Distributor Profile: James Brown

by Susan Lakes

James Brown, 40, was last featured in Streetvibes six months ago. At that time, he vowed he’d continue to work hard, do well for others and leave a good footprint.

To that end, Brown has taken on a new role. He’s not into politics, but that didn’t stop him from joining an advocacy group called The Homeless Congress. For Brown, the congress will become a uniting voice for the homeless, somewhat like a union unites workers.

“I hope we can let everyone know about it, and like for the congress to go to different soup kitchens and shelters” he said about the outreach efforts to find new members. “I like to lend a helping hand.”

Brown works in Over-The-Vine distributing Streetvibes. May 7 marked his two year anniversary working in the same location. He’s built a customer base at Vine and Central Parkway, and offers a shoutout to all the Kroger employees who buy the papers each week.

One time, Brown missed a week of work. The customers noticed, and a few even called the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless looking for him

He’s so serious about the job and concerned about the customers, Brown shovels snow off the sidewalks so they can get to him to buy their Streetvibes.
Brown says he’s healthy now, but it hasn’t always been that way. “I got stabbed through the heart in 1994 and have a mechanical heart valve,” he said, adding he’s had two heart attacks since then.

He’s changed since finding a job and changing his outlook on life.

“I stopped doing ignorant stuff,” he said about his transformation from lawbreaker to helper. “I ain’t got time to go back to prison.”

Brown said he used to sell drugs, but he turned his life around by hanging out with positive rather than negative people. “…And I found a job and go to church,” he said.

These days, it’s faith and hope that keeps him going.

“Don’t let nobody try to get you down,” he said about the advice he’d offer to people who are struggling. “If I wasn’t selling papers (Streetvibes), I’d probably be out there doing drugs.”

Over-The- Rhine is a special place to Brown. He wants to keep it that way by working cooperatively with the groups, such as 3CDC, that claim to be transforming the area

.“They need to help out with low income housing.They are trying to run low income people out of downtown. It’s bad enough they closed Washington Park down,” he said.

Brown said he visits the 3CDC office regularly, but just gets brushed off.

“That’s one of my pet projects,” he said, adding that he gives 3CDC a copy of Streetvibes every two weeks. (So far, 3CDC has not offered to pay Brown the usual $1.00 donation, he said). But he remains hopeful, and offers these words of advice to 3CDC.

“We can work together by building low income housing.”

But that task, like all Brown’s others, is out of his hands. He hands them over to God. The Bible inspires him.

“My foundation is Psalms 116, verse 8,” he said. First Peter 3, 13-24 is important in that it lets people know how to treat each other, “said Brown, grinning broadly and declaring himself a people person.

To find out more about the Homeless Congress contact Riccardo Taylor at (513) 421-7803, or stop by the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless at 117 East 12th Street in Cincinnati.