Vendor Memorial: Alvin Dixon-El
Alvin James Dixon, a native Washingtonian, died on June 14, according to a police report. He was 70 years old and lived with his brother in Northwest D.C.
Dixon attended Dunbar High School and the University of the District of Columbia. He married young at age 17 and had three sons. When he and his wife were divorced, Dixon moved in with one of his sons, but eventually “lost [him] to the streets,” according to a 2004 interview with Street Sense.
“Put God into everything you do,” Dixon advised in the same interview. “Every time you leave Him out, you’re leaving out the main ingredient.”
His son’s death triggered a breakdown, and Dixon became unable to work. He eventually experienced homelessness.
That’s when he found Street Sense and began selling the newspaper and writing poetry.
Homeless folks are visible, we see them every day.
Because we’re so preoccupied, we look the other way.
You may not think we see your face or manufactured smile.
So be yourself and keep it real – buy Street Sense for a while.
“Alvin was always so nice but always spoke his mind,” said Street Sense co-founder Laura Osuri in an e-mail. “He was kind of a father figure to the other vendors. He was one of the originals and really helped us promote Street Sense at the beginning.”
Dixon was beloved by many vendors too, including his friend Dwight Harris. They grew up together but lost touch until they reconnected in 2003. Dixon introduced Harris to Street Sense and helped him recover.
“If he could help you, he would help you any way he could,” Harris said.
Dixon was equally grateful for the help he received along the way. “I want to thank all of you who have supported us in our concerted effort to overcome the myths and stigmas that make it much more difficult to overcome homelessness,” he wrote in a January 2010 article.
Dixon always had a smile and also had style, according to Street Sense co-founder Ted Henson. His favorite restaurant was Ben’s Chili Bowl and he could often be found selling papers nearby.
“He wore Kangol hats and had swagger,” Henson wrote in an e-mail. “He loved talking trash when playing chess. He was part of our solid core of vendors back in the 2000’s and an important part of our organization.”
When asked what Dixon was passionate about, his friend Harris said poetry came naturally to Alvin and it made him happy.