat or something.


to

your

My grandma was the sweetest person in the world. She would take people in off the streets and feed them and clothe them. She sung in the church and taught Bible study. She was awesome. My grandmother died in 1990. After that, I felt like I crumbled. I love cooking because of my grandmother. My grandmother is the one who taught me to cook. I’d stand in the kitchen with her while she cooked three meals a day. We’d both be in there singing. She’d be singing. I’d be trying to sing. I watched her cook rabbit, fish, chicken, liver. Sometimes she’d let me whip the gravy or the cake batter. I learned all my ingredients from her. That’s where I got my experience and first began cookin’. Later on, I took Culinary Arts when I was locked up. What was school like for you? I was a basketball star for a minute at Altus. I was a guard. I could handle the ball pretty good. After awhile, things started going down hill. I was in one of “those schools,” hanging out with the wrong guys, doing a bunch of crazy stuff. I just tried to fit in where I could. I dropped out in 12th grade because they wouldn’t let me play basketball anymore. I wasn’t making my grades. I didn’t know what to do. I started hanging out with guys dealing dope. I had no guidance, nobody to lead me. I pretty much just gave up. I started running the streets, acting crazy. How did that turn out? I got in some trouble. I got with this one guy that I thought was real cool, but I came to find out in the long run that he really wasn’t. We went over to his lady friend’s house. He told me to have a seat in the front room while they talked in the back. Pretty soon, I heard all this hollerin’. I jumped up to go see what had happened. He had

robbed her and ran out the door. I didn’t know what to do. I told her to call the police, but she went off on me saying, “You probably have something to do with this.” Two days later, the police was looking for me. They tell me that I got a robbery case. I never robbed nobody. But I was there with him, which made me part of it. Long story short, they gave me 5 years. I was 24. What was prison like? It was scary, man. I’ve seen stabbings, a couple of killings. Prison is not the place to be. You put up with so much. You have to wake up at a certain time, go to sleep at a certain time... Eventually I got used to it. I played ball a lot at the gym and joined a lot of programs like anger management. When I finally got out, I met this girl. She was beautiful, and I was weak. We started hanging out and stuff. She had two beautiful daughters. I wanted to be a dad, but I wasn’t in no position to be a dad. I didn’t have a job and didn’t know how to be a father. The kids started wanting things that I couldn’t provide for them…so I just walked out the store with them. One day, they got

Were you close grandmother?

This is the roughest part of my life right here – to not be able to lay down when I want to rest. Not knowing at night if anybody’s gonna bother me. People harm homeless people.

me on camera. I did a year probation for that. After a while, I started seeing that my lifestyle wasn’t working in my advantage. How were you able to turn things around? When I got out again in 2010, I went to the Exodus House and stayed there for a while. I got myself together there. I said, “I’m done with everything and everybody that’s a bad influence.” That’s why you never see me with anybody. So, I started just hanging by myself. I got a job at local coffee shop. I couldn’t believe they hired me, but they did. They gave me a chance. I started washing dishes and then moved on to cooking. At the time, the coffee shop served food too. That was the best job I ever had. Unfortunately, the owner wound up selling the restaurant part but kept the coffee part. That’s when things started falling apart for me again. I got turned onto temp service work, but I couldn’t fully support myself like that… I felt like I put in an application at a million different places. A lot of people told me they’d give me a call but then never did. All the mess I got into earlier in life took affect on me getting a job now. When did you first experience homelessness? I started experiencing homelessness in my 40s. I’m 54 now. I’ve just been spotting around since then. It’s rough. I’m so tired. Sometimes, I just wanna find me an abandoned building, make


Just trying to get somewhere warm, you might have to move somewhere you don’t really wanna move. There are people that rent rooms in old houses to the homeless. Most are roach-infested with bed bugs. It’s $20 a day to stay at these places or $100$120 a week. There’s no contracts or leases. Just give them money and you can stay. There are usually 6 to 8 other people staying in these homes at a time. Living in homes like that isn’t good, but at least it keeps you off the streets. You do all you can to make your weekly payment, but at the end of the week, you got nothing for rent or a deposit for your own place. What role has Curbside played in your life? Curbside has gotten me on the right track again. It’s moving me towards the future. This is my future right here. It has opened up a lot of doors for me.

I can see it coming - my future. I can be impatient sometimes, but I know it’s coming. I used to be the guy who thought there was no hope for me, but I don’t think that way no more.

