We must never lose infinite hope” – Martin Luther King Jr.

A major element of this project will be reflecting on the experiences I am having and the progress of this campaign and adventure. What I would like to state “right of the bat” is — I’m learning.

Having started the process of building trust and getting to know a few of the incredibly resilient Street Sense vendors, I am totally confident that I am in the right place at the right time. I have never felt so fulfilled, honored, and humbled all at once. The people I have met are inspiring and have already made a place in the person I know I am growing and maturing to be. That being said- this past week has been many things…

Walking to the Eastern Market with Johnnie last Saturday to do our first interview with Philip Black was a rush of excitement and eagerness. We had tested our equipment at home with a friend and had already touched base with Philip who had eagerly accepted our invitation to spend some time with him that afternoon. We had a wonderful time watching him work and seeing him interact with so many people; and our first interview with him was truly a success! Walking home we felt fulfilled and proud of ourselves for accomplishing our first interview. So, I go to plug in my camera to my computer and download the videos when I felt a sudden urge of panic… no audio. Apparently we had forgotten to make sure our external mic was working as we began shooting the interview… big oops. After a few minutes of panic and embarrassment, Johnnie managed to calm me down and we decided we would return to the Eastern Market the next day to ask for a re-do.

So we headed back to the Eastern Market the next day, found Philip, apologized, got a hug, and did a re-do. Already I noticed a huge change in myself while I interacted with Philip. I found the cadence of our conversation to be much smoother. Philip was also much less distracted and comfortable knowing what was coming. (Don’t forget to check out the video)

Something I had thought of prior to this experience and through my studies of leadership and anthropology was reciprocity. The term was first introduced to me two years about in my Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course that I took with Professor Richard Dillon at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. I remember so vividly the idea of building trust and rapport with the people you are interacting with and the importance and need for a sense of mutual reciprocity. Which is essentially developing a relationship where both parties benefit from the other.

When approaching vendors I begin by telling them that this project is about them… not me, not my school… them. As a token of gratitude I always make sure to bring a homemade lunch for each of my informants that consists of: a sandwich, piece of fruit, granola bar, and a bottle of water at minimum. Sometimes I find myself having to explain why this project has so much potential for these individuals…But it’s caught on like wildfire! Philip introduced us to two other vendors the day we did his interview and ever since then I’ve found myself developing a language that allows me to communicate why these videos, and this opportunity for these individuals to share their story, have so much potential. As an individual who has done extensive work in studying models of leadership and my own strengths; I have been able to tap into many “tools” in my “toolkit” that allow me to present myself in a meaningful way and develop trust and rapport with these individuals. This is an incredible experience. I am so grateful.

With the release of our first of ten videos last Wednesday we saw our readership jump extensively. Prior to releasing the short film on Philip Black we had around 75 views of this blog and we are now nearing 250! The video has been seen over 80 times on YouTube and we have been able to track “Shares” on Facebook. However, with the releasing of the video I’ve already had to answer many questions (mostly from my family and friends). Questions were raised about the validity of these videos and whether or not these videos will be testament to the work that Street Sense is doing and the hope that these vendors seem to be living. Here we go again… am I ready? The answer is yes (or at least I think so). I am by no means an expert on homelessness. I am not a counselor, a fact checker, or an expert videographer and/or editor. But my heart lies within each moment of this project and I am learning. As I stated in a previous blog post – I have tons of articles lying in my “To Read” pile and I am so eager to have the time to settle into a routine of academic research while taking my work with Street Sense further and hopefully more “into the field”. There are so many goals and questions that lie ahead in the upcoming weeks for this project, but I am confident that these people will inspire you and I am promising to do my best in sharing with you their stories in an effective and concise way. That being said, I am more than excited to hear from you! I hope that all of the readers of this blog will feel free to question and comment on the work that I am doing with the help of Johnnie. And most importantly, share what has moved you. I have an incredible network of support surrounding me that I am so grateful for and I am eager to share with you the story of Tammy Karuza this coming Wednesday.

That’s all for tonight. Keep your eyes, ears, minds, and hearts open for upcoming article reviews and the release of Tammy Karuza’s film on Wednesday. – Abby