The Homeless Empowerment Project/Spare Change News recently announced the hiring of its new editor-in-chief.
The Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, author, Gods, Gays, and Guns: Essays on Race, Religion, and the Future of Democracy, was hired to replace outgoing editor-in-chief Tom Benner, whose family is relocating to Singapore. Sekou also previously served on the board of the St. Louis-based street paper What’s Up Magazine, which once had an affiliate in Boston that briefly merged with Spare Change.
While this is Sekou’s first time running a newspaper, he has spent his entire career helping disenfranchised populations through his work as a social justice pastor, including work with homeless queer youth in New York City.
“I cut my teeth in social services. So the first 10 years of my career my work was in social services, running community centers in the housing projects,” Sekou said. “I have been really privileged to get up every day and do what I was born to do, so in some form of helping people, some form of organizing towards justice, economic justice.”
Sekou said he was first introduced to the street paper movement in his early 20’s when he sat on the board of St. Louis’s What’s Up Magazine. When he moved to Boston it didn’t take long for him to become acquainted with Spare Change, or recognize the paper’s unique place among the city’s many media outlets.
“It keeps track of the voices of the people we don’t hear,” Sekou said. “It gives promise to the voices of everyday people in a way no other paper in the city does, it features stories that other folks won’t feature, and it gives folks the opportunity for folks to develop their skills.”
As editor of Spare Change, Sekou says he plans on continuing to build on the work of past editors by giving a voice to the city’s voiceless, holding his writers to high journalistic standards, and providing readers with compelling and informative stories.
“I believe in the fourth estate. It is the task of journalism, in writing, to pull back the curtain on the inner workings of governments and elites,” Sekou posited. “My vision for Spare Change is to create a context and a news organ that speaks that special truth to the world, with the highest level of journalistic quality,” Sekou said.
Sekou plans on transitioning the paper to a news magazine format, with more in-depth stories and interviews. He also plans on redesigning the front page, and going strictly black-and-white in order to expand the paper from 16 to 20 pages. He also said he plans on creating writing workshops to help vendors develop their writing skills.
While Spare Change leaders expressed appreciation for outgoing editor Tom Benner, they also expressed excitement for the future of the organization as Sekou transition to editor-in-chief.
“He’s an extremely highly qualified individual with a lifetime of experience as a social justice organizer, writer, editor and fundraiser dedicated to helping those in society most in need,” said Vincent Flanagan, executive director of the Homeless Empowerment Project.
James Shearer, Founder and Board President of Spare Change added, “I’m really sorry to see Tom go, he brought a freshness to SCN, his approach to this paper and its mission took us to a new level journalistically. I look forward to Sekou’s time here as editor, he will continue Tom’s great work.”
ADAM SENNOTT is a former editor of Spare Change News.