I know that by me doing this, that I’m doing the right thing. I’m trying to grow. I could still be out there running the streets and doing dumb stuff, but now I have no desire. I’m looking forward, and I have goals. I’m not going to let any of my supporters down. There are a lot of encouraging people out there that I would have never known without Curbside. I didn’t know there were such beautiful people in the world. I always saw people as mean, hateful, black or white. I’ve learned there’s a lot of good people in the world and to love people… People like to know how people like me survive and get around and what happened to put us in this situation. I think Curbside has opened up a lot of eyes. They read the magazine and they feel what we’re saying. A lot of people take that to heart. What are your goals for 2016? I want a job. I just want to work and have a place of my own. Just have a life like everybody else. That’s all I want. I will get on my hands and knees and

scrub floors if I have to. That’s my goal for 2016 –to get me a job and to have a life that I can call a real life. My older sister, she raised me. We been through a lot together. She always made sure we had food and clothes. She’s in a nursing home now. They told me last time I went to see her that if I get my own place with a permanent job, they would consider letting her come live with me. That’s really what I’m striving for. That’s why I want a job so bad, so I can get my own place and pay my rent every month to go get my sister. I want to get her out the nursing home so we can be back together again. She has a brain aneurysm. She had a stroke, so she can’t talk that good now. That kinda bothers me because I never pictured her like that. I only picture her as happy-go-lucky. We would catch the bus and ride around town together. We did a lot of stuff together. It’s now my time to look out for her. I can see it coming – my future. I can be impatient sometimes, but I know it’s coming. I used to be the guy who thought there was no hope for me, but I don’t think that way no more.

What do you mean rented rooms?

a fire, and just never come out. Call that home. This is the roughest part of my life right here – to not be able to lay down when I want to rest. Not knowing at night if anybody’s gonna bother me. People harm homeless people. You might not wake up one day. You might freeze. People take your stuff. You don’t have nothing to cover up with. You’re just out in the cold and alone. I’ve stayed in shelters, on the streets, and rented rooms.

I know that by me doing this, that I’m doing the right thing. I’m trying to grow.

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“ The time is always right to do what is right.� ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

One day and step at a time, empowered folks are choosing a brighter future. A future of self worth, dignity and opportunity. Through avenues provided by Curbside Chronicle, our community is made stronger, as the less fortunate become the latest success stories. For this, we offer our humble support and gratitude.


photos by Dimitri Koutsomytis, Oslo, INSP

Arun Gandhi by Danielle Batist, street paper reporter for the International Netowork of Street Papers

Arun Gandhi is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. At age 12, his parents sent him to live with his grandfather in India, where the elder Gandhi introduced Arun to his theory and practice of peace and nonviolence. In a special interview for street papers, he argues that we need more positive news in the media and gives his advice to young activists.

Just before my Eurostar train pulls into Brussels Midi station, Arun Gandhi’s plane touches down at the international airport. He takes a few hours of rest following his overnight flight from Atlanta while I meet up with photographer Dimitri Koutsomytis of Norwegian street paper Erlik Oslo. Over coffee at the iconic Grand Place, we try to imagine what life must have been like for Arun, as the 5th grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. In Legacy of Love, one of his many books, Arun describes the daily injustices he faced in apartheid South Africa, where he grew up as “neither

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black nor white.” At age 12, his parents sent him to live with his grandfather in India. The elder Gandhi set aside an hour each day for his grandson, using storytelling and exercises to introduce Arun to his theory and daily practice of peace and nonviolence. The pair had just 18 months together before Mahatma was assassinated. But this time, it turned out, was enough to transform Arun into a persuasive advocate of Gandhian ideals. When we meet Arun in the lobby of Hotel Amigo, the first thing we notice is the energy that surrounds him. He looks well for his 81 years, but it’s

when he starts speaking that his full personality shines through. We hand him a selection of street papers from around the world, which he studies with interest. Having worked as a journalist for the Times of India for thirty years, he has a keen interest in the role of the media in shaping perspectives. He asks about the way street papers are run and we briefly discuss the importance of independent media. He pours himself a cup of tea and nods towards the voice recorder. Arun Gandhi is ready to take our questions.


How do you think this relates to what we teach our children? The emphasis in schools is largely on literacy and numeracy, but increasingly we see a call for empathy and other “soft skills” to be included in the curriculum. I am very sad about the education system all over the world. It is based on giving young people a career to go out and make money. Schools are building a labor force for big industry to exploit and expand. That is not education. Education is where people learn about themselves, their character and their connection with each other. That part doesn’t happen at all, there is no emphasis on that. I say this to students in the US where I teach: you come together from different races and nationalities. You are here for four or five years to study

We think that we can buy everything: from top education to success in life. But you can’t buy compassion and love and respect.

and live together in close confinements, so this is the opportunity for you to learn about each other and the differences that exist. But nobody pays any attention to that. You’ll find the Indian students association separate from the African American or the white students association. Everybody has their own association and there is no coming together. You have Black History Month, where only the black students learn about that history, and the same for Women’s History Month. Why not everybody? Education is really lacking in building the character of a person and building a more cohesive society.

make it your life. That is where there is a problem in modern society. Right from birth, we bring them to nurseries where they are brought up by strangers. Children are tired after being in day care centers all day and parents are tired from working long hours. The children see that their parents work hard for material gains, so materialism becomes their way of life too. By planting those seeds of selfishness, we are telling them that it is right to trample over people to get to the top.

