Contributor vendor Theresa has been selling the paper since 2012. You can find her at her spot at the Old Harding Pike Walgreen’s, where she’ll be offering big smiles, waves and enthusiastic greetings to all who walk or drive by. Originally from Bowling Green, Ky., Theresa has been in Nashville for over 20 years. She’s currently in housing in an efficiency apartment in Bellevue.
Theresa is passionate about social activism and helping the African-American community, especially children. She wants to use money she earns through selling The Contributor to invest in projects to further this cause, and hopes to soon launch her own newspaper about black history.
What do you like about selling The Contributor?
The hours. And if I want to sell 5,000, I can. That’s what I like about it. Because I noticed with jobs, even if I was in a supervisory position, there were always limitations.
Tell me about how you got started selling the paper.
When I had my job, we would look across the street at McDonald’s and a guy would be selling The Contributor. One day we counted 120 times people stopped. Then, The Contributor was $1, and we said if somebody gave him $1 every time they stopped, he just made $120 in three hours. ... But I thought at that time that you had to be in an extreme situation, like in a shelter, just making assumptions that I shouldn’t have. It wasn’t until I lost my job and lost my apartment and somebody told me I could sell papers and explained it to me. That had to be in March 2012. So I started selling them, and I said man, this is the sky’s the limit, however many you can sell! You’re your own boss and it was like a prayer answered.
What job were you working before The Contributor?
Just a restaurant job. Fast food. At my age, I don’t have a lot of time to go back to school and do what I like to do, and plus my first calling is social activism anyway. I’m really mad because I didn’t turn on the TV, didn’t catch the immigration thing. Nine million people were already protesting. I missed the women’s march because I’ve got this thing about turning off TVs so you can focus on what you’re doing, and I tend to do extended periods like that. But I’m going into social activism, and it’s for poor African American children, because they are really catching a hit, and their biggest hit is not from the system, it’s not from society, it’s from those within the community. Nobody is addressing that issue.
What made you want to get involved in helping black children?
Issues with my mom. My mom really hated me, but my mom loved me, because if she didn’t love me she wouldn’t have taught me, made sure I was safe, (and) that I didn’t go hungry. ... As I grew older I began to see kids who weren’t raised surrounded by elders who loved them. And it’s hard to cope. ... I grew up around elders that loved me. That’s why I could never see that (my mom) felt the way she did because I was always insulated. I was loved, I was held accountable, too.
How did you realize that social activism was your “calling”?
I’ve been passionate about doing something but I didn’t know how to word it. I didn’t have enough people in my life, like I don’t have friends who work for Greenpeace and things like that. I couldn’t articulate it. I said, I know that I’m supposed to be doing something concerning social issues. I feel passionate about what’s being done for black children by black people. I began to realize that I had to go through that journey to learn what my purpose was to finally do what my purpose was. I knew it was dealing with culture and I knew it had something to do with politics and then I kinda grew past politics, then I said maybe it has to do with religion and I grew past that and realized it's totally spiritual. I began to see that in the children; I said, wow they don’t have nobody to lean on, they don’t have nobody to bounce back like I did. That taught me how to pull yourself up out of it.
What does social activism look like for you personally?
That is my calling and that is my next step. I’m gonna do a black history newspaper. It’s gonna be a history newspaper. It’s not a nonprofit, it’s a business. Social activism can be business.
I have an international, national, state and local section and then I have a section for young black females, young black males, things like that. I’ve written all my articles.
Have you submitted your writing for The Contributor before?
I did poems. I try to write my poems about what I’ve discovered about attitudes. I discovered that I had a nasty attitude about 15-20 years ago, and I had to go and do a lot of inner work on myself, and I just want to let the other vendors know that they can come up in their attitude too.