Vendor Profile: Reginald Black
If there is one thing that Reggie wants you to know about him, it’s this: he is just like you.
“I’m just a regular guy. I like video games, watching movies, and taking walks on the National Mall.”
Reggie’s experience with Street Sense started in 2008 when he encountered an older man selling the paper at Eastern Market who told him that he too could advocate for himself by becoming a vendor. A couple days later he received training. Ever since, Reggie has worn many hats for Street Sense. He has written poetry and prose for the paper, served as a reporter and page-designer, helped with fundraising efforts and supported his fellow vendor’s writing through his work with the Writer’s Group.
But above all roles, Reggie’s first calls himself an advocate for the homeless. As someone currently experiencing homelessness himself, he knows first-hand what it is like to be homeless in Washington, a city where an estimated fifth of residents live in poverty.
“There is so much money and policy going around that no one worries about the faces. They walk right by.”
Beyond selling the paper, Reggie says his work with Street Sense has given him the opportunity to explore his wider interests and talents. He enjoys the challenge of reporting on various news events and working with a computer design program to lay out the finished stories as newspaper pages.
“I like that I can be an amateur journalist while improving aspects of my life,” says Reggie. “Yeah, I may be homeless, but I have so much to offer.”
Reggie is a native Washingtonian. He calls his own situation “a case that you want to put into a box but you can’t find one that fits”. His mother passed away when he was seven, and his father in 2011. He doesn’t know where the rest of his family is but wishes to be in contact with them.
In spite of the difficulties he faces, Reggie says his experiences help him advocate for others who lack the supportive presence of a family.
“There are many cases like mine that too often get swept under the rug,” Reggie says.
Homelessness, Reggie believes, is not one person’s problem; it is a problem that belongs to the community as a whole. He believes that the best way to end homelessness is with a comprehensive strategy that assigns everyone a role. The community needs to be open and informed about issues surrounding poverty, he believes.
“You can’t beat homelessness with a closed mind or a closed heart,” says Reggie.
He has big dreams for his future. Someday he would like to start an organization similar to Street Sense that focuses predominantly on the arts. It would give homeless artists an avenue to produce their own art and the resources to distribute it freely.
His other dream? To go into politics after he finishes his education. He hopes to be able to directly work with policies to fight homelessness.
He says “I hope to be a voice and agent of change.”