Vendor Highlight: A Special Birthday for a Special Person

The Street Sheet is a powerful newspaper not only because it tells the truth about poverty and provides a platform for homeless writers and artists, but also because it is a tool that on a daily basis tears down the thick walls often built between housed San Franciscans and unhoused vendors. The relationship between Street Sheet vendor Derek Williams and housed resident Marco Bass is a perfect illustration of the connections the paper can help forge. Four months back, Marco moved from Ohio to be closer to his daughter and two granddaughters.

“I turned 65 in June and am receiving Medicare and my Social Security checks, after laundry, dishes, carpooling my two granddaughters, and walking my daughter to the MUNI I have quite a bit of free time during the day,” Marco told the Street Sheet. “I’ve known homelessness is a challenge in San Francisco and I wanted to spend some of my extra time helping in any way possible.”

It was with this intention that Marco began befriending homeless people in his neighborhood, the Castro, and keeping track of them and their needs, offering supplies whenever possible. He also keeps track of his friend’s birthdays, because he thinks birthdays are very special and everyone deserves to be celebrated. So when he found out Derek was born on September 10, Marco decided to buy a cake and throw Derek a party.

Derek remembers the night fondly, describing the party as lively, with a number of musicians and friends in attendance. He says Marco backed his car up with a cake inside and lit two candles. “He said to make a wish and I did and he started offering people cake,” Derek recalled, “which kinda livened up the place, and we shared the cake with people who came up.”

Readers may recognize Derek Williams as a prolific musician and the creator of “Strange Few,” a comic that debuted in the Street Sheet this year. Derek carries his biography with him to give to readers, which details his music career and his work as a comic artist. He grew up in a musical family in Los Angeles and says he “was expected to play rock, jazz, dance music easily by ear and by memory, intuitively” and that he “played with very talented jazz musicians all the time”.

In a fast paced city where the divide between rich and poor is palpable and where many housed people look away from poor and homeless San Franciscans on the street, just a simple birthday gathering is a bridge between worlds. Marco think back happily to the small gathering and remembers “after the candles were lit, and Derek made a wish we all sang happy birthday to a special person on a most beautiful calm evening in September.”