You were raised in a family dedicated to nonviolent social reform, first in South Africa with your parents and later with your grandfather in India. Do you think it is possible for every child to learn such lessons from a young age?

We have to find the balance between materialism and morality. My grandfather used to say that the two have an inverse relationship and we see that every day. The US is the most materialistic society, but the least moral. We have to make a living and a career for ourselves, but that shouldn’t be the only obsession we have. If it is, then we shouldn’t have children. If you decide to have children, you have the responsibility to give them enough time to lay the foundations for their life. Many parents would say that they are working to pay for childcare and to be able to afford the best education for their children. The best education that a child can get is from the parents at home. No private school with thousands of dollars of fees is ever going to teach the child what the parents can teach in the first five years. We think that we can buy everything: from top education to success in life. But you can’t buy compassion and love and respect. There are different problems in each part of the world, but the fundamental problem of greed and exploitation is universal. I see this in India where it has recently become a trend to talk in the media about how the economy is booming, but half of the people is still living in poverty. That is half a billion people to whom the wealth does not trickle down.

It has to begin from home. We need to realize that often our parenting is violent too. When we threaten children with punishment if they misbehave, we are teaching them that violence is right. When I was very young, we were living in South African on a farm. The children from the African farm laborers were the only ones I could play with. Their families had lived in extreme poverty for a very long time. My parents allowed me to play with them under the condition that I would learn from them how they lived and played without any toys or luxuries. In turn, I taught them how to read and write. Hundreds of children came from all around and we had a beautiful relationship. Compassion was built in us this way. When you see your parents do these things selflessly, you learn from it and

Unfortunately, a lot of the scholars in Gandhian philosophy all over the world have looked at nonviolence as a weapon; a strategy to use in certain conflicts. But I think it really is about personal transformation. My grandfather was very concerned about the culture of violence that dominates human kind. It has taken roots so deeply in us that we don’t even recognize that many of the things we do are violent. In the United States alone we throw away $120bn of food every year, when an estimated one million people are going to bed hungry. That is a form of violence too. It is that passive violence that accumulates and creates anger in the victim, who then resorts to physical violence to get justice. Logically, if we want to put out the fire of physical violence, if we want to stop wars and hate, then we have to cut off the fuel supply, which comes from each one of us. That is where we must become the change we wish to see in the world.

The great legacy your grandfather left you is the notion of nonviolence. Can you explain why you see this as more than peaceful conflict resolution alone?

There are different problems in each part of the world, but the fundamental problem of greed and exploitation is universal.

Do you see any ways to break that cycle?


You have worked as a journalist for The Times of India for 30 years. How do you think the story of our world compares to what we see on the daily evening news?

How do you encourage people to practice everyday activism without being overwhelmed? Young people are very enthusiastic; they want to change the whole world. I keep telling them: we don’t have the capacity to change the world, but we do have the capacity to change ourselves, so let’s try to do that first. We can help others around us change so the ripple effect will grow and the world will ultimately change. They spend so much time trying to change the world that they burn out and give up everything. We all have to set ourselves goals that we can achieve. We know that we have the capacity to do that. Once you achieve one goal, you set yourself another one and keep going up. The narrative of the world is often told in terms of victims, heroes and perpetrators. Do we need to adapt this story in order to build equal relationships?

We are always looking at relationships by asking what we personally gain

photos by Dimitri Koutsomytis, Oslo, INSP

from them. If we don’t gain anything, we wonder why we should bother at all. We need relationships to be based on mutual respect, love and appreciation, so we can feel each other’s suffering and be able to help. We think we make the world better by killing the bad guys. What we don’t realize is that each one of us has the capacity to do good or bad. We can be bad guys if the wrong buttons are pressed, but that does not mean we are bad for life. We lock up our criminals but crime is still growing, because we never look at what motivated someone to commit a crime. We address the person but we don’t address the problem. That is the big mistake. How can we take away the fear for the unknown “other” that leads us down the road of punishment? We allow ourselves to be controlled by fear. That is how we raise our children, and it is how our governments control us. They talk about terrorism and declare war. We are afraid of people who come to destroy our way of life. I need to go through more security checks at airports because I look different. That kind of thing just divides people. We only became aware of some parts of the world when they

The media project a lot of negativity. As a result, many people have switched off and don’t know what is going on in the world. I believe that news is not just about all the violence; it is another way of educating society. We could and should emphasize the positives and the differences that exist in society and try to make people understand them. As a journalist I used to focus a lot on positive programs run by individuals making a difference. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes editors wouldn’t publish it. I think that the notion of free press is flawed: editors have their own prejudices and they look at revenue and advertisers’ needs. But audiences were interested in what I produced and even now people will tell me that they enjoyed those stories.

