Street Sense vendor vests hang above newspapers lined up on a sidewalk.
Daniel Lobo / Flickr

When selling Street Sense you encounter all kinds of people. Most of them are on their way to somewhere, to do something and just pass by.

As a vendor, I sometimes interact with security guards. For the most part, many of the guards appreciate that I am making positive use of space and time.

Every so often, though, I find myself in battle with them, about public versus private space. On one occasion, I was told I could not sell the paper on a street near the White House. I showed the guard my badge and told him Street Sense has agreements with the Metropolitan Police Department agreeing to that arrangement. He insisted that because this was, at the time,

“Obama’s block,” I couldn’t distribute the paper there. I did everything I was supposed to, but still had to move along.

We all have faced discrimination, but for those who are impoverished, it makes the situation worse. I am a native Washingtonian who grew up in the Southeast. Restrooms in the Southeast are so scarce. Pretty much anyone who goes there could be subject to arrest just for a natural thing. A bodily action outside might even put you in jail.

D.C. has the ability to be a model of a human rights city. But every day, many discriminative actions take place against its citizens. Let’s hope that over time, and with many voices here at Street Sense, we can reach those in power and implement ways to combat, eliminate and eventually end poverty.


Reginald Black is a vendor/artist for Street Sense.