Lens & Context -
Samone for the People

Samone for the People | © Preston Lewis Thomas

I can see her from where I’m sitting, in Starbucks. I’d stopped in to make some notes on my upcoming exhibition, reply to a growing number of  emails, and “re-up” on my caffeine. Outside, she stops at the corner, removes her backpack, reaches in and produces a purple t-shirt. She slips this on over her yellow sundress. Before sliding the straps back over her shoulders, she reaches inside once more and retrieves a tablet. Ready.

For the next 15 or 20 minutes, I watch her attempt to engage passersby in conversation, about what, I don’t yet know. She smiles, or waves, or even spreads her arms wide to greet them as they cross the street in her direction. Some flash an uncomfortable grin and pause for a second or two, others politely avoid her, and a few are actually making u-turns. Thankless job. Finally, a guy stops and talks with her for a bit, before coming inside to sit down. I ask him what she’s up to, and he tells me that she’s advocating – trying to raise awareness for and about women’s health issues.

Interest piqued. I grab my camera, head outside and introduce myself. I find out more about what she’s doing, then tell her that I’m happy to make a donation, and ask if will she also allow me to make her photograph. This takes a little convincing, but she finally agrees to a few photos, as soon as she finishes her shift. About half an hour from the moment.

Her name is Samone Jordan.
She is 19 years old.
She is passionate about this stuff.

Back in Chicago after living in exile at a college in Connecticut, which she files under the category “big mistake”, Samone has found her groove. On the day she was heading down to apply for the job at the agency for which she now works, a woman was stabbed in broad open daylight on the 47th Street train stop. She tells me that when she’s talking about violence, microaggressions, and health challenges women must deal with on a daily basis, people respond as though she’s speaking about something that could happen in the future. A hypothetical…

“That’s why I’m out here. It only takes a minute. People are too occupied with their own lives…”
“My first job is to inform. To help them understand that this (grassroots efforts) can be applied to anything.”

Samone then shares with me some of the responses she gets from men when she tells them what she’d like to talk with them about:
“No thanks, sweetie…”
“Not at this time, honey…”

The expression on her face while she’s sharing this is hilarious.
But, I get it.

We wax on about her plans to return to school, and my photography, life. She then places two fingers against her face. One, just above the brow, the other, against her cheek bone. “Take this picture”, she says with a smile. I ask why and she tells me that she really doesn’t know… she just likes it. It’s funny.

Carry on, Samone.