Why Joe?

I was one of many college kids upon whom Joe made an impression as he hustled right next to campus; we just happened to keep each other’s numbers. Joe changed my life, slowly. It was a progressive revelation of understanding personal conviction, racial divides, homeless culture, life as art, faith in action, rampant co-dependency, and other such light subjects.

Joe was the flesh and blood and grimaces and profanity to Scriptural platitudes about poverty I never quite understood. More, Joe was a fighter, a questioner and I loved that. That’s what I wanted to be, what I was. Somehow, I saw myself in this man. However, my desire to empathically associate with Joe’s journey disabled me from seeing my privilege, and consequently, the invisible barriers he faced as an economically paralyzed Native American, living inside atrocious, historic divides long pitting Native Americans against African Americans, fueling his racism. Thus, I share knowing full well I will understand more tomorrow than I do today.

The imperative, though, is moving forward as you learn. On Jordan and I’s wedding anniversary, we went to the same 6 AM homeless breakfast at which I met Joe years before and spoke at his memorial with a room packed with homeless friends and foes: “Joe was my brother,” I said. “I was his little sister. I was his daughter, his mother. He was my mentor, teacher and menace. He was my arch enemy and my best friend.” - INDIAN JOE, a musical is a small slice of this reality.