We address the person but we don’t address the problem. That is the big mistake.

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attacked us. Before that, we didn’t care, even though we exploited those parts of the world, arbitrarily divided countries and forcefully moved people around. All the things that we did during colonial years, we are now paying the price for. It didn’t just happen overnight: it is the accumulative effect of all the violence that has happened over the years. If we had the understanding and compassion to care, they would not be against us, but we just dropped them and walked away. One of the things my grandfather said was that nationalism and patriotism are the most negative things that have happened to human society. We now think that as long as we are patriotic to our country, we don’t need to care about anyone else. But if the rest of the world is going down the tube, however strong we may be in our country, we are going down with them. We need to understand that the stability and security of any nation depends on the stability and security of the whole world. Gandhi’s lessons are still widely quoted, even though he did not want his writings to become a dogma after his death. Have you felt the need to adapt his teachings? Any philosophy has to keep evolving. What my grandfather said a hundred years ago will not be entirely true today. Philosophers don’t like it when I say this, but I believe that the moment


Does it frustrate you to see people misinterpreting Gandhi’s lessons, or not applying them in their own day-to-day lives? I don’t get frustrated because I don’t have big expectations. I consider myself to be a peace farmer. A farmer goes out into the field to plants seeds

and hopes he will get a good crop. I go out wherever I can to plant seeds of peace. If I have the expectation that I can transform a few thousand people who come to listen to me, I would be disappointed because not everyone gets that message. Some of the problems we face on our planet today, like climate change, are so big that they require massive scale change. How do you reconcile your small-scale approach with the overwhelming needs of the world? I take all the challenges today to be inspirational. It requires me to do more, because the problems are very

urgent. It would be very easy to feel like we can’t do anything about it and give up. My children always complain that I am now 81 and still don’t retire. But as long as I have good health, I want to continue. I tell them: it is not the time to retire while the world is in flames.

you put a philosophy down in a book, it ceases to be a philosophy and becomes a dogma. Everyone will refer to that book and ask, “What did Gandhi say,” and then apply it literally. It is the same with religion which was written down in books and scriptures thousands of years ago. We need to have the intelligence to see what was meant and use it in today’s world.

... we don’t have the capacity to change the world, but we do have the capacity to change ourselves...


Prince William

photo by David Moir, Reuters

by Sophia Kichou, street paper reporter for The Big Issue UK

In this exclusive street paper interview, Prince William tells us why ending youth homelessness is a very personal matter.

Duke of Cambridge is a busy man. He works as a full-time pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, based at Cambridge Airport. He also keeps on top of a wide array of royal duties and charitable work, including his role as patron of Centrepoint, the UK’s leading charity for homeless young people. Significantly, this was the first patronage he chose, back in 2005, and it was a cause very dear to his mother Diana, who was also a Centrepoint patron. In December 2009 Prince William spent a night in a sleeping bag near London’s Blackfriars Bridge

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for Centrepoint, to get an idea of the conditions experienced by young rough sleepers. The Duke told us why the struggles of homeless people remain important to him, and described how society needs to wake up to the scale of the problem. That’s not to say he thinks it’s a losing battle. With focus, he told us, youth homelessness is something we can fix. Homelessness is a subject Sophia Kichou knows all too well. She became homeless at the age of 18, sleeping in a hostel before finding support with Centrepoint. She first met Prince

William four years ago and told the Duke of Cambridge about her dream of becoming a journalist. She said she would love to interview him some day. He agreed. And at the end of November, he sat down with Sophia so she could interview him. When Sophia met William at Kensington Palace for her royal appointment, he appeared very happy and relaxed (if Charlotte is causing sleepless nights, her dad didn’t show any sign of tiredness). The Prince joked about the “interrogation,” asking if Sophia was going to “Paxman” him and admitting to feeling a little nervous.


You’ve visited Centrepoint many times over the years. Why is the issue of youth homelessness so important to you?

