This week, INSP’s #VendorWeek celebrates over 14,000 vendors who sell street papers around the world. Among that number is Algia Benjamin from Boston, who might just be world’s longest-serving street paper vendor.
Algia has been selling one of America’s oldest street papers, Spare Change News, on the sidewalks of Boston for 22 years. The 53-year-old started the job just three months after the paper was founded.
He was raised by his mother in Alabama in the early 1960s and moved to Boston with his family in 1966.
Growing up during the Civil Rights movement when segregation was still in place, Algia remembers his mother being so afraid that she sometimes felt reluctant to take them out on trips.
He says those were the days when a black man couldn’t pass a white woman on the sidewalk without being expected to move aside. It’s no surprise his mother is the person he most admires in life.
“My mother had 10 children and held it all together,” he says. “She made sure we had a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs.”
The strong example Algia received from his mother is what inspires him to offer the same support to his 14-year-old daughter.
Knowing that the stress of financial insecurity can prevent people enjoying the good things in life, he wants his daughter to be free of that worry. So he works seven days a week selling Spare Change News outside CVS pharmacy in Boston’s Porter Square.
Algia says the perks of working as a vendor include meeting lots of people. He sees about 40 people regularly in Porter Square and many of them have become friends and acquaintances, especially those who stop for a chat.
Sometimes, Algia feels “like a street psychologist. I value being able to communicate well. People talk to me about everything under the sun.”
The veteran street paper vendor loves his job and says he’s happiest “when I open my eyes in the morning and I can look out and see the sun shining upon my face. God has given me another day-another day to become a better person.”
This is a summary of an article written by Spare Change News reporter Andrew Warburton.