A Memphis street paper vendor tells us how MLK is a lifetime inspiration

The Bridge vendor Antonio Harris says he has his own dream, to help the homeless and to bless other people

Martin Luther King is my all-time favourite activist. I love his message of peace and unity. He really cared about poor people. And I hate that he died in Memphis. He was a great part of history, but I hate that he died in Memphis.

My name is Antonio Harris. I am 36. And I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. I started selling The Bridge (a similar venture to The Big Issue) because I wanted to interact with people, with my brothers and sisters in Memphis. I was homeless, for about three-and-a-half months. I was living in the Memphis Union Mission, at bus stops; I lived at seven different rooming houses. That time really showed me how important it is to help homeless people. I learned how to give back to the community. In addition to The Bridge, I also work with HOPE [Homeless Organizing for Peace and Equality].

I have a dream. I want to do great things

Through my work with HOPE and The Bridge, I have seen the reasons that cause homelessness. It’s crazy. We have so many vacant buildings here, and so many people without homes. We really need to turn those vacant buildings into homes for the homeless. It’s like the whole world is turned upside down.

I don’t like our president. Not really. I’ve really only liked two presidents: Clinton and Obama. I love Memphis, but we have problems. We really need women’s shelters. There’s all these women and they have nowhere to go. If we had more jobs for the homeless, the homeless wouldn’t be robbing and stealing. We need jobs and we need free shelters.

I think there are negatives to free shelters, because people maybe won’t do anything and they’ll just stay in the shelter for free. So I see the pros and cons, but I think we need them. The United States is the richest country in the world, and we need to use that to progress.

People don’t know this life. I always tell people they need to spend one night on the street. Have you ever spent a night on the street? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to, it’s terrible. But I think everyone needs to do it. Because then people will know how hard it is to be homeless.

I have a dream. I want to do great things, I want to help the homeless and I want to bless other people. But I also have other dreams. I’ve always wanted to be a singer. I’ve always loved singing. I like everything, gospel, rock, especially rock. My favourite band is probably Nirvana. Do you know Nirvana? But I also like classical music. I like Sinatra.

DID YOU KNOW…

Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.

I also want to be an actor. I’ve always wanted to be on The Young and the Restless, my favourite show. And it’s hard, man. It’s hard being an actor, they have to memorise their lines and everything, but I think I could do it. So I want to be a singer, an actor, and I want to impact people around the world.

We’re giving away five copies of Martin Luther King’s Why We Can’t Wait, re-released to mark the anniversary of his death.

We believe in trade not aid.

Which is why we ask that you ALWAYS take your copy of the magazine. Our sellers are working and need your custom.

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