You’ve met a lot of young people who have been through homelessness. Have there been any stories that really stayed with you? It’s hard to pick people out. But something that did live with me for a long time was meeting an Eritrean guy whose entire family was killed in Eritrea. It was probably one of the closest times I’ve ever come to fighting back tears of emotion listening to someone tell their story. I think seven members of his family had been killed, and he found himself here with no-one in the world left to look after him. And Centrepoint was the organization to give him the network of support that allowed him to rebuild his life. I was really blown away by that. And there are so many stories like that. Do you think people understand the kind of things people go through? For me, seeing people overcoming personal challenges, the adversity you and others have fought through - it’s

photo by Louise Haywood-Schiefer

incredibly moving and powerful. And it’s what gives me the confidence that we can beat the problem. I think if more people can understand what you and others have gone through, and how you’ve turned your life around, they would understand more. Do you think we can ever end youth homelessness? I do think it’s achievable. There are 136,000 young people in England and Wales in need of emergency support, yet only 16,000 are officially accepted as homeless. It shows it’s still a huge problem we haven’t addressed fully. I would love the country to wake up to the issue. It’s complex, but it’s fixable. I do strongly believe that. You slept outside for a night in a London alleyway back in 2009. Was it difficult? Did it show you the reality of homelessness? No, it couldn’t show me the reality. I thought it was important to spend one night doing that, but I can’t even remotely pretend that I know what homelessness is like. I had a nice bed to go home to at the end of it. It did

I think it goes back to when my mother first took the role when I was a small boy. I was very struck by the people I met and what they were struggling with - sleeping rough, sofa surfing, not having basic comforts a lot of us take for granted. That really struck me at a young age, bearing in mind the gulf for me, growing up in a palace, and seeing the other end of the spectrum where others were faced with huge personal challenges and were overcoming them. That was powerful to see at a young age. In today’s western world, with all the advancements and privileges we have, the fact some people don’t have a bed or a roof over their head is quite ridiculous.

In today’s western world, with all the advancements and privileges we have, the fact some people don’t have a bed or a roof over their head is quite ridiculous.

help illustrate just how lonely it must be if you had to do that every night, and the vulnerability you are under. I had police protection, and I had Seyi Obakin (Centrepoint’s chief executive) for company, but others face the risk of hypothermia, the risk of abuse and assault on their own. So it focused your mind on the problem… It did focus my mind on how desperate young people must be to have to go through that, and some of the methods they might go to in order to get a roof over the heads - self-harming to go to A&E units, committing a crime just to be in a cell. If young people have to go to those lengths then we have to do something about that. When it comes to youth homelessness, do you feel you’ve seen progress? I think so. I think I’ve seen ups and downs, if I’m being honest. Initially, there was a feeling we - at Centrepoint and other homelessness charities - had a gauge on how big the problem was and we were tackling it. In recent years the problem has got worse. Services are being stretched, as much as they possibly can be. I still believe it’s possible to end youth homelessness. Early intervention is key. The earlier we can tackle young people’s problems, the more likely we are to give them the ability to fix their own future.


Michelle Obama

photo by Christopher Dilts, Obama for America

by Alice Parker and Abimbola Odukoya, street paper reporters for The Big Issue UK

Michelle Obama talks to street papers about what it’s like being the First Lady of the United States.

What is it like to be married to the most powerful man in the world? When I met the President, I knew he was special. And it had nothing to do with his education or his potential. It had to do with his work ethic and the way he treated the women in his family - his mother, grandmother and little sister. I also respected that he was a community organizer. He had the chance to clerk for the Supreme Court, but he thought he could have a greater impact working with folks in churches. The lesson, particularly I think for women, is to reach for partners that make you better. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, it’s with the people you surround yourselves with too. If there were one issue in the world you could solve, what would it be? I’ve been spending a lot of time working on trying to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States within a generation. I’ve seen how children’s diets and habits have

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changed. When our girls [Malia and Sasha] were young and my schedule was busy, I would get into the habit of feeding our girls what was easy rather than what was best for them. I know American families feel stretched in the same way. That’s why we’ve developed a program we call Let’s Move. It’s designed to get kids moving and eating better. We started by planting the White House kitchen garden to get kids involved in healthy eating habits, and the program has really taken off in schools and communities across the country.

You have had the privilege of meeting lots of amazing people as the First Lady. Who was the most memorable and why?

What is a typical day in your life like?

How tough is it to juggle politics with family life?

There really is no typical day. It can range from the very basic to things I never could have dreamed would happen. One day I might be visiting the brilliant young women at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in London and the next weekend I’ll go home and watch our girls’ soccer games. My husband and I have wanted to use our platforms to encourage others to give back to their communities, but we still always make time for family.

The right support network definitely helps. When my husband was serving in the Senate and also running for president, I relied on a group of my girlfriends who had children Malia and Sasha’s ages. We took turns taking the kids to activities. Now that the President works so close to our home, we are able to enjoy regular family dinners and spend more quality time together.

I’ve met incredible authors and playwrights and scientists and soldiers. I really enjoy meeting everybody, but having the opportunity to visit Nelson Mandela at his house in Johannesburg was truly an incredible experience. Nelson Mandela’s legacy helped to make me the person I am today and meeting him was something I never thought would happen in my lifetime.


