(Graffiti at a skate park near where I met Shawn Adams)
If you met Shawn Adams, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that he’s an aspiring hip-hop artist. He’s 27, muscular and brown-skinned, and when I met him he was wearing a hoodie and a hat with graffiti-inspired logos that I knew I’d be able to recognize if I had half a clue about fashion.
Shawn said he’s been living in the neighborhood for eight years, and he hates it. He said the police harass him and his friends, something he thinks is racially motivated. He was walking with a friend when we started talking, and when I asked about the economy, his friend shouted that it’s easier to get arrested than get a job.
Shawn’s been out of work for nine months. Before that, he cooked for a restaurant in the area for two years. But then he got fired.
“I was sick and I had too many days off,” he said.
He said he could have taken a couple of sick days, but he got pneumonia and was out for two weeks. The restaurant didn’t hold a job for him.
“I was a good cook, too,” he said.
Because he was fired, Shawn said, he couldn’t collect unemployment.
“Fortunately I have a couple good friends helping me out,” he said, “A couple family members.”
Shawn lives with his girlfriend, who works reselling clothing on commission. I ask him if that’s enough to pay the rent.
“Some weeks,” he said. “Some weeks are better than others.”
He said he helps out, getting side jobs painting, but he’s behind on his bills.
Shawn said what he really wants is to get into the music industry. He said he splits his time between working on his music and applying for jobs. He’s tried Walmart and every other place he can think of with no luck. He figures if they have openings they’re calling back people they laid off over the last couple years.
“I think there’re pretty booked up as far as employees,” he said.