Photo: Sam Amore
Spare Change News vendors stood alongside Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Senator Patrick O’Connor this Monday at the unveiling of a new exhibit at the State House.
The exhibit, entitled “Building a Bridge: Spare Change News Past, Present and Future,” displayed the work the paper has done in its career of 24 ongoing years. Organized by Suffolk University professor Dr. Debra Harkins, as well as Homeless Empowerment Project Executive Director Katie Bennett (HEP is the paper’s publisher), it contained intimate portraits of the vendors who write for and sell the paper, as well as a multimedia presentation and collections of the paper’s past front pages and headlines.
Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr has partnered with Harkins for close to a decade, and most recently helped ensure that the exhibit would have a space to be housed.
“I’m so heartened by the comments you’ve all made about how gratifying it is for all of you to be here,” Tarr said. “For all of us who are involved in state government, we know that this state house is a beacon to the entire world, about the importance of freedom… and it’s a place that is intended to represent everyone in our state.”
Homeless Empowerment Project board president Cheryl Jordan stressed the importance of Dr. Harkins’ students in helping curate the exhibit and bring it to fruition.
“I’m thrilled,” said Jordan. “The students bring a perspective that I couldn’t bring – and everybody along the way has encouraged the exhibit to grow. I stand here in recognition of everybody who made this possible today. I live with the board, and the exhibit lives with the organization, and the vendors.”
Sheikh Nasher, a freshman McNair Scholar at Suffolk University, was part of Harkins’ student curatorial team. Nasher began his research with the McNair program on student mentoring, which lead him to join the project as part of Dr. Harkins’ community psychology course. Nasher said he believes that giving homeless Bostonians resources to succeed is integral to a financially and morally strong society.
“Every human being has a problem in their life, and when I tutor students, I let them know that some abilities [they might] see as a normal thing, other kids might not have. So I like to tell those people who don’t care about this program a lot that [they] could be homeless too,” Nasher said. “If you’re not homeless, you’re a very fortunate person, and you should have respect and so something for homeless people,” said Nasher.
Following the reception, Spare Change vendors went upstairs to see the exhibit for the first time. Michael Thistle has written for Spare Change for over seven years. He said that he is elated to have the opportunity for others to see the work that the paper has done.
“It feels great,” Thistle said. “Just to be recognized at any level is an amazing thing. I actually feel tremendously proud and blessed to be able to write in the paper, it’s a tremendous venue for getting your message across about homelessness, and this exhibit is really just a great offshoot of what is going on.”
The exhibit will be on display and open to the public from June 6-10 at the State House.