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John Bird

photo courtesy of The Big Issue

by Iravati Guha, street paper reporter for The Big Issue UK

John Bird, the founding father of street papers, explains the important role street papers play in the lives of the homeless and the unforeseen success street papers have had worldwide.

John Bird is a British social entrepreneur and the co-founder of The Big Issue, the world’s largest street paper. The Big Issue currently employs over 2000 people affected by homelessness, offering them the opportunity to earn a legitimate income. Vendors for The Big Issue sell over 100,000 copies per month, generating over $7,500,000 in revenue last year alone. Since it’s founding, The Big Issue has spread to four continents and nearly a dozen countris. Bird himself became homeless at the age of five and has been in prison or on the streets a number of times since - he prides himself on being someone who once was part of the problem and is now part of the solution.

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The Big Issue is not a charity magazine; it’s an ethical business. Where do you have to draw the line between being ethically responsible and making a profit? Or do you think that there is no line? Being ethically responsible is rather strange when you talk about business… So we have our guidelines. We don’t take stories which are unethical. We would never run an anti-gypsy or a racist story. We’re very careful, but at the end of the day, we do have to make a living. I’ve often got into trouble, especially with other similar newspapers saying we’re too commercial. And I say, “Yes, but we’re here to sell as many papers as possible

in order to give work to the homeless.” We’re not a homeless paper: we’re a paper sold by homeless people. And that’s an important difference. Is the street-vending model profitable? Would the magazine sell more copies if it were sold in stores? We wouldn’t sell more copies, because what people are largely buying is the relationship with the vendor. The relationship with the vendor is of vital importance because people say, “I buy the paper from a homeless or an ex-homeless person I can talk to. I can learn about their life. I can engage.”


I think it’s very important that the magazine is read by vendors because the magazine is for them; we’re treating them the way we treat every other member of the public. The problem with the vendors, of course, is that they could see an advertisement for a holiday which they’re never likely to go on. But that’s the same for millions of other people. I always say that the vendors who sell very well are the vendors who read the paper and then tell the people what’s in it - they can say “Oh, look what’s in this!” Are the vendors of The Big Issue quite a dynamic group, with some leaving as they receive housing and other types of employment and others entering, or do some vendors stagnate in the same position for long periods of time? It depends on where you are. In Cambridge, you’ve got a regular group of people who’ve been selling for quite a period of time. One of the things that I’m trying to do is to create new forms of employment away from the streets so that vendors can then not just sell on the streets but also become content providers and write stuff for us, or deliver magazines to people who’ve pre-ordered them. Turning vendors into deliverers is a whole new way of

employing homeless people away from the streets. But the problem with people we meet through The Big Issue is that they have been around homelessness for quite a long period of time. They’ve got severe problems because they’ve been in and out of it, and we often meet them when they are at their lowest. So sometimes, you’re holding those peoples’ hands until the day they die. Others, you’re helping to move very quickly. I always say that The Big Issue’s a bit like the sea. The nearer the top of the water you are, the more oxygen, the deeper the less oxygen. So very few fish at the bottom move up very quickly. But then, it could be that those at the bottom have never really had a proper job and have never really established their own credentials, so no one’s going to give them a job, and it could be people who are so mentally and physically unable that they’re going to be with us forever. The Big Issue is now published and sold in four continents and in multiple languages. Did you foresee the global impact that setting up the magazine would have?

No. When we started The Big Issue, we started it for a very specific problem, which was the fact that the middle of London was full of homeless people sleeping on the streets who were causing problems for themselves and the public, and the police were being brought in. When other people in other parts of the UK saw what we were doing, they came to us and they said, “Can you bring The Big Issue here?” to Bristol, to Brighton, to Manchester and so on. And then a French camera team came over to see me and made a film about us for French television, and then there was a paper in France. Then there was a German camera team, and then a Russian one. So all these people started to beat on our door, saying, “Wow, you’re working with homeless people who would normally have been in trouble.” So it spread. We never knew it was going to be so important, and we had no idea whether it was going to work. We weren’t really professional business people - we just had a fierce determination to help the homeless.

Do you think it’s important that vendors read the magazine themselves?

We’re not a homeless paper: we’re a paper sold by homeless people. And that’s an important difference.


50 Cent

photo by Brendan McDermid, Reuters

by Jane Graham, street paper reporter for The Big Issue

American rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has gone from dealing drugs on the street of South Jamaica, Queens as a teenager to one of hip-hop’s most bankable acts. He talks hustling, the death of his mother, and hip hop culture in this exclusive street paper interview.

When did you get involved in street life?

How’d you end up living with your grandmother?

At 16 I had already been involved in street life for years [50 Cent started dealing drugs at 12]. I was aggressive enough to get by on the street - but then I’d go home and be my grandmother’s baby. I was outside hustling but I still had to talk my grandmother into letting me walk home from school myself. I said to her, “Look, I’m bigger than you now.”

I came to live in my grandmother’s house when some of my mother’s eight siblings were still there [his mother, a cocaine dealer, was murdered when he was eight]. My aunt Sylvie, she hated me being there. She had been the baby, then suddenly it was me. My grandmother would look at me and there would be a little moment when she wouldn’t say anything, then

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she’d say, “Come on here baby.” And I said to Sylvie, “Do you notice she always pauses and looks at me before she speaks to me?” And Sylvie said, “yeah.” ‘Cause everyone noticed. And I said, “I think she sees my mother’s face on top of mine.” What was it like when your mother passed away? I think shock is the best way to describe how I felt when my mother


your

It scared me half to death when my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. My aunt would call me with updates all the time and she always said, “Don’t worry, she’s fine.” I’ve never told anyone this but two years ago, the day she called to tell me… It was early in the morning and I was on a treadmill in the gym. I got to the hospital and the whole family was there. My aunt told me the doctor said she’d had a stroke and there was nothing they could do. They took me to her and she was the smallest I ever saw her. I said “Hello?” I saw her eyes jump when she heard my voice, like she was trying to see where I was at. Everyone else left and I talked to her for a little bit. Then they all came back in and her heart rate started to drop. My aunt said, “Shit, she was waiting for you.” I’ve seen a lot of people pass in the neighborhood, I’ve lost them to motorcycles or altercations or drugs. But none of them impacted me like when my grandmother died. She was the love of my life. What did you do after that? I felt I had to do whatever it took to get by. The stuff that came out of my mouth when I was outside the house - wow, that kid was crazy. I was the youngest in the pack; everyone else was at least 16. People told my grandmother stuff I’d done and she’d say, “Nope, not my baby.” We all wanted nice things, nice clothes,

The honest truth is, at that point, the drug dealers were the leaders of the neighborhood.

because we wanted to attract girls. So we had to hustle to afford them. Did anything change after you were shot? When you get hurt as bad as I did [he was shot nine times at close range in 2000], you become afraid of everything because you know anything can happen at any time. I got shot in the afternoon, broad daylight. So I got scared, and that made me harder than I was before. The only time I was comfortable was when I didn’t care. So I just said - fuck it. When you have the pistol and you’re looking for them, your attention is shifted. You’re not afraid anymore. You’re like, I hope that’s them coming up the block now. When did you start rapping? I started writing lyrics full time in 1997. I met Jam Master Jay from Run DMC and he had his label, which would take people on and develop them until they were ready to go to a major. Jay taught me how to count bars - and when the chorus should start and stop. And I kept practicing. Sometimes hard work beats talent. I wrote all the time, and so I got better and better. I think Jay liked me ‘cause I looked like the lyrics. I had all the jewelry, I looked like a hustler. I’d been on the street so long, people respected me. The honest truth is, at that point, the drug dealers were the leaders of the neighborhood. They had more money than the rappers. The things LL Cool J and Run DMC wanted were the things guys hustling already had. Now, of course, the artists are way richer than the dealers, the hip-hop culture has grown so much.

What happened when grandmother got sick?

died. I didn’t understand it. To have a single parent as your guardian - they’re your whole life. I was eight. I was just like, what do you mean? She had spent a lot of time away from me, she was always hustling. She had to be very tough, to be around a lot of men… she had to adapt. At that time they didn’t have teen programs helping teen mothers [his mother was 15 when she had him] and my mother wanted to give me what I needed, so she couldn’t rely on welfare.

How’d you get connected to Eminem?

... I looked like the lyrics. I had all the jewelry, I looked like a hustler. I’d been on the street so long, people respected me.

Eminem had this competitive energy that made him the guy all the other rappers worried about [Eminem signed 50 Cent to Shady Records in 2002]. From early days, he was this great battle artist. The guys who were up against him would think of everything you could say about him, then he’d say those things about himself first. So everything they had against him, he took it away. He was writing all this personal stuff. I was never anything like that. I came into music with songwriting intentions ‘cause that’s where the money was.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advise, what would it be? If I could talk to my teenage self, I’d tell him to focus on music with a stronger intensity. He could still have this career without going through all the things I went through. And thinking about relationships - I think back to when I was with someone and that person could have been the person I was going to be with for the rest of my life but I didn’t have the references yet to know there was something special there. It’s like the clarity I got about my grandmother after she was gone. Some people have been better at that than me. If I look at Jay Z, I’d point out he capitalized on people better than I did. If you could relive any memory from you past, what would it be? If I could go back to any time, I’d go back to when the sales figure for the first week of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ came out. I went to sit at the back of the tour bus and just thought, “Wow.” I couldn’t believe it. When I got those sales, I knew that from now on I didn’t have to wait for someone else to say it was okay. I could say it was okay myself. But I also knew that feeling, that confirmation, that finally you have the momentum - you only feel it once. I knew I would never have that feeling again. ‘Cause everything was about to change.


photo by Eamonn M. McCormack, Getty Images

Colin Farrell by Steven MacKenzie, street paper reporter for Big Issue UK

Colin Farrell gets it. Colin Farrel talks about his admiration for the work of street papers and his interest in the Homeless World Cup.

“I think [street papers] are amazing,” he says. “Everyone in life is looking for purpose, every single one of us. Some of us find purpose in ambition, the job we do, a hobby, a girlfriend or wife or whatever. Others use our kids to finally bring home the importance of living not only for ourselves. We’re all looking to add something to society in a meaningful and recognized way.” “That is what [street papers] have done from the start. Inherent in the line ‘A hand up not a handout’ is allowing those without a roof over their heads, and without the stability that provides,

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to do something for themselves within society, which is providing a service.” “That alone is priceless, then the outreach programs that have built over years, as a result of how much [street papers] have spread as a respected publication, are what begin to really form change at a grassroots level. They offer assistance and relief for those that are struggling, for those whose greatest challenge is not building a great life but just maybe not dying.” Early on, Farrell’s career always threatened to come off the rails. His roles in a string of acclaimed hits

(Tigerland, Minority Report) and high-profile misses (Oliver Stone’s Alexander) were often overshadowed by his penchant for partying. After struggling with addiction he ditched the drink and drugs and his career transformed. Currently he is filming the Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and planning a project inspired by the Homeless World Cup. Farrell attended the most recent tournament held in Amsterdam and is keen to talk about why the subject is close to his heart.


Why the interest in people suffering from homelessness? Och man, there go I but for the grace of God. Genuinely. If I didn’t have the abundance of shit that came by way of a film career as I explored my proclivities, I could have been easily on the streets. Easily. If I had a nine-to-five job and was doing things the way I was doing them in the past… honestly, there go I but for the grace of God. Does the film industry accept that kind of behavior because it can often be good publicity?

Do you relate to the men and women you meet selling The Big Issue and at the Homeless World Cup? Of course. The Homeless World Cup was amazing to see. I had a blast. I met a lot of the players, particularly the Irish lads and the Scottish guys and gals. They were telling me what they’d been through. They were very generous, I hope I wasn’t imposing on them. I noticed so much of my story in their stories, the struggles and the difficulties. It all boils down to human beings, our sensitivities and our inability to deal with them at times. You are planning to make a film about the tournament. How did that come about?

The producer of a film I did thought one might be able to make an effective

photo by Laura Smith, INSP

film to the backdrop of the Homeless World Cup. We began the process of working on a screenplay with Frank Cottrell Boyce, who has been writing it since then. He’s done a few drafts and he’s really cracked it big time. People are often judged by the relationships they are in. A single person can be seen as a loner, married people are normal... Is that a fair way to judge people? Isolation is something that exacerbates the problems homeless people suffer. Loneliness and exclusion are a couple of the biggest themes we have to deal with as human beings. I see it with my kids in school, them wanting to be part of a play date, things going pear-shaped and someone feeling on the outside. From a very early age you learn about this thing called exclusion, then we try and navigate through the rest of our lives avoiding it like the plague. They are the brush strokes within which we live. Some of us gladly hand ourselves over to that and a lot of people offer up a hearty resistance. I think resistance and alignment both

have potential flaws and pitfalls. But ah man, it’s tricky. Each to their own single, with someone, polymorphous, I don’t know. I haven’t a clue. I just know that life is tricky for a lot of people and some of that is down to the fact that a lot of people feel very alone. As you get older do you learn how to handle the unpredictable things life throws at you differently? I would like to think so. If you can diminish the desire or insistence on certainty, then you can rid yourself of that thing that also causes so many of us so many problems, which is expectation. But it’s easy talking to you in some hotel about this. We’re talking some lovely theory here, practice is a different thing. You start off sometimes with theory then you grow practice from that. Decisions are informed by age - age being the accumulator of experience.

The movie industry is forgiving. Actors are treated sometimes like golden cows. There’s a certain level of idolatry. As long as your films are making money, you can pretty much do what you want - any kind of behavior will be excused, even if you’re killing yourself or mistreating others. That’s very much the way it is elsewhere but it’s taken to a different and more elaborate degree in the world of entertainment, whether it’s music or film.

Isolation is something that exacerbates the problems homeless people suffer. Loneliness and exclusion are a couple of the biggest themes we have to deal with as human beings.


The Curbside Chronicle - Issue 15  
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