Jamel Shabazz: Street Photographer
As a teenage photographer in early 80s East Flatbush, Brooklyn, Jamel Shabazz set out to document the then nascent movement of hip-hop. Through the iconic style of his MCs, neighborhood kids and gang members, the unequivocal attitude of New York’s youth was recognized as the calling card of the city’s creative renaissance. Published in 2001, Shabazz’ first book Back In The Days was celebrated as an exhilarating snapshot of the times, and his visual flair has been brought to life in a new documentary by the legendary hip-hop historian and director, Charlie Ahearn. “On the cover of Jamel’s book were two young men on 42nd Street. They were captured posing in such strong form as a kind of respectful bulwark against all the chaos that you see around them on ‘The Deuce,’” explains Ahearn, the notable filmmaker also responsible for the classic old-school movie, Wild Style. “I immediately knew that here was an original artist for our time.” 
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I used to work at Pro-Choice Resources, and I would actively avoid answering the phone in the office. We had a small amount of money to give out on our abortion fund each week, and the hotline was supposed to be open just one evening, and one weekday morning.
When callers got through to the office instead of the hotline, I was supposed to say, “Sorry — call back on Wednesday night! The line will probably be busy, but just keep hitting redial.”
Like you’re trying to win something on the radio.
Because if callers didn’t get through on that one day, the money would be gone. And then they’d have to wait another week, when they’ll be another week pregnant.
But when someone called during the week and was facing really shitty circumstances, we could make an exception. Really shitty circumstances like: living out of a car, or being raped as an inmate in a prison, or being 10 years old.
So when I’d pick up the phone, I just had a super hard time discerning what constituted shitty. Because mostly it was shitty. This is why I’m not cut out to be a social worker: when I picked up the phone, I’d give away all our money.
I mean, when you’re talking to someone who’s crying and whose children are crying in the background, you want to help. And nothing is worse than having to say, “I’m sorry, we’re out of money for the week,” and hearing the despair on the other end.
Anyway, having had those conversations, I know from experience that a small grant — like $50! — can make the difference. I don’t have to pick up the phone at Pro-Choice Resources anymore, but I’m so glad that someone else will.
I promise you: when you give to the Plan Bees, you’re making someone’s life infinitely